Today is probably the last in a string of remarkable fall days, mild and golden, with clear skies and a peaceful stillness only accentuated by the hum of insects. They have been perfect days for working on outdoor chores: I've been cutting back perennials and have mowed the lawn for the last time before winter. Because rains are forecast to begin tomorrow, I decided to work in the vegetable garden today, digging potatoes and planting garlic and tulips. I never know how good my potato crop is until I've unearthed them from their hills; I fork the soil and reach in to find the tubers, the buried treasure, under a pretty cover of Johnny Jump Ups, aka weeds, which took advantage of my laziness in the late summer garden. The potatoes above are French Fingerlings, a waxy potato, delicious any way, but the best boiled potato I've ever eaten.
Looking up past the gathering of potatoes, the greens of brussels sprouts, leeks and kale, to the brilliant line of trees at the edge of the woods, I feel surrounded by delight.
While the potatoes were drying a bit before storing them in the root cellar, I planted a row of garlic from this years crop. Each clove will become a full bulb by mid-summer next year. I have to admit that I still find growth quite miraculous when I stop and think about it: those little seeds becoming large plants; single celled creatures becoming complex organisms.
When the row of garlic was planted and mulched with hay, I put several varieties of tulips in the ground alongside them so I'll have cut flowers next spring. I treat myself each fall to fresh bulbs, favorite varieties and new ones.
I eat a lot of potatoes, in soups and stews, roasted, baked, mashed, and boiled. My crop this year was a bit meager because of the dry spell we had in July, but I'll have several months of eating my own crop. And one of my favorite potato dishes is this one from Marcella Hazan, another easy and delicious recipe from her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. The anchovies are not a strong presence here (though I use more because I like them so much), but just add a rich flavor to the potatoes.
1 1/2 lbs waxy boiling potatoes (I use Carolas, which are not waxy, because I love their flavor and don't mind if they break up while cooking)
2 flat anchovy fillets (I use more, maybe 5 or 6)
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs butter
freshly ground black pepper
1 teas chopped garlic
3 Tbs chopped parsley
- Peel potatoes and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Soak in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes, then drain and pat dry.
- Use a saute pan that will hold all the potatoes in about a 1 1/2 inch high layer. Chop the anchovies into a paste and put them in the pan with the olive oil and butter; with the heat very low, mash them into a paste.
- Add the potatoes and a few grindings of pepper; turn them a few times to coat them. Turn heat to medium, cover, and cook for about 8 minutes, turning occasionally. Uncover and continue cooking for another 15-20 or so minutes until the potatoes are tender and have a light brown crust.
- Taste for salt, then add the garlic and parsley and turn several times. Serve hot.