A Labor of Love, the Hautzig-Sash Farms
“Dad. Why am I lying on the floor next to a zucchini?” my son Sam asked, quite predictably under the circumstances. I mean, I asked him to lie on our living room rug with three gargantuan zucchini’s at his side. It’s not something Child Protective Services would be up in arms over, but it’s not an average request from Daddy.
These are not your average zucchinis either. They look like small tactical warheads. They had been lying under leaves at the bottom of the raised garden bed we dedicated to this wonderful and highly versatile veggie. My wife Terri simply hadn’t seen them until the other day. From a sheer visual standpoint, they are the highlight of our 2014 harvest.
This is the fifth year we have dedicated a chunk of our front yard to our garden. It’s pretty socialist setup. I built the beds, Terri grows the stuff, and we share cooking the bounty. And while we enjoy being part of the movement to have vegetable gardens from Brooklyn to The Berkshires, ours has become an integral part of how we feed our family. The winemakers of the world harvest in order to fill wine shop shelves and restaurant cellars. We harvest here to fill one of our three freezers with good food for dinner and for the kids lunchboxes. Even among the relatively enlightened Berkshire community that makes up our kids’ school, you still find junk like Cheetos and even an occasional Lunchable. Seeing kids eat that is only slightly less depressing than crack babies. And almost as harmful.
Those three monsters you saw with Sam are now resting comfortably in Ziploc bags as zucchini muffins. Six dozen so far, with many more to come. When I want to send the kids to school with one, I take them out the night before and let them defrost on a plate on the counter. They taste as good as the day they were made. Trust me. If they didn’t, I’d hear about it from my mini-versions of Ruth Reichl and Frank Bruni. Last year, the zucchini muffins Terri made in August lasted the entire school year.
Hail the Green Zebra!
The green and wax beans pose an interesting dilemma. They grow so well that we get loads of them every year. And they peak at the same time as our cherry and green zebra tomatoes. And the many varieties of lettuce Terri grows are available for most of the summer. Cucumbers, too. So we choose to eat the things that must be eaten right away and freeze most of the beans for the fall and winter. I bought one of the first FoodSavers from an infomercial I saw in 2000. I think Chuck Woolery was the “celebrity” host. Not sure if that was a step up or down from his game shows. Anyway, it does the trick. I cut the ends off and them halve them. Then I blanch the beans for about three minutes, drain them, and run cold water over them. Dry them with paper towels and place them on cookie sheets in the freezer. After they are frozen, I pull out the vacuum packer. Booya. Same basic idea for the laundry basket full of Basil Terri grows, which becomes vats of pesto.
So on a snowy January night I can sauté some of our beans with shallots and garlic, or use them in a stir-fry. Pasta from Northern Farmhouse Pasta (made from Cayuga Red, a local wheat variety) with pesto hits the kid’s thermos a few times per month.
Roma tomatoes get their own bed because my nice little Jewish wife makes a killer marinara sauce from them. So every night for a few weeks the Romas she brings in get a quick boil so the skins and seeds can be easily removed. The flesh is then collected and turned into what she dubbed Saucy Mama. We’ve gotten so used to the fresh, bright flavors of this sauce that jarred stuff tastes absolutely gross to us.
Tomato Ice Bucket Challenge
The last thing this year will be Terri’s first shot at tomatillos. We got hooked on the Carnitas de Puerco at Destinos in Chatham, which is finished with a tomatillo salsa. So now most of the pork shoulders and butts from our two annual pigs go into making our own version of this scrumptious dish. It is NOWHERE near as good as Destinos. But it’s good. So, with a little spare room, Terri decided to give them a shot. We’ll see.
Of course Terri and I love our garden. I’d let Terri have the whole lawn to grow more if she wanted to. It’s a lot of work, and our kitchen becomes a home factory of sorts for a few weeks very summer and fall. It’s for the kids more than anything. We live in one of the best areas of the state for fresh produce. Many of farms I drive past daily and know personally are at Union Square and the other farmers markets in New York City. So we can get anything we want. But I want Jeri and Sam to have a relationship with food, to know that every meal they eat presents a chance to do something special. Think it sounds silly to celebrate a wax bean? Well, try watching your kids pick one in their front yard and eat it while walking to their swing set.
Food, this is Jeri and Sam. Kids, this is food. Get to know each other.