This zucchini vichyssoise is about as easy as they come and it’s low fat! I figured that if I replace cream with waxy potatoes nobody knows the difference and it tastes like the real thing. The recipe is – as always – approximate and largely depends on how many zucchinis are growing that given day. Here I used three zucchinis, a bunch of lightly sautéed onions, a few red potatoes, low fat milk, garlic, salt, pepper and a dash of saffron – all boiled and blended with an immersion blender. Now we can never have too many zucchinis.
Immersion blenders are the best. Don’t leave home without it:
This was an adventurous and scary day. I was on the way to work on a community art project when the storm hit. Within seconds the road turned into a river with the underpass flooding quickly. At times visibility was at zero. I drove up off Whitemud Drive to relative safety and sat in the car for a while shaken by the experience. Once home, I sat transfixed and looked out at the storm. Everything was grey except for this lovely white hydrangea: like a beautiful bride undisturbed by the storm around her.
The setting sun lights up these yellow ligularia spires. It’s almost the end of blooming season in Edmonton. In a few weeks the garden will be all green. Instead of despairing and complaining about our frigid northern climate, I have learned to appreciate it. Colours appear briefly and then disappear to be replaced by white for five or six months of the year. Living on the prairies turns summer into pure magic.
Whenever we host visitors from abroad we take them to St. Anne’s Ranch, a mansion built by a French cavalryman at the turn of the century. It’s a little piece of aristocratic France in the midst of the prairies. The ranch is very close to the Dry Island Buffalo Jump – one of the most beautiful spots in Canada. What does all that have to do with rhubarb jam? Well, the owner of the ranch makes it and my daughters said that it was the best jam they ever tasted. The owner kindly shared her recipe: rhubarb, frozen strawberries, sugar and I put in lemon pits for pectin in a tea bag. Once the jam has boiled down you add strawberry jello. Instead of canning, I put it in the freezer in small containers and we serve it all year. It’s a taste of summer when it’s -30 C outside.
Our friends who are avid gardeners are coming over tonight. They have an acreage complete with walk-in, underground cold storage. Knowing how much they appreciate food straight from the garden I am picking everything I can for our supper – including our still small garlic and onions. We are going to have my all-time favourite recipe: Nicoise salad. This recipe is like a garden on a plate. Nothing tastes as good as this!
There is always too much zucchini in July and August but I have discovered three simple ways to use it all: zucchini pancakes, soup and chocolate zucchini cake. Since zucchini pancakes all taste the same, the secret ingredient is tarragon sauce: yogurt, mayo, lemon juice, tarragon and/or crushed capers. Zucchini cake is like any banana-bread recipe with zucchini instead of bananas and a half a cup of powdered chocolate – or so. The soup is like vichyssoise but with zucchini instead of leeks. To the dismay of my scientist daughter, I never use exact recipes other than general guidelines. It feels good not to be bound down by numbers and weights.
I love late summer evenings when the northern sky lights up flowers like lanterns. These maltese crosses never actually turn grey. Maybe their colour finally fades by two or three in the morning when only cats and bats see the garden. Any time I look, they still glow.
Not every day is a bundle of fun. Yesterday my mom’s nursing home called that she had been taken to emergency. When I got there, I saw two traumatized ambulance workers and my eighty-nine year old mother strapped tightly to a gurney, her sheets bloody. Due to advanced Alzheimer’s she fought the paramedics bravely with all her might – ripping out her IV in the process. The cause of all of this was some facial paralysis that the doctor could do nothing about so she was sent back home within an hour. Her paralysis almost disappeared today but she still has severe muscle pain from hitting the paramedics. On days like this it’s good to come home to a garden.
I can be a little lazy when it comes to gardening and sometimes throw weeds and deadheaded plants into a shady corner of the house where nothing grows. My “plan” is that they compost. Imagine my surprise when this mound of ugly, dead matter grew into a crimson flowers. Not only that, these are pinks – sun loving plants.They are flourishing in a spot they can’t possibly like according to gardening books. It just shows that life is much too complex for science.
I was passing by the abandoned house next door and saw one or two flowers poking out between weeds. These old-fashioned flowers must have survived for many years. An elderly lady told me that the last person who lived there about twenty years ago was a piano teacher. I like to remember that these flowers were once cared for by her. Now I , a fellow gardener, have given them a new life.