Living and working on a farm with its own organic garden is quite a bit of work, but it is certainly not without its perks. One such perk is the availability of fresh produce - I mean really fresh - as in, I walked to the garden harvested something, washed it in the sink and started prepping it for a meal. Growing up in a city, I never really had (or sought out) fresh produce. I found myself buying what was convenient, or had a longer shelf-life out of fear of not knowing what to do with it or that it would spoil.
After stints in a few kitchens in Louisiana and Florida and an ever-growing passion for food, I've since come to discover that having fresh ingredients inspires more than it intimidates. Perhaps this is merely an attitude change on my part, but I now see fresh fruit and vegetables as a welcome challenge and I previously wouldn't have experimented with many of the ingredients I find literally steps from our kitchen. Another perk of living and working on a farm is community dinners where we all come together and share in a delicious meal prepared by a different person or team each night. On my nights, I turn the stove and oven into my own personal test kitchen. I should mention that I am the kind of cook who does not readily follow recipes ... I have nothing against them, I just learned to cook by testing and tasting and tossing in something here or there. This practice has the potential for disastrous results, but I find it exhilarating to use a recipe as a guideline add my own twist (butter mostly) and concoct something that hopefully brings joy to those around the table. And since my stay here has permitted me the chance to plant the very things I toss in my “experiments” I thought it might be fun to share a little bit about the journey from the garden to the table.
One of the best pieces of advice I received was to use fresh ingredients and let them do the talking. Don't over season, overcook or overshadow. So with that in mind, my first edition of from the garden to the table is one of complete simplicity: Strawberry Shortcake. This is not the typical shortcake many people might be familiar with, but it is a family tradition and a nice example of a few ingredients yielding delightful results. Instructions are as follows: cut strawberries into slices, place inside mini round cake, top with aerosol whip cream and enjoy. While it may never be known as a gastronomic delicacy, we all agreed (especially Chuck – see photo), it was rather tasty.
I arrived after the strawberries were planted in their beds, but I was here for the ceremonial placing of straw under the leaves, which is how the berries got their name. As the weeks wore on, I watched as these little berries went from small green sprouts to almost pink to a robust and beautiful red. We harvested our first batch last week and have two more boxes, which promise more fresh fruit smoothies, and of course, the potential for many more shortcakes to come!