Monday, June 25, 2007

A Buffet for Hungry Gardeners

Beginning last September, I've been involved with a small group of avid gardeners and volunteers forming a group called D.C. Urban Gardeners. It was pretty much a club of six, until I went online one day recently and advertised for new members on just about every listserv I could find here in the District of Columbia.

Last time I checked, or membership had passed the 120 mark. To get a little better acquainted, I threw a brunch over the weekend and about a dozen people responded. (Don't know what the other 100 folks were doing that day, or how anybody passes up free food. But a dozen is manageable for a buffet.)

The trick is not to get terribly stressed out over these things because after you've calculated the food, you still have to figure on beverages and setting up drinking glasses, perhaps making coffee, pulling plates and silver, cleaning the house, sprucing up the garden, tidying up the deck. And then there's the cleanup afterward...

In other words, the food is just the half of it.

The salad was a cinch. I have 15 varieties of lettuce growing in the front yard and they're all ready to bolt. I gathered up and cleaned a tub full of lettuce and it occurred to me that figs had made their appearance at the local Whole Foods. So it became a salad of greens with figs, shaved fennel and feta cheese, dressed with a vinaigrette from that chive vinegar I'd put up so many weeks ago (remember?) and juice squeezed from a leftover half an orange.

I had a big jar of quinoa staring at me from the pantry, so I cooked some of that and blanched some carrots and peas and tossed in some thinly sliced red onion, lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil for a simple pilaf.

Gotta have eggs with brunch, right? Some parsley and mint from the garden, a little crumbled goat cheese and--voila--an easy, delicious frittata (no comments, please).

And for something with just a bit of sweetness to it, our famous creamy scones with raisins, dried blueberries and dried cranberries.

The best part, most of this was made the day before, so I could save part of my morning for the usual weekend running around, such as responding to a phone call from one of my daughter's teachers, who was unexpectedly stranded with a cooler full of food she was supposed to deliver to the National Mall, where my daughter was performing in a children's festival, and was there any possible way I could pick her and the cooler and an armful of beverages up and deliver them to where they needed to be....

I should also not forget to mention that this Sunday marked the first time our salad greens appeared in an official farmer's market. Up to now, I've been hauling our produce down the hill to our daughter's charter school and setting up a small, one-man vegetable stand to raise money for seeds. But a new farmer's market started recently near my sister's house in the Bloomingdale neighborhood here in the District of Columbia and our friends at the 7th Street Garden agreed to sell my bags of salad mix.

(I wonder how they did?)

But, back to the gardeners brunch. This being the first time we'd met, I wasn't sure quite where we were headed with this. But I detected quite a lot of interest in agitating on behalf of environmentally friendly gardening, greener development practices and such. One attendee was a bit disappointed. All she wanted was some advice on how to build a garden in her front yard. But not to worry, we can do that, too.

By popular demand, we then took a quick tour of the "farm" out front, where the cucumbers and pole beans are beginning to climb my improvised trellises and the Italian squashes are stretching out quite impressively. We stopped for a long while over the compost heap and the local gardening magazine editor revealed that the funny plant with the orange trumpet flowers climbing all over the neighbor's fence is the same cross-vine--bignonia--that I'd ordered all the way from someplace in Ohio for the garden at my daughter's charter school.

Turns out bignonia runs rampant right in my own yard--I attack it regularly with the lawn mower--and plants from cuttings quite easily.

I knew there was a reason we were having this brunch...
Photos by Robin Buck


Diva said...

What a great idea!
Wish i could have been there, brunch is my favorite!

Living here in Italy, it is nice to see a city boy bringing some soul food into the american home!
Make 'em weep!

WashingtonGardener said...

Great gathering, Ed!

And if you ever need more trumpet creeper vine to replenish yours - mine has to be hacked back regularly and sends out new shoots on an hourly basis. I actually cut a few flower stems to put in vases last week as an experiment. They did alright as cut flowers, but obviously last muh longer on the vine.

Sara said...

What a fabulous idea. I think England is a bit far to come though! The buffet sounded delicious. I might try your egg frittata with guinea fowl eggs. I will be interested to hear what else the group are doing.
Sara from farmingfriends

TopVeg said...

Interest in grow your own is gaining pace in the UK. I wonder if we would have the same response as you? It sounds great!

Ed Bruske said...

Thanks, Diva, I am thrilled to hear from you in Italy. What are you eating these days?

Kathy, so glad you could make it. I got into a real discussion with my wife over that vine. She kept referring to it as "trumpet vine," I kept referring to it as "bignonia" and later "cross-vine." Now you're calling it "trumpet creeper vine." Meanwhile, this vine--whatever you call it--is all over the yard, the fence and the house...

Sara and Top Veg, I find it hard to believe that we're ahead of you in any kind of garden. By all means, start planting your own veggies over there. More flavor, and think of all the savings...