The Spiritual Gardener: Feasting With Thanks
Flowers for your holiday table, plus two fabulous recipes for Thanksgiving and the cooler months to come.
It was sunny and chilly this morning as I drove off to work. The impatiens have all collapsed, the grass had a crispy crunch when I went out to get the papers and even a rhododendron or two were droopy. That’s how you know it’s really cold here, when the rhododendrons droop like that.
It has actually been rather mild here so far this fall, though obviously that can’t last much longer, as winter begins to bear down upon us. We had the merest lick of frost last week that scarcely even caused the impatiens to shiver; our leaves are mostly down, raked up and carted away, though our town still looks lovely with quite a bit of remaining color. A single giant purple clematis flower has opened and flung itself defiantly into the teeth of the oncoming winter, and across the patio a single bold pink gerbera daisy has bloomed; a few roses are straggling along in sporadic bloom as they will almost until Christmas week.
This weekend, I tried a new thing: I got out my hedge trimmers and cut down, by degrees, all the dead or near-dead things in the garden in furtherance of my new theory of mulching-in-place. This is an admittedly experimental gardening practice, but it is derided scornfully by other members of the household as “messy gardening”.
I, on the other hand, find it more environmentally sound and, frankly, quite a lot easier. Anyway, that went all right and, amazingly, I managed not to cut any bits of myself off in the process or to cut the power cord with the trimmer again. In case you ever wondered what THAT would be like, let me tell you. It is quite exciting: there is a tremendous explosion, and smoke and flames and sparks shoot everywhere. It’s all extremely stunning and impressive. Plus, it tends to elicit unwelcome and unhelpful marital speeches, cautions, you-should-be-more-carefuls and the like. I am on my second electric hedge trimmer now, and treat this one with much more respect. One does not care to be electrocuted while pottering about in the garden, after all; it is amazing how rapidly wisdom enters in, occasionally.
1 baguette or similar loaf of French bread
2 crisp apples
2 stalks celery
8 Tbsp. butter
1 medium yellow onion
1 lb. of chicken sausage, without casings
4 oz. Portobello mushrooms
1½ cups chopped Italian parsley
16 oz. chicken stock
1½ Tbsp. chicken base (or 4 Tbsp. chicken bouillon powder)
2 bulbs garlic
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 lbs. of potatoes (or 2 lbs. potatoes plus 1 lb. sweet potatoes)
2 tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
4 oz. whipping cream
8 oz. melted butter
1/3 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
Freshly grated parmesan
Cut off the pointed ends of the garlic bulbs and drizzle them with the olive oil, and bake them for 45 minutes at 350 degrees; allow them to cool, then squeeze out the pulp and put it into a blender. While the garlic is roasting, peel and quarter the potatoes (or, if you prefer a bright orange color and slightly more interesting taste, two pounds of potatoes and one pound of sweet potatoes). In a large stock pot, boil the potatoes with one teaspoon of the salt, 20-25 minutes or until tender. Mash the potatoes by hand (or, better, put them through a ricer) in a large bowl. It is important to mash or rice them and never to put them in a food processor, which breaks down the cells and releases the starch. To the garlic in the blender add the remainder of the salt, the ground pepper, the whipping cream, the butter, and the parsley or cilantro. Blend this together, then add it to the potatoes until it is all combined. Spoon into a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with sea salt, freshly grated parmesan, all to taste, for a crispy topping. This recipe may likewise be doubled and half of it frozen for another occasion.