Monday, October 8, 2012

Putting the Garden to bed and Veggie Pot Pies

I've decided that the startling beauty of a New England fall's chief purpose is to mitigate the melancholy of summer's gone and the dread of a long long winter ahead.  Were it not for that neon pink shining alongside salmony red sliding into orangey yellow rubbing up against yellowy green, I may sink into the presnow blues that ain't gettin' no better as the trees get bare. 

You see, I love closure! 

All summer long, we make daily pilgrimages to our beloved lake club only to realize that the season is over one blustery day in September when we haven't been there for a week and even if the weather turns back to toasty, the water will be too cold to go in.  No closure. 

I've been working on putting my garden to sleep for the last month, but as the frost date quickly and steathily approaches, I realize just how much still needs to be done.  Lettuce and chard transplanted to the greenhouse; tomatillos, leeks,  lettuce, arugula, broccoli, bok choi, carrots and fall brassicas harvested; potato area raked out (this will never get done); rest of the tomatoes pulled and stakes stored.  The list goes on.  I'll keep working on it, but there will come an icy morning when whatever I haven't done (raking the potatoes) is going to be past doing.  The garden will be abed.  Most likely, no closure. 

But there is also something cozy and timely about this time of year.  A time to come inside, both physically and psychically.  For me, this means tackling the nether reaches of the house, spending time on the floor playing board games and puzzles, luxuriating in the tub, dusting off the sewing machine and the treadmill.  It's also a time when we never let a warm and sunny day get squandered.  It is a time of shared chores.  Just take a drive on a crisp Sunday afternoon and see all your neighbors out raking, organizing, putting summer away, just like you'll do when you get home.  It is a time of fairs and festivals, sharing community one more time in case next week's event is canceled due to poor weather.  In case the bad weather hits and there is no closure to that fall feeling.

My sister died 15 years ago, not quite 35 years old.  In the months after the accident, what I could not reconcile was that there would be no closure to our issues.  We'd never sit around the table holding our coffee cups with both hands and put all our childhood, childish drama aside.  Fifteen years later, what I've learned is that, despite my yearning for this kind of neat little box, tied with a neat little bow, there never would have been the kind of closure I imagined, probably no closure at all.  Had she died at 85, me an old lady right behind her, I'd be left with open questions, unresolved feelings and the same loss.

For me, therein lies the lesson.   I mean THE lesson.  This need to have closure, to wrap things up neatly to avoid all these mixed emotions is merely evading the present.  The reality that things never wrap up easily, that mixed emotions just means I'm engaged in this part of life.  If I stay mindful and in the present, I'll let go of yesterday's easy routine of garden, kids, lake, garden and find the next easy routine that I need to make my life NOW make sense.   

I love Buddhism because its first tenet is that everything changes.  I hate Buddhism because its first tenet is that everything changes.  But because I also love true, I love it more than I hate it, because I know that in the acceptance that closure is meaningless in the present, I'll find true contentment and I'll make room for much more.  Eckhart Tolle explains that regret and nostalgia are merely reflections of a mind fixated on the past; worry and fear reflections of a mind fixated on the future.  It is only in the present that true happiness can thrive. 

But still, they are calling for a frost on Friday night, so you know where I'll be tomorrow.  Out there in the garden, trying to get closure.

Nothing more humble and satisfying on a cold night than a pot pie.  These are super versatile and delicious.  Feel free to exchange the veggies I list with absolutely anything.  Sometimes I replace the tofu with grilled soy sausage and pair it with peppers, shitake mushrooms and loads of greens.  The recipe below is for the traditional carrots, peas, potatoes that especially appeal to my little people.

Veggie Pot Pies
Make six individual or one large

For the Dough:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick butter
4 oz. cream cheese

For the filling:
3 or 4 large cloves garlic
1 medium onion
1/2 cup carrots
1/2 cup cauliflower
1/2 cup corn
1/2 cup peas
2 to 3 medium potatoes

One brick of extra firm tofu cubed

For the sauce:
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. flour
1 cup milk
1 cup veggie broth
salt and pepper

1 egg, beaten

Make the dough:  In the food processor, fitted with the steel blade, pulse flour and salt 2 or 3 times to combine, add butter, pulse 10 times until it looks like cornmeal, add cream cheese, pulse until the dough comes together.  Turn out on floured surface.  Knead to form into a log with blunt edges.  Wrap in plastic and chill for at least an hour.

Make the filling:  Chop the veggies that need to be chopped and sautee starting with carrots and cauliflower, a minute or two later add onions and potatoes, then corn and garlic and last the peas.  Season with salt and pepper.  Reserve the tofu.  When veggies are fork tender remove from heat.

Make the Sauce: Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat, whisk in flour and cook for a minute or two.  Slowly add milk while whisking to keep the sauce smooth.  Let cook for a couple minutes until starting to thicken, then whisk in broth slowly.  Cook over medium heat until sauce is thickening, about 5 minutes, whisking occasionally, then remove from heat.  Stir in veggies and tofu.

Putting it all together:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  I use those ramekins with the handles for my pot pies.  If you don't have large ramekins on hand, you can make it as one giant pot pie in a deep pie plate.  If you are making them individually, cut your dough into 12 circles (otherwise, cut it into 2 and roll one for the top and one for the bottom).  Flour your work surface and roll each circle out, reserving the larger ones for the bottom of the ramekins.  Fit six of the circles into the bottom of the ramekins.  They don't have to come all the way to the top perfectly, but should come most of the way up all around.  Spoon the filling into the ramekins evenly.  Lay the remaining circles of dough on the top of the ramekins tucking the edges of the dough into the edges of the ramekins.  Beat an egg throughly.  Then paint the egg on top of each pot pie.  With a sharp knife, cut three slashes into the top of the pies to let steam escape.  Put the pies on a cookie sheet or jellyroll pan, and slide the cookie sheet into oven.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the pies are golden brown on the top.  Remove and serve!  And enjoy!!


1 comment:

  1. thanks for sharing your blog, i love it...and you...
    you are a treasure...