Friday, May 30, 2008

The Iris Story

Here's something you don't know about me:

I grew up on ten acres of hillside in Oregon's Willamette Valley, in a house with one glass side overlooking a panorama that encompassed miles of farmland spread like a cloak to the foot of the Cascades. We moved away when I was seventeen -- an event about which I'd had nightmares for years -- and I have been trying to get back ever since.

At In the Night Farm, I am content. True, my windows gaze over different farms, and my horizon constitutes the Snake River breaks instead of a mountain range. Here, I see sunsets instead of sunrises. But here, nonetheless, I am home.

At the foot of my childhood home lay a bank trellised with railroad ties. Between the ties grew prize-winning irises given to us by the professional iris growers who were our nearest neighbors. When we left, my dad took some of the rhizomes to plant at his new home. Five years ago, he passed divisions on to me.

I lived in Pullman, Washington, at the time, and it was winter. Before spring, I moved to Idaho and brought the rhizomes. They followed me from an apartment, to a house, to a duplex, to another house, to a cottage, to a Barb horse ranch, to a rental house, and finally to In the Night Farm. Here, after five years in pots, surviving to send up sword-like leaves but never blossoms, they found a place on the west side of the house.

And, at long last, they bloomed. I know just how they feel.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Curried Oat Groats with Dried Fruit and Almonds

Even after fourteen hours of horse training and farm work, I'd rather create a healthful, tasty meal than break out a box of Hamburger Helper. Curries provide maximal flavor for minimal work, and whole grain-based dishes like this one are exceptionally satisfying. Toasting the spices in the nearly dry saute pan heightens their flavor.

Curried Oat Groats with Dried Fruit and Almonds

1 cup oat groats, uncooked
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, vertically sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup dried apricots, diced
1 Tbs curry powder, mild
1/4 tsp tumeric
3/4 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/3 cup green onions, chopped
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Boil 2 cups water. Add oat groats, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until water is absorbed (about 40 minutes). Saute onion in olive oil until golden (7-10 minutes). Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add spices and and heat until spices are fragrant (about 30 seconds). Stir in cooked groats, dried fruit, parsley, and green onions. Add salt and pepper to taste. Served topped with slivered almonds. Serves 4.