Handpicked from Omnivore Books by my husband, I received this book for my forty-first birthday. It is a 1984 first edition, published long before I had heard of Chez Panisse or ever eaten there. On the back cover are the usual sort of "praise for" quotes, one from M.F.K. Fisher and one from Richard Olney. Both writers now long dead, it gives me a thrill to own something that I know they read.
This July, as usual, we finished eating up the arugula growing in our garden. It is always gone by mid-summer. Arugula is a remarkably easy crop to grow - as long as it doesn't get too hot or too dry. I try to start it at the beginning of each new year, out in the garden under a cold frame, which is essentially a miniature greenhouse.
Toast isn't something I usually associate with gardens, but at the Wild Flour Bakery in Sonoma, the two go hand in hand. For my husband, this bakery is a regular refueling stop along one of his lengthier bicycling routes. For me, it is a beautiful place to visit for a meal, some time in the sun and botanical inspiration.
Homemade polenta can be an intensive affair, it requires half an hour of near continuous stirring. Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone has a walk-away version, but it needs to simmer for an hour and a half, after two separate pots of water are brought to a boil, one at a time, on top of each other. That takes more pre-planning than I can handle.