dischord on the farm; harmony on your plate:
melange of garden heirloom tomatoes with burrata and whipped tomato purée
Mean girls in the coop and a surprise male in the hutch. This is how we arrived to my home in Los Angeles. Despite the dischord amongst the animals, we also arrived to a hillside of sun-ripened tomatoes in all shapes, sizes and varieties. So while the animals were in a “time-out,” our harmonious plates inspired this week’s simple pleasure: melange of garden heirloom tomatoes with burrata and whipped tomato purée.
The expression “pecking order” comes from the territorial nature of chickens. Chickens are mean. We have six chickens, purchased in groups of two on three separate occasions. With chickens, you cannot place the younger chickens in with the older ones immediately; you must put them in the coop together but separate (so they get used to each other). When the second group of two (two white Cochins) were fully integrated into the coop with the older ones, the older ones quickly put the Cochins in their place and the Cochins were prohibited from many areas in the chicken run.
A few months later when we purchased two more chickens (Ameraucanas) and waited to fully integrated them into the coop until we returned from France. The pecking order began again. This time, the Cochins assumed the position of their elders and put the younger Ameraucanas in their place, pecking them into submission until they learned who was boss. The Cochins apparentely forgot their experience a few months prior and were quite mean to the new chickens. The chicken run (which climbs the hillside) looks like an elementary school playground: the eldest are on the top third of the run, the Cochins are in the middle, and the younger Ameraucanas occupy the lower third. Pecking order.
The story with the rabbits is not much different. Last spring I gave in to my daughter’s pleas for a rabbit. We came home with two (because no one wanted her to be lonely.) I was very specific: it had to be two females: two males fight and and male and female…well, –I neither wanted families of bunnies nor a bloodbath on my hands.
When we left for France, the rabbits got along well. They would touch noses and share their food. They were good roommates. However, when we returned, we put them in a dog pin on the grass to stretch their legs. Our house-sitter whispers to me that he believes that they are not both female and no sooner does he say that then I hear my daughter say: “Why is my bunny jumping on the other bunny?” There was no mistaking it. The saddest thing is that the female bunny was not on board with the program and not only not thrilled with the game of leap-frog, but she ran madly to escape.
A few days pass and the male bunny seems more mellow. Perhaps it was just a phase. We take out the dog pin and put the rabbits in there together again hoping for better behavior. However, you would think the male was on a steady diet of oysters and Viagra® for it took him less than one minute to jump on the female. So deparate was she to escape she jumped over the two foot pin and onto a nearby table (which was another foot in height). That was it. Now the rabbits are also separated until we get to the vet.
The entire farm feels like it is in one big “time-out.” However, the dischord between the procreators and the peckers is a stark contrast to the garden and the rows of tomatoes that together grow side by side in complete harmony.
If only the animals could live as harmoniously as the tomatoes.
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This week’s simple pleasure could not be more simple or more timely. The end of the summer (and into the beginning of fall for southern California) is the perfect time for heirloom tomatoes. The farmer’s markets are filled with them. The emphasis this week is where it should be: on the tomatoes themselves. When shopping for tomatoes, look for imperfection in size and shape…large,uniform tomatoes are often chemically produced and will lack flavor. Look for smaller, imperfectly shaped gems of varying color (the different varieties also have different textures in their flesh). See if you can find tomatoes with dried stems, indicating that they were left on the vine to ripen in the sun as long as possible. This is not a caprese salad. This is a tomato salad (like one you would find in France), garnished with a little burrata, olive oil, and fresh basil leaves as compliments, not equal companions, to the tomatoes. Freshly squeezed and whipped tomato juice adds a refreshing touch and a contrasting color. Passing the fresh tomatoes through a sieve also gives you a greater appreciation for these beautiful fruits and the different ways they can be enjoyed. Make sure you chill the juice and then whip it, it should be served cold. Do not add ice, it dilutes the flavor and why would you want to do that?
This week, a friend wrote me asking me when I would be back from France. He followed his question with the statement: “my guess would be never because why would you leave heaven?” True, France is heaven (to me) and the food is beyond compare. However, sometimes heaven is no further than your own backyard,where ever that may be.
et bon appétit