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Special Deliveries

May 5, 2012
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There is a lovely father at our school who’s dear wife died this year. He brings me green things from the farmers market. I don’t ask but I know he must have gone with her.

I knew her in the way we know those who swirl around our lives. We see them daily, wave through morning drop off rush, hug a joyful hello at events or pass the time waiting for children to erupt from classrooms chatting about life, children school.

A friendship both peasant and loving but also slightly hollow in that we connect and engage but not but not fully know. I liked his wife, and I watched from afar as she fought to live but slowly surrendered. I still watch her son a bright joy filled vivacious boy and I send her thoughts about how wonderful he is and that we all “hold” him for her in our hearts.

And now his father  and I chat and discuss nothing and everything, but mostly now I hug him and say thank you for the beautiful gift he shares by loading the kindergarten fridge with bright green delicate things for me to take home and cook.

This week when I came home and opened my surprise bag of goodies there was okra, cucumbers, green beans, two bags of beautiful baby bok choy, grapefruit , bunches of purslane,

and then hmm, what was this, sniff,

I nibble them like a rabbit, testing at first with tiny pieces.

OK , it tastes, well green, looks like the mustard plant with the yellow flowers. Not bad, a little bitter, a little mustard a little brassicy. OK . hmm.

I opened another bag and when this tumbled  on the counter like medusa’s hair, I  just paused and looked at it. Did he give me a plant, is there something in there  I am supposed to find attached at an end if I can find it, what???

Five years ago I got over my fear of ethnic markets. The mesmerizing walk down the aisle where you cannot read all the labels or the ones you recognize have a new font and strange spellings. And then the produce.  Easily embarrassed I am not, well not too much anymore, unless its children doing the embarrassing, but in the produce section of a store I am brazen and will ask someone who looks like a “local” to explain the fruit/veggie I am holding and how to cook it. This has offered a great education in edible plants to me. But  as I pondered the green leaves on the counter I was stumped.

HA I knew who to call. The last time on nature walk Michele, was able to point to a variety of “weeds” and tell me oh that’s ____ you ______ it. So I emailed my Green Guru, who emailed back that she too was stumped.

You have to love the internet. Type in green leafy produce with yellow flowers and I’ll be darned if there isn’t  a picture of the green thing on my counter on my computer. Like magic! I felt so empowered.

Originally I thought it was hon tsai tai, close but not quite, no purple stalks.

Yu Choy, it’s a Chinese mustard green, part of the broccoli cabbage family. The english version would be edible rape but not the same as rape seed which is engineered into canola oil. Its cousin is Choy Sum , flowering cabbage.

The vine that is not grape vine or nasturtium is well I’m not sure in full disclosure.  I think this is pumpkin shoots based on photos from two CSA websites. Maybe, or maybe not, they will be stir fried and I’ll let you know.

It’s spring and all is green so lately I’ve been greening our plates more than usual. That night for dinner we ate a warm soup for a drizzly  spring day.

Simple Chicken Tortelinni soup, with  Peas and Yu Choy.

Go Get

4-6  cups homemade chicken stock/broth or organic boxed broth

2 cups or more if you like  of  shredded cooked chicken 

1 yellow onion diced 

1 crushed garlic clove

2 Tbs olive oil or grapeseed oil

1 package cheese tortelinni 

dashes and pinches of oregano, thyme,  salt and pepper 

1 bunch yu choy rinsed well, roughly chopped, flowers reserved, 

2 cups snap peas de-stringed and chopped into thirds

2 cups fresh english peas (frozen if you cannot find fresh) 

*pea shoots….. I added them but later decided that next time maybe I would dice them finer as they hung off my spoon if I added them agin that is , just sayn’ this is how it goes in my kitchen. 

GO DO:

Sautee the onion with the oil until soft then add the garlic, do not let it brown, add the broth and simmer. This is where I usually look at the pot and add 2 cups more broth because it look “too little” in the pot.                                       

Add in the herbs and salt and pepper, to taste.

Should you not have any precooked chicken or you forgot to grab the rotisserie bird, simply chop up a few  frozen chicken breast  and let it simmer until cooked through.  

Bring the broth to a rolling boil  then turn it down to a gentle boil and add  the tortelinni, if  your English peas are fresh add them now as well. Let it simmer gently until the pasta is almost done, about 5 min. 

Turn  the heat way down  and  add your snap peas, yu choy and frozen peas if using.  Let it sit a few minutes while you get the tureen, bowls, spoons and your daughter slices the bread, or  until the snap peas are tender but still slightly crunchy. Place the soup  into a warmed tureen , serve with crusty bread and with a flourish garnish each bowl with the flowers. ( which everyone will fish out because “really mom who eats flowers?”)

It is delicious for lunch the next day. 

 

 If you want to know how Michele knows all she knows, check out  her blog where she has cataloged all the OC parks there are to enjoy. She regularly posts about where to visit and what to do in a fun and engaging way.  You can find Michele here at   Fun Orange County Parks . She still remains my Green Guru.

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