It's the end of olive-picking season here in Greece. Prime picking is in November/December, but this year other adventures called and we didn't make it to the trees until after the new year, which means equal work for less yield, (but still equal fun). The past week I've been scraping olives off the branches with a little yellow plastic comb. I see the branches in my sleep and when I close my eyes... The tarp that the olives fall onto, and the ground below get a slick oily finish. Below are some photos of the process...
The entries screened last night at the David Minor Theater in Eugene. It was fun to see the work of so many local filmmakers, though our dancing hops seemed quite innocent in comparison to most of the rock/beer inspired entries...
The urgency of ripening of fruit has been a reoccurring theme since my return to Oregon. It started with a batch of plums, then figs, crab apples and pears. It is a community event, rallying together to make the most of what nature so generously supplies; a degree of anxiety accompanies the various harvests- the window of opportunity short but the quantity great.
Last week my friend Ross' birthday (Ross Kanaga of What People Eat: Oregon fame) coincided with the ripening of a large number of tomatoes. So in the vein of the themed birthday parties of our childhood, the evening was made into a tomato-centric affair. Everyone brought a dish with tomatoes. Lack of central communication yeilded more varieties of caprese salad than I could have thought possible, but they all tasted a little bit different and nothing beats fresh ripe tomatoes. We had two kinds of stuffed tomatoes, tomato pizza, dried tomatoes, bread with tomatoes baked into it, grilled cheese sandwiches with that same bread and fresh tomatoes, and a delicious carrot cake with dried tomatoes on top (carrots love tomatoes, in the garden and in the mouth- it sounds weird, but I'd encourage it again)
Now the plums on my friend Charley's tree are ripening by the bagful. And we can't eat them or give them away fast enough. We had a movie night last Thursday where we watched my new favorite movie "La Pointe Courte" by Agnes Varda and ate plum tart that Nancy made. She sent me the recipe for the tart that night and I've made it two times since. It's my perfect dessert right now. The original recipe is from epicurious, I'm reposting it here with Nancy's adjustments so you can all try:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons (about) ice water
Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter and cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 2 tablespoons ice water; blend until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if mixture is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss plums, 4 tablespoons sugar, ginger and cinnamon in bowl. Roll out dough on floured surface to 12 1/2-inch round. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet. Mix 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon flour in small bowl; sprinkle over dough, leaving 2-inch plain border. Arrange plums in concentric circles on dough, leaving 2-inch plain border; drizzle with melted butter. Fold dough border in toward center. Sprinkle border with 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake tart until plums are tender and crust is golden, about 45 minutes.
Cool tart 1 hour on baking sheet. Run long thin knife under tart to loosen. Using 9-inch tart pan bottom, transfer tart to plate; serve at room temperature.
So far my favorite part of growing food has been thinning the purslane. I am liberal in my seed-planting methods, which means I scatter a lot with little care to proper or orderly spacing. As a result the new plants often come up very close to one another. This is fine when they are very small, but we want them to become very big and if they are crowded together they can't grow and bigness won't be possible... so we must thin the plants. Thinning seems to just be a nice word for weeding, it's basically weeding something that was planted on purpose. You have to be strategic of course, taking the smaller ones in between the bigger ones is generally a good strategy. Every day I go out and thin the purslane, and I eat as I thin. The tender little bite-sized shoots are so delicious that I can almost sympathize with the deer who just ate off the tops of all my purple bean shoots that recently sprouted.