I’d been waiting for this moment all spring.

Ever since the days began to grow longer and the ground was warm enough to dig. I’d nailed together the frames for the new raised beds and nestled them into their trenches. I’d tilled the heavy topsoil, turning in small truckloads of rich black compost. I was sure I’d planted everything a little too early—before the hard frosts were over—yet only had to protect the seedlings once by draping the entire garden with long disposable paper tablecloths the one night the temperature dropped below freezing. I’ve been watering and weeding. Giving support to tendrils, staking branches before they brake.

I’d been waiting for this moment all spring.

When I could cut a head of cauliflower from its roots and unfold its broad sturdy leaves I’d snapped over to blanch it, revealing its tight white curd. When the English peas had swollen so fully in their pods they had to be picked. When I could reach way under the huge green thorny leaves of the zucchini plants and carefully cut off tiny pinky-size squash attached to buxom pale orange blossoms. When the turnips finally filled out and were worth pulling from the ground. And when the chard would be standing tall and proud.

I’d been waiting for this moment all spring.

When there would be enough to gather from my garden to make a simple lunch for us at Canal House. That moment arrived this week. Just seventy-five days whence I began. The meal couldn’t have been more simple. Nothing could have been more satisfying.
Melissa Hamilton

 

OUR FIRST SPRING GARDEN-TO-TABLE LUNCH

Tiny Zucchini with their Blossoms Fritto Misto—we started off with a quick fritto misto, dipping the small handful of zucchini-laden blossoms in a thin batter then fried them in pure olive oil. Pure heaven.

English Peas in Irish Butter—we shelled the fat starchy sweet English peas and cooked them in a tiny bit of water and lots of salted Irish butter.

Cauliflower with Brown Butter—we had three fist-size heads. We steamed them until very tender. While that was going on, we made a small skillet-full of brown butter with slivers of garlic, then poured that toasted nutty deliciousness over the heads.

Young Turnips—we trimmed and peeled these then gave them the same luxurious treatment as the cauliflower.

Tender Swiss Chard with Cannellini—we sautéed the chard in olive oil with peperoncini, first the sliced stalks, then the leaves, wilting them in the warm oil just at the end. To flesh out the meal, we added cannellini beans we’d had on hand from a previous meal. They were meant for each other.

Salad of Head and Leaf Lettuces—we finished our meal the way we often do, with tender floppy greens tossed with an anchovy and lemon vinaigrette.

 

Last week we finished the final phase of production on our forthcoming book, Canal House Cooking–Volume N°4–Farm Markets & Gardens. We’d been glued to our computers for days (and nights) tweaking layouts, syncing images and text files, pouring over the final pages, and inputting corrections. And then, finally, with a push of the button, the final finished files flew off to Wisconsin to be printed and bound. We sat back and breathed a satisfied sigh.

It was a momentous day, one that needed a proper celebration, after all. So we poured tall glasses of bone-cold pink champagne, opened up a nice fresh bag of salty potato chips, and tucked into the “from-scratch” onion dip that our friend and design colleague, Teresa Hopkins, had brought to the studio earlier that day.

As we sipped and crunched we couldn’t agree on what was more delicious, the exquisite champagne, the cool onion-y dip, or the happiness we were all feeling for bringing our newest darling, Volume N°4, into the world.

Canal House Cooking Volume N°4, Farm Markets & Gardens will be available in early July.

ONION DIP

makes a generous 2 cups

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
Kosher salt
1 ½ cups sour cream
¾ cup mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Pepper

Melt the butter and the olive oil together in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, season with a big pinch of salt, and sauté until deep golden brown, 15–20 minutes. Reduce the heat if the onions begin to brown too quickly. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.

Mix the sour cream, mayonnaise, garlic powder, and cooled onions together in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with chopped fresh chives, if you like. The dip will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.