Thursday, June 20, 2013

It's summer! Let's garden!

   Now that it's officially summer (okay, midnight tomorrow is officially summer, but unless you're Pagan, who's counting?) it's time to contemplate one of our world's most wonderful features: dirt. Who doesn't like the smell of rich, freshly-turned soil, dark as good chocolate, filled with plant-potential? Okay, you may not like dirt, but you must like food, and without lovely chocolatey-brown dirt, you have no lovely food.
   For the last thirteen years I have lived in an apartment in the middle of downtown Turners Falls. While it had enough room for my large family, there was no yard, and the only green in sight was the strip of scraggly grass on the edge of the road. (I also had the apartment with north- and west-facing windows. Direct sunlight was a rare treasure, usually obtained at 6 AM and 4:30 PM). Two months ago my family finally moved. We are in another yardless apartment, still in downtown Turners Falls, but with one huge difference. (well, two, if you count the abundance of windows that face EVERY DIRECTION! I can sunbathe in my living room! My kitchen! My bedroom! My fourteen year old cat oozes around the house from sunlit patch to sunlit patch. She's blissfully happy.)
   My lovely new home has back stairs. South-facing, sunlight-gilded back stairs, and they're all mine! Check it out:

I'm not sure which part of my back step garden I like best. Maybe the sun-drenched tomato and pepper pots. Or maybe my little herb and pansy window box. Actually, it's probably the vine-shaded corner on the first landing, where I can sit with a mug of tea and a book, and read outside without the sun glaring off the page into my eyes. This little garden is a work in progress: we're just getting into our growing season here in western MA, and I've got plans for a few more additions: a second window box of herbs, because I put them in everything, even cookies (I'll even share my favorite savory cookie with you here at the end); a cluster of cucumber plants and one of zucchini plants; and just because I'm a faerie-tale princess at heart, a rosebush, if I can find one that will thrive in a pot. At the very bottom of the stairs is a pot of morning glories that have just begun sending spindly tendrils up the railing to twine with the grapevine. (The vine came with the apartment, and I love it. I'm thinking of adding a hops vine...they're beautiful, and I do live over a restaurant/bar. I think the owners would appreciate that.) Anyway, today being a glorious sunny day, I've got plans to go play in the dirt. How about you?
And now.....COOKIES!!!!
Rosemary Cornmeal Cookies

1/2 C (1 stick) butter, softened
1/3 C sugar
1/4 C pine nuts (I've substituted blanched almonds before...they're cheaper than pine nuts)
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh rosemary OR 1/2 Tbs of dried rosemary, finely ground with a mortar and pestle
4 cracks of fresh black pepper
3/4 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C cornmeal
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 300F
Mix butter and sugar together in a large bowl until creamy and smooth.  Add nuts, Parmesan, rosemary and black pepper.  Stir to combine.  Add flour, cornmeal and salt.  Stir to combine. 
Form into 1-inch balls with your hands and place on a prepared baking sheet, flatten with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.

Bake about 25 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown. Allow to cool on a wire rack.  (These cookies will keep for several days in an airtight container.)

Enjoy! Preferably outside, with a mug of tea, and whatever book you're treating yourself to this summer. (I'm currently working my way through Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers for the umpteenth time.)

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