“All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child.”
Getting dirty … isn’t that a childhood rite of passage? My girls thrive on time wandering outside, watching an army of ants carry a crumb, building towers with dirt and sticks, and lying on their backs, envisioning dinosaurs in the clouds passing overhead.
As urban dwellers, it’s satisfying for my girls (and me) to get dirt under our fingernails. It’s good for the body and soul – a way to be connected with each other, with the earth.
Get thyself away from the city, I say.
Summer is in full swing, so I rallied family for a hands-on experience with nature. I called on my daughters, their two girl cousins, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law (and her mother-in-law and sister-in-law too) – family reunion! – to head to a local farm.
We celebrated the long-awaited blue skies and long, lazy days by picking sun-ripened berries, straight from the vine. Simply delicious! To me, nothing says summer more than the explosion of sweet juice from a sun-warm strawberry, staining my fingers red.
Taking the rose-colored glasses off, though, you’d see: Two minutes out on the field, my youngest says, “Mommmmmy, I need to go potty,” and we trekked back to the stinky, roasting hot, porta potty. “The berries are itchy,” the cousins whined. “Eeeew, this one is moldy,” announced V, my oldest. And at one point, I glanced up from picking to witness the 5-year-old cousin schlepping a wooden berry box with a look pure of misery. Needless to say, the berry picking lasted under an hour.
Urban dwellers, indeed.
At the end of the day, though, there were lots of smiles and laughs. It was fun to put our hands in the dirt.
Below: A farmer taught the girls how pick the perfect sugar snap pea – not too thin, not too thick, just right. P.S.: The girls preferred picking the peas. No pricklies.
If you’re looking for a taste of summer sunshine, below are the three recipes I used with strawberries and sugar snap peas.
My youngest, S, and I made Ina Garten’s Easy Strawberry Jam. It’s from the cookbook Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics. Irresistibly mouthwatering. I did use the Cointreau, in case you’re wondering. For the first tasting (below), we threw some biscuits from Trader Joe’s in the oven and carved some hearts on top. The second: Biscuits from our neighborhood coffee shop, Bang Bang Pie.
The girls are junkies for smoothies, so V and I made a variation of a summery Indian drink.
Bon Appétit | June 2013
What to do:
- Purée 1 1/2 cups halved hulled strawberries, 2/3 cup ice, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a blender until smooth and frothy.
Finally, it feels good to be sustainable, using simple ingredients – two of which we picked.
Strawberry, Almond, and Pea Salad
Bon Appétit | June 2013
- 1/2 cup Marcona almonds (Note: I just went with store-bought almonds)
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
- 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup shelled fresh peas (from about 1 pound pods) or frozen peas, thawed
- 3 cups baby arugula or watercress, thick stems trimmed (Note: I used both for good measure)
- 8 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled, halved or quartered if large (about 2 cups)
- 1 cup pea tendrils (can be found at Asian markets, farmers’ markets, and natural food stores)
- 1 ounce Parmesan, shaved
- Preheat oven to 350°. Spread out almonds on a small rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 8–10 minutes. Let cool.
- Whisk vinegar, mustard, poppy seeds, and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in oil; season with salt and pepper.
- Cook peas in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until bright green and tender, about 5 minutes for fresh peas, or 2 minutes for frozen. Drain; transfer to a colander set in a bowl of ice water. Drain.
- Add arugula, strawberries, pea tendrils, peas, and almonds to vinaigrette; toss to coat. Top with Parmesan.
What’s your crowd-pleasing strawberry recipe? For more strawberry recipes, check out On the Table Today.