The French delight themselves wondering if Americans ever cook. If they have vegetables and fruits in their supermarkets. If they know what an eggplant is. These are questions I’ve encountered before.
It’s part sarcasm and part ignorance for lack of travel and some real experience in the U.S. It’s also because they only think of the U.S. as steel, concrete, buildings, traffic, chaos and a nature-less environment – meaning New York City.
The city of New York itself seems to represent the entire United States in the minds of most French. Like Paris is to France. And just like Paris is not France, New York City is not the U.S.
So imagine what an exciting treat it is for me to educate my fellow French peeps and tell them that there are over 600 community gardens in NYC where people grow real vegetables and fruits – and they don’t come out of the ground in cans! <grin>
But enough about New York.
Boston’s community gardens are also blooming and in my neighborhood alone there are 15 of them (and 150 active community gardens throughout the city).
I am lucky enough to have one, as I had mentioned earlier during my lavender frenzy, where vegetables and herbs grow and share the plot with a yellow rose bush.
Strolling in the South End and peeking at the gated gardens, the pride and meticulous work of the owners transpire through the manicured layouts and colorful displays.
Some only grow flowers, some vegetables only, some have fruits and others have a bit of everything.
During windy days, the fragrant sweet basil will tickle your nose and marry other lingering scents – either mint or those of the shinny lilies – creating fresh green natural pockets, almost like bubbles, to offer breaths of fresh air throughout the city.
It’s like witnessing life and birth – someone told me about their garden plot.
To me it’s the best way to eat fresh and “local” without breaking the bank. It’s also meeting new friends, sharing a community space and gardening secrets or harvest trading with the neighbors – some roses in exchange for some of your beets? Elles sont très belles!
And with tomatoes, basil and other fresh herbs growing at a rapid pace, the kitchen gets busier and overpowered by the number of produce collected daily – the freezer is overpowered as well!
Pesto, tomato sauce… winter will taste as sunny and fresh as summer!
Crusted red snapper with parsley, lime, papaya, coconut and sea salt.
A sweet-spicy tomato sauce – Corsican style – full of herbs, spices and flavors.
Herbs and veggies get used in every dishes now. Chopped, cooked, frozen or given away to friends, nothing goes to waste and everyone can benefit from the community garden.
Sweet-Spicy Tomato Sauce (cooking from Cassel-Lanfranchi):
4.5 lb (2 kg) of tomatoes
1 lb (500 g) of onions
parsley (about 4 Tbsp)
basil (about 2 Tbsp)
Bay leaves (2-3)
thyme (1 Tbsp)
3 big spoonful of olive oil
1-2 sugar cubes or 1-2 teaspoons
Cayenne pepper (1 pinch)
salt + pepper
Boil water in a big sauce pan and cook the tomatoes for 20 seconds. Stop the cooking process by keeping the tomatoes in cold water after 20 seconds and wait for them to cool down. Peel them, cut them in quarters, remove the seeds and chop them up.
Chop the onions and garlic.
In a big pan, heat the oil and cook the onions with the garlic at high heat for 10 minutes. Mix well.
Add the tomatoes, parsley, basil, thyme, Bay leaves, sugar and Cayenne pepper. Add salt and pepper.
Cook at low heat and simmer between 60 to 90 minutes. The tomato sauce should be thick when done.
Note: if you prefer spicier than sweet – add more Cayenne pepper. However, if you want it sweeter, add sugar.