We’ve just returned from a two-week trip. And before that, we were soooo busy….. a lot has happened in one month! But I’ll tell it a piece at a time. Starting with our arrival home the day before yesterday.
We had been gone for two weeks. Prior to our leaving, we had been getting beans in the garden. Lots and lots of beans. I mean, lots.
It was a shame to leave, right when the garden had so much in it, but it was out only chance to go. And while we were gone, mysterious things happened in our garden. So on the day we came home… we almost needed a machete to get into it. All the spinach had flowered out and kicked the bucket. Many of the sunflowers had fallen over (there had been quite a storm while we were gone, with buckets of rain). A new variety of cucumber we’d decided to grow went viral. I thought they were going to be small; at least, they were supposed to be thin…. that is, if we had picked them in time…
And the beans! They were as big as Twinkies, or lady fingers, or something really large and thick. I immediately declared that I was only going to pick the usable beans, but quickly realized that if I didn’t pick every overgrown bean, the plants would not make more. And so I did… pick piles and piles of them. And then I had to think… what could I do with a ton of chewy beans? The super leathery ones, I discarded. But the merely overgrown-and-tough ones, I decided to cook. And what better dish could I make than Thomas Merton Stew? Actually, the recipe is called something like Exotic Barley Soup, and it can be found in Ye Olde Recipes for a Small planet, which is probably the first vegetarian cookbook I ever had. (That or the New York Times.) Many years ago (35), when I lived in a co-op that was based on the Taize community in France, some Taize brothers came to hold a symposium about Thomas Merton, and they stayed with us. I made this soup… which happens to call for three cups of chopped beans… and it has been known by that name ever since. At least, in my brain it has…
For the soup, I used mostly Burgundy beans, and as you can see here, I chopped them up as small as possible to help with that chewiness factor. Burgundy beans are a beautiful color until you cook them, when they turn as green as the string beans they were probably hybridized from.
And then there were the overgrown and seedy cucumbers. We also had a whole bunch of the regular variety, so I chopped them up, took out the seeds, and made another old standard, something the Fanny Farmer Cookbook likes to call "Wilted Cucumber Salad." Basically, you soak the cucumbers in cold salted water with a few garlic cloves, and later on, you put them in a dressing of vinegar, sugar, water and salt, and then chill them.
We had a wonderful trip, but are so glad to be back!