A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words – Brook, You Just Keep Babbling

This is our neighborhood babbling brook.  Glen Road has taken on a strict diet and exercise plan starting last Monday.  Healthy eating and several walks per week is the charge.  If you notice our food posts, most are desserts, so it is time to work a few of those calories off.  Most nights this week, we put on our sneakers and put JoJo on a leash and we take off for a 45 minute walk.  Yes, even JoJo has indulged a little too much this Summer and needs to lose a few pounds as well.  What has been great about these outdoor walks versus walking on a treadmill inside of a gym is that you can really take notice of all the cool things nature has to offer.  Like this little brook.  We’ve driven over the small bridge that is on top of it for six years, but we have never really stopped and looked at the water that flows through it.  We’ve never listened to the babbling water rushing around rocks and tree trunks.  We’ve never really taken a look at all of the brook’s bends and turns.  Our walks started for the exercise, but now have also gotten us closer to nature.  Who would have thought?  We never thought we would like to exercise, but this seems to work.  What do you notice when you take a walk around your neighborhood?     

Friday Dance Party – Aloe Blacc Needs A Dollar

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for another week of living.  We give thanks for making it through and for being able to celebrate this fact.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So take a moment and be proud of the fact that you’re here and you’ve made it to another Friday.  Not only you, but your family and friends as well.  So, to that end, are you alive this Friday?  Have you given thanks for this?

Good, now let’s dance.

I’ve been reflecting a lot about my constant desire or need to buy things.  I’m absolutely someone who loves to shop.  Clothes and shoes, of course, but I can shop for dirt and be pretty happy.  There is nothing better than to scan the internet and see what things pop up that I feel that I need to buy.  My favorite internet items have to be books, music, jewelry and….again….clothes and shoes.  However, what’s scary about the internet and shopping on it is that it is too easy.  All you need to do is pretty much hit a button and you’ve spent money.  Not as real as actually counting $20 bills out to a sales clerk.  So while I enjoy shopping, I’ve been looking around and taking notice of all the things that I have.  We had to build onto our house to store all the clothes and shoes that we have.  I have more pots and pans and kitchen gadgets than you can shake a stick at.  Jewelry….forget it.  While I am lucky to have a great job and can pay for all of these things, that is just what they are….things.  Better yet, do I really need them and, if the answer is no, why do I keep buying?  Simple answer….no, I don’t need anything and I think I keep buying because that act of being handed a bag full of something at a store or a box full of something coming from the internet makes me feel good.  That feeling that there is something here for me.  I guess it makes me feel special and validates me in that short set of a few seconds.  I’m really trying to feel validated in other fashions.  It might never happen, but I’ve been trying.

Which leads me to our dance party song for this Friday.  With all of my soul-searching, I thought we needed a little soul music.  Aloe Blacc and his song ‘I Need A Dollar’ can help here.  He is a soul singer that I have recently discovered and can’t get enough of his music.  While he is from California, he seems to be much more popular in Europe.  I don’t think that is going to be for long.  Sometimes things come together for a reason…I’m thinking about all of my things and then I hear this song about needing a dollar.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to want or need something and not have a job or money to pay for it.  I can’t imagine the angst you would go through.  It would be even worse if you had a family.  Makes you think about things, that’s for sure.  So this week, we’re going to do a little soul swaying.  You’ve made it through another week so you deserve it.  However, this week, if you are financially secure, give yourself another round of applause.  Having your life, your health, the love of your family, friends and being secure is a blessing.  Who needs things when you have all that?  If we are going to keep it real, one day at a time, we need to make sure we understand this.  We need to re-define and understand what’s important.  Thanks for letting me preach.  Now turn up those speakers and dance!  What life lessons have you learned or are working on at this point in your life?

A Field Trip To Le Farm Restaurant

This is Le Farm restaurant in Westport, Connecticut.  We were lucky to go there for dinner over the weekend.  Le Farm is one of those great restaurants where it seems one dish is better than the one you ate right before it.  It is an absolute great place for dining.  What else is great about it is that it is one of the front-runners in the farm to table movement.  Bill Taibe is the executive chef and here is how the restaurant and local farmers operate together to make the food at Le Farm some of the best and freshest food in the area.  This is from the website for Le Farm:

Farmers like to grow things.  They don’t like to market, advertise and transport them.  Bill Taibe likes to cook.  He loves using local ingredients — the fresher the better.  The convergence of area farmers and Taibe is good news for diners — and not just fans of Le Farm, Taibe’s restaurant that earns raves for showcasing market-based food cooked and presented in a homey, comfortable and very sustainable atmosphere.  Thanks to RSA — “Restaurant Supported Agriculture,” a concept that Taibe knows needs a zippier name — 5 local restaurants now offer the best in local products.  Banding together, they guarantee farmers a market for their goods.  Promising to buy takes pressure off the farmers.  They reciprocate by planting what the chefs request.  Make no mistake:  It’s not just lettuce, tomatoes and corn anymore.  Taibe — who built 2 previous restaurants on the barter system, and admits he “may have been born in the wrong century” — explains that RSA is based on the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model.  RSA is less structured – shares are not bought in advance from farmers — but the concept is similar.

Once a week — via the Green Village Initiative — 5 restaurants (Le Farm, the Boathouse and Dressing Room in Westport, CT, plus Wilton, CT’s Schoolhouse and Fat Cat Pie Company in Norwalk, CT) receive a list from local growers of whatever is ripe.  By 4 p.m. each Monday, the chefs respond with their own list:  what they want.  The farmers pick the crops on Tuesday morning.  By 2:30 that afternoon, Green Village Initiative volunteers have gathered it and it’s ready for pick-up by the restaurateurs.

Le Farm is a very small restaurant.  We counted 11 tables and were told that the restaurant holds 34 people at capacity.  That doesn’t mean there are 34 people dining there at one time.  The hostess told us that the kitchen cannot accommodate that many diners at one time.  So when you dine there, you are eating with a relatively small number of people and the atmosphere is really quiet and relaxed.

Wooden tables line the walls in a very homey and country sort of way.  Glass jars filled with dried split peas hold the silverware.  Water for the table is brought to you in country-style bottles.  There is a wine list for sale and limited cocktails are available made with spirits that were hand selected by Le Farm.  Have you ever heard of:

  • Tito’s Hand-Made Vodka
  • Caeden Head Old Raj Gin
  • Gran Centennaro Plata Tequila
  • Ben Riach 12 Year Scotch?

After you’ve secured the beverage of your choice, the food starts to roll in and you can’t believe what you are feasting on.  Let us show you some of the things our party ate while at Le Farm.

Let’s start with appetizers.

This is roast pork belly with whipped cornbread, collards and sweet bacon vinegar.

How about foie gras terrine with cherry marmalade, pistachios and toast?

This is smoked duck potato hash with black truffle and a fried egg.

This is an aged beef meatball salad with green cabbage, pignoli, parmesan and pickled cipolinis.

Last, but definitely not least, here is some cavatelli for the table made with sweet 100 tomato pan sauce, spicy oregano and parmesan.  We asked what sweet 100 was and we were told it was a type of tomato.

Who said we were done eating yet?  Now it is on to our main courses.  Not as many pictures as many of us got the same dish.  Great minds think alike I guess???  Here is what we had.

A Southern classic.  This is shrimp and grits with italian sausage, roasted corn and shrimp sauce.

A little comfort food?  Brisket braised in beer with beet tops, potatoes with horseradish and dill.

You can’t leave without dessert can you?  We couldn’t, that’s for sure.  Take a look at these treats.

This is a chocolate pot de creme with peanut butter cream and salted pretzels.

A brown-butter almond shortcake with strawberry gelato and cajeta caramel.

Some bourbon white raisin bread pudding with vanilla gelato and hazelnuts.

We’ll admit we were stuffed.  Well, with all this food, we were beyond stuffed.  If you are ever in Westport, Connecticut, Le Farm is a restaurant you must go to and enjoy.  We think you can tell a difference when you are eating really fresh and local ingredients prepared in such fun and inventive dishes like those served to us.  Tell us about your favorite farm to table restaurants in your neck of the woods?

A Plant I Like – The Butterfly Bush

This is one of four butterfly bushes in our yard.  It is another one of the plants that we like in our garden.  They grow large with showy flowers and require little, if any, care.  Other than an occassional pruning, the butterfly bush is self-sufficient.  With a name like butterfly bush, you might expect a plant to be attractive to butterflies.  In fact, it’s more than attractive; it’s a magnet for all the butterflies who pass through your garden seeking nectar.  Many butterfly gardeners plan their garden around Buddleia (pronounced BUD-lee-ah), a genus that includes over 100 species and cultivars.  Also called summer lilac, the medium to large-sized shrubs can anchor a perennial bed or form a hedge.  With a little help from the internet, here is some more information about the beautiful butterfly bush.

You’ll be happier with Buddleia if you accept its growth habit, which is not neat and tidy.  Its narrow branches support lilac-like clusters of blossoms a foot or two in length, with side branches and blossoms.  After a rainfall, the flower-laden branches of some species can droop all over your flower bed.  You’ll want to allow at least six feet between bushes to keep some semblance of neatness.

But wait until you see the bush covered with butterflies!  You can see large and small butterflies land to sip from the many individual blooms.  Butterflies and bees will flock to the honey-scented blossoms, whose dilute nectar is sweetest in mid-day sun.  Near a path or patio, the shrub provides delightful fragrance for you, too.

Where did the name Buddleia come from?  A seventeenth-century amateur botanist named Reverend Adam Buddle was honored posthumously, when the first butterfly bush reached England in 1774.  Victorian-era explorers brought all kinds of exotic plants back to England.  From China came seeds of Buddleia davidii, the hardy species that is most familiar to gardeners today.  Named after a French Jesuit missionary, Pere Armand David, B. davidii reached London’s Kew Gardens in 1896.

Another reason for Buddleia’s popularity is that it’s easy to grow, even hard to kill.  Buddleia davidii tolerates urban pollution and alkaline soil.  It’s generally pest-free, except for spider mite infestations during drought or stress.

A plant that can take care of itself is great for any gardener.  Couple this with the butterfly bush’s great beauty and you have an all around winner.  These are must haves for any butterfly enthusiast.  When in bloom, there is rarely a time that you walk by and don’t see a flurry of gorgeous butterflies enjoying this plant.  They are a great addition to any garden in need of a large tree-like bush.  Go buy one.  What plants in your garden are your favorites?

A Tomatillo First Here On Glen Road

This is a group of tomatillos that we bought on Sunday.  We have never cooked anything here on Glen Road that contained tomatillos.  Why the sudden change of heart?  On Sunday, we went to the market and we were going to buy some green salsa.  For some reason, we turned the bottle around to read the label and we were shocked at how many ingredients were in it that we couldn’t pronounce.  Then at the farmers’ market, a woman told us tomatillos are great right now and so we bought some.  We went home to make our own green salsa and we are glad we did.

Tomatillos are small green-tomato look-alikes encased in paper-thin husks.  Tomatillos are only distantly related to true tomatoes.  Raw ones have a distinctive tangy citrus flavor that is great in salsas.  They are also great roasted until soft and then pureed.  Good ones have taut husks and lime green skin underneath.  You can refrigerate them in a paper bag up to 1 week.  When ready to use, peel away the husks and rinse any sticky residue off before using.

We decided on a classic roasted green salsa to serve with tortilla chips.  The roasting effect gave the salsa a deep, slightly smoky flavor.  All ingredients are roasted under the broiler until they are a little blistered and the vegetables become somewhat soft.  The vegetables become soft depending on their size–small vegetables are first and the tomatillos and onions are last.  As you take soft vegetables out from underneath the broiler, place them directly into the bowl of a food processor while the other vegetables continue to broil.  Our salsa definitely had a little heat to it.  If you prefer less heat, use fewer jalapenos or remove the ribs and seeds from the ones that you do use.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of tomatillos, husks and stems removed
  • 1 medium white onion, halved
  • 3 japapenos, stems removed
  • 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1/4 cup Italian flat parsley (you can use cilantro if you prefer)
  • Coarse salt and ground black pepper

Directions:

Heat broiler with rack in the top position.  Place all vegetables (except parsley) in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.

Broil until vegetables are blistered and slightly softened.  Rotate the sheet often and flip vegetables frequently.  Vegetables will become soft depending on their size from 8 to 15 minutes.  Take them out as they become soft.

Discard garlic skins.  In a food processor, pulse garlic and vegetables until coarsely pureed.  Season with coarse salt and ground pepper and pulse to combine.  Transfer salsa to a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup chopped parsley.

Refrigerate until cool and serve.  Salsa can be kept into the refrigerator up to 3 days or 3 months if frozen.

What a treat our roasted green salsa was and, better yet, there was nothing but natural ingredients in it.  If you serve salsa like this, a margarita cannot be far away.  It’s the perfect start to a Summer dinner party.  The next day, remember to use your left over green salsa over a grilled chicken breast or use it in place of ketchup over a burger.  There are tons of ways to use a fresh Summer salsa if you think about it.  So bring a tomatillo home this Summer and enjoy!  Do you have any recipes that use tomatillos that you could share here on Acorns On Glen?