Archive for July, 2011

If I suddenly seem food and recipe obsessed, it’s because once all those garden vegetables start pouring into the kitchen, one has to do something with them!  Some are being frozen or canned, but the best eating is fresh and here and now.  Right now, we’re getting lots of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash, which along with onions and garlic harvested a month ago, constitute the key ingredients for gazpacho!

Until two years ago, I never could understand why gazpacho recipes always seems to call for commercial tomato juice, and so it was a liberation to come across a discussion and recipe at the Farmgirl Fare blog that pointed out that tomato juice–apart from that in the tomatoes–was actually completely unncessary.  Ever since, I’ve followed the following gazpacho recipe, altering it occasionally to include tender squash and fresh basil and other herbs.  It’s great!

click here for Susan’s Quick and Easy Gazpach0 at Farmgirl Fare

It’s that time of year when, as country folklore goes, you’re likely to find your front seat filled with zucchini if you leave your car unlocked.  If you grow your own, you’re likely to be somewhat desperate about what to do with all the stuff.

This year I grew two types of standard green zucchini (Ambassador and Dark Green), two kinds of yellow squash (golden zucchini and lemon squash), and a quite amazing zucchini that was new for me: Zucchini Rampicante (also known as Tromboncino).  Zucchni Rampicante is the best-tasting, fastest growing and most prolific squash I’ve ever seen.  It curls around in all sorts of ways, but often looks like a swan to us.  It’s hard to find in markets, but it’s amazingly easy to grow–just be prepared for it to spread………..

Sautéing squash with garlic, onion, and other vegetables is always a good option, as is of course zucchini bread, which freezes well.    Below, however, I’m providing two  less-familiar ways to use up excess squash and at the same time eat very well:

Yellow Squash Pancakes are quick and easy to make and are nutritious and tasty.  They also freeze very well.

Zucchini Timbale can be a main dish or a vegetable side dish and always gets rave reviews.  It is excellent leftover cold as well.

click below for the recipes


As a longtime Sierra Club member, I was both dumbfounded and appalled by the cover story of the July/August issue: “Thoreau Was Wrong: On The Trail It’s Speed That Inspires.”  The article, it turned out, never mentioned Thoreau and was not nearly as bad as the cover suggested, even if I fail to share the author’s enthusiasm for running barefoot on mountain trails.

But the sheer pretentiousness, stupidity and outrageousness of the magazine cover was highlighted by the fact that about the same time I came across the following quote by none other than the founder and first President of the Sierra Club, John Muir: “‘Hiking’ is a vile word.  You should saunter through the Sierra.”  So did the Sierra magazine editors consider Thoreau a safe stand-in for John Muir?

Muir notwithstanding, I do use the term “hiking,” but I’m increasingly shifting to “sauntering,” both as a literary choice and as an outdoor practice.  Here in the Blue Ridge we do have extraordinary vistas, but so much of the beauty and fascination of this place is found at the micro level, often right at foot level.  “Sauntering” captures a mode of this type of discovery.

So saunterers of the world: Unite and throw off the chains of speed and faddishness!

Note: The Muir quote is from Stephen Fox, John Muir and His Legacy: The American Conservation Movement (Little Brown, 1981), p. 120.

I hiked the last twenty or so miles of the Appalachian Trail in Nelson County, along with a couple extra miles to McCormick Gap in  Shenandoah National Park, in two day hikes on June 30 and July 14.  At some points, the AT weaves itself around the border of Nelson and Augusta counties, but remains mostly in Nelson.

The first 10 miles or so is mostly in the woods, but offers nice views, mainly of the Shenandoah Valley, at periodic rocky outcroppings.  The one mountain along the way, Humpback Mountain (3600 feet) is wooded at the summit, but offers striking views of the Wintergreen resort from the south side, and a nice  overlook  and interesting rock formations on its north side.  The most spectacular place in this section, Humpback Rocks, is .3 miles off the AT on a side trail.  The jagged rocks themselves vie with the view for the top attraction.

The next ten miles offer pleasant hiking through a predominantly  Oak-Hickory forest.  Here one’s focus is drawn more to the immediate environment: the woodland flowers and their pollinators, remnants from the hardscrabble life of early mountain settlers, the almost-constant “tea” call of the Eastern Towhee and (if you’re lucky like I was) the sight of the strikingly large and colorful Pileated Woodpecker.

The final mile is jarring: suddenly one is crossing Interstate 64 on an overpass, with its roar of traffic, which remains audible for the last mile or so as the AT follows along the Augusta-Nelson border as its heads towards McCormick Gap.

After Monika (my trusty transportation team) picked me up, we repaired to the local brewery, Devils Backbone, where Three Ridges Mountain dominates the view from the outdoor veranda.

click here for more pictures