Monday, June 22, 2009

Rosemary is for memory

Definitely try to come in for lunch if you have a chance! Michael made a delicious Swiss Chard Lasagne. We also have Broccoli Vegetable Soup and Pimento Cheese Crustini which make a great lunch combo.

Saturday when I left the cafe I ran out to Valley View Farms to pick up some herbs. The Waverly Market had long since closed, I was feeling restless and it's been a long time since I just ambled around VVF. The place is filled with great smells. You would expect the sweet smell of flowers, the clean bracing scent of evergreens and pungent herbs, but there's also the smell of moist dirt, dusty terra cotta pots, the decomposing of compost and in the background, the slightly chemical scent of soil additives, fertilizers and the poisons for "pest management".

I picked up a pepper plant, a couple of pickling cucumber plants that are particularly suited to container gardening and a pot each of basil and rosemary.

Rosemary is the first fresh herb I remember using and the "recipe" involved chicken breasts, a can of cream of mushroon soup, a bag of dry stuffing cubes and a handfull of minced fresh rosemary and I'm pretty sure we can blame that concoction on my father who, in all fairness, probably got it off the side of a box, bag or can.

Truth is, I'd eat my weight in that goopy white mess just to have another hour with him. Bob died in May of 2000, about two years before Michael and I started down the road to opening Carma's Cafe. In the early days, while we were building, sometimes the smell of gardenias would fill the small space and I'd remember bowls of floating flowers given to my mother and me. It was an anxious time, as you can imagine, but the ghostly perfume was reassuring. Sentimental projections or not, two thing are for certain. I would have been a very different woman if Bob had never come into my life and you would not be reading this blog.

So in celebration of my father's life, fresh vegetables and herbs, I offer you one of his favorite recipes. I hope you will try this very simple, but very satifying, soup (and it freezes beautifully!).

Bob's Italian Garden Soup
1 large onion, diced
1 large clove garlic (or 2), crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 quart chicken stock
1 pound Roma tomatoes, peeled and diced
(or 16 oz can Italian style tomatoes, diced)
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 1/2 cups sliced carrots
1 1/2 cups sliced celery
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano (1 tablespoon minced fresh)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (1 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh)

Note: you can add any other vegetable available including potatoes, peas, spinach, parsnips, etc. just remember to dice/slice/cut to a size that will fit nicely in a soup spoon!

Croutons and parmesan cheese

In a large kettle, saute onions and garlic in oilive oil/butter for about five minutes or until onions are translucient, stirring often. Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Serve topped with croutons and cheese.

"There's rosemary; that's for remembrance.
Pray, love, remember."
• Shakespeare, Hamlet