I planned on writing this letter last Sunday night, but your dad came home from the farm with 120 ears of fresh-picked corn that he insisted had to be shucked, blanched and frozen ASAP. We were leaving for Atlanta the next day to pick up our Israeli cousins to take them to the beach for the first few days of their weeklong Birmingham visit and there was no other time to do it.
I hadn’t packed. I had cleaned the house all day so it would be ready for guests when we returned. And I had set aside the evening to leisurely write and get ready for the beach. Dad shucked all the corn and said he would take care of it…until his hands cramped up and he couldn’t do it. So there I was stuck with 120 ears of shucked corn complete with corn silks stuck to every surface of my just cleaned kitchen and no room in my freezer for all those ears. I spent the rest of the night cutting the corn off the cobs, blanching it, bagging it and stuffing it in the freezer. So, I yelled, “Would 50 ears not have been enough? You HAD to pick 120?! What are we going to do with all this corn?!!! It is too much!”
I had just put about 8 hours into shelling, cleaning and bagging a black garbage bag full of purple hull peas…an apparent delicacy here in the South. Then there’s the kale and okra and tomatoes and cucumbers. All my freezers are full! It is too much!
We got up early the next day and drove to Atlanta, picked up the cousins and packed the van to the roof with their overstuffed suitcases and carry-ons and proceeded to the beach. The sand and water were perfect and we logged some marathon hours at the shopping malls. I am not even sure how we all fit into the van for the ride back home… more bags were jammed into every nook and cranny of that car! It was almost too much! And everyone was happy.
The rest of the week was filled with food, family and celebration. I experimented with cooking peas and corn together and they were a great addition to Shabbat dinner at Gail and Abe’s. Then I made Shirly’s Corn pudding for brunch. I used a bunch of cucumbers in a cold cucumber and yogurt soup, but no one will eat it but me. I made fresh basil pesto and put it on tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and pasta with roasted veggies. I served tomatoes with everything; eggs, sandwiches and just plain with salt and pepper. I even made a tomato and peach salad with feta cheese. I am determined to use every single vegetable one way or another. I am hoping this will convince your father that a much smaller garden will produce more than enough food for all the friends and family we have, but I am afraid he is just enjoying all this fresh stuff way too much.
Too much seems to be the desired norm for this family. I remember when you were a small child and would put a large glob of butter on a piece of bread and we would tell you it was too much. The next time you asked for some butter for your bread you said, “I want too much.” You come by it honestly. Too many options, too many opportunities, too many places to stay and stories to hear.
I know it can be stressful and even maddening at times, but I can’t help but feel grateful for all the too muchness in our lives.
Esther’s Purple Hull Peas and Sweet Corn
When you have too much of everything in your freezer, just put it all in a big pot and cook it together. That’s how this recipe came to be. If you love peas and you love sweet corn, this dish is sure to make you happy…and put a dent in your freezer. This recipe will serve a lot of people for a lot of days, but they won’t mind if it’s too much.
- 1 large onion, cut in thin wedges
- 3-5 fresh garlic cloves, halved or quartered
- 1-2 Tablespoons of oil (olive oil, vegetable oil or butter will do)
- 2 tablespoons of Osem pareve chicken flavored soup powder (any chicken, onion or vegetable soup powder or seasoning mix will do)
- 1 quart bag of frozen or fresh purple hull peas (about 4 cups)
- 1 quart bag of fresh or frozen corn kernels (about 4 cups)
- salt and pepper to taste
Place cut up onions and garlic in an eight-quart soup pot over a medium flame and cook about a minute until a little of the moisture is released. Add the oil or butter and sauté until the onions and garlic are lightly browned.
Stir the powdered soup mix into the onions and garlic.
Add the frozen or fresh peas and just cover with water. Cook over a low flame until the peas are tender. This may take 30 to 40 minutes.
When peas are just tender, add the corn and more water if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Continue simmering over a low heat until flavors are blended and liquids are slightly reduced. Add more water and seasonings if you like a lot of broth.
Serve hot as a side dish or with rice and roasted veggies for a healthy vegetarian meal.
Tomato and Peach Salad
Tomatoes and peaches are two of my favorite summer fruits. I first had a version of this salad at a friend’s house and I loved the flavors of these two fruits together. Here is a modified version with some lettuce added for a little touch of green. This recipe will serve 4-6 people.
- 2 generous handfuls of arugula (lettuce is optional if you prefer the tomatoes and peaches only)
- 3-4 medium to large fresh home grown tomatoes
- salt and pepper
- 2-3 fresh summer peaches
- olive oil and balsamic vinegar for drizzling (or your favorite bottled oil and vinegar salad dressing)
- Feta cheese for topping (optional)
- Fresh basil leaves or green onions for garnish (optional)
Slice tomatoes and arrange a layer on the platter over the lettuce.
Lightly salt and pepper the tomatoes to taste.
Slice the peaches in slices or wedges and arrange a layer over the tomatoes.
Drizzle lightly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar all over the salad.
Top with feta cheese crumbles if desired and garnish with sliced green onions or basil leaves.