Sunday, July 25, 2010

Where two or three are gathered

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matt. 18:20)
Our family has been at a crossroads with "religion" for quite some time now. We have been church shopping for way too long, and more Sunday's than not, end up staying home. The problem I have with this is that it becomes so easy to neglect the health of our souls and we begin to replace church with preferring to engage in the temptations of the world. Why has it been so difficult for us to find a place to strengthen and renew our faith? I don't really know, but I will venture to say that "religion" keeps getting in the way; dogma mostly, and beliefs that one faith is superior to another. 

While we have recently returned to our old church (a non-denominational bible-based community church), we do not show up every Sunday. Last Sunday, when we actually made it to church, the pastor said something that really hit home. He said that sometimes, we get caught up in the routine of church and simply go through the motions. As a result, we miss what worship is truly about. 
This morning, due to one reason or another, we did not make it to church. Instead, we did something that was kind of cool, and something we plan on doing on those Sundays when we just can't get it together. We held our own church, outside on our porch, the three of us and our Bibles. We discussed a few Bible verses, read a Psalm, and said a prayer. It was nice, it was contemplative, but mostly it was a time for our family to be still and know God.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

If I seem confused, it's because my mind is on vacation

I can't take credit for the title of this post. My seven year old son uttered this phrase last night while we were walking our dog. It was like the child was reading my mind (which has been on vacation for several days now)!  I'm feeling a little wacky lately, something I will blame on hormones, because these days I blame everything on hormones.  In all seriousness, I have felt a little like I'm losing my mind.

Thank goodness I have plenty to do to keep myself busy. Yesterday I went out to pick some figs from our ginormous tree, 

and I was greeted by a party of vermin, trying to beat me to the picking. After I put my heart back in my chest (those dastardly squirrels scared me when they leaped out of the tree, cheeks full of figs) I discovered there were a few figs left for us humans to consume. And consume them we did. Wrapped up these sweet little gems in thin slices of prosciutto di parma, sprinkled them with aged balsamic vinegar, fresh thyme and shavings of parmigiano reggiano cheese, and scarfed them down. Delish.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


It happens the same time every year. Everything in our garden ripens all at once, and I'm scrambling to find ways to use our harvest before Great White Hunter cans it all. While canned garden goods are nice, I think fresh is best.

A little over 10 years ago, way before Disney's movie that managed to make rats seem cute and talented, I started making ratatouille. The way this dish was prepared in the movie, more like a confit, layered in a high sculptural form, was the idea of celebrity chef Thomas Keller (the owner of the famed French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley). Julia Child insisted on making ratatouille in a similar fashion: by cooking the eggplant and zucchini separate, making a sauce with the tomatoes, peppers and herbs, then layering in a casserole dish and baking in the oven.

My version is much simpler, and much more rustic looking, as everything is cooked together. Inspired by a Provence recipe, I cook my eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes and herbs all in one pot. This is very easy to make, and absolutely delicious. My child devours it - "without the basil please mommy" - but still.

3 tbsp. EVOO
2 cups chopped onion
2 1-lb eggplants, unpeeled, and cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 zucchini, unpeeled and cut into chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 yellow or green bell pepper, cut into chunks
2 3/4 lbs rip tomatoes, seeded and coarsly chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Heat olive oil in a heavy pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add eggplant and garlic, saute 5 minutes. Add zucchini and peppers, saute 5 more minutes. Mix in tomatoes, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf (you can  also add a dash of herbs de Provence if you'd like). Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until veggies are tender, about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf, stir in basil and season generously with salt and pepper. This dish can be served hot, warm, or cold, and can be prepared up to 8 hours ahead. It makes a wonderful side dish, or a base for grilled fish, but is also perfect as a light summer main course. Serve it with crusty bread and good wine. Yum!