We hadn’t had farm dinner for a few weeks, and though I wouldn’t admit it to any of the other apprentices, I actually missed “questions around the farm table.” Not only have we had such recent gems as “What’s your favorite stuffed animal?” (courtesy of our neighborhood five-year-old) but I enjoy the way farm dinner questions give me an excuse to reflect on the meaningful things in life (what was the cheapest thing I bought and loved, and where is that prom dress now?).
Questions can’t be repeated, and unfortunately I missed that pageant standby, “how would you describe your perfect day?” For me the answer would look something like this past Saturday, which I spent in Napa wine country with my close friend and food and writing mentor Rachel. Waking up in the guest cottage of the beautiful Ehler Vineyards we must have looked like kids locked in a toy store: racing around with our cameras, picking chard and Sungold tomatoes from the garden for breakfast, eating grapes off the vine and oohing appreciatively at each new view. With most of my friends I have to keep my rampant enthusiasm in check, but with Rachel I have no such worries—when it comes to food or running or just enjoying being outside, she’s as ready to be delighted about life as I am.
And really, enthusiasm can take you far. After trying dozens of free samples at the Napa farmers market and spending half an hour inhaling spices from Anise to Zaatar at the nearby Oxbow Public Market, we even biked to a winery and crashed their release party, our smiling faces somewhat obscured by large bike helmets but visibly eager enough for the gate-keeper to let us in. Then there was olive oil and coconut gelato in St. Helena, and the evening spent barbequing eggplant and chicken sausages with my family. As we drank wine and ate cheese with olive pesto on the front porch of our little house, I could almost imagine for a moment that we owned the place.
Getting away is always exciting, but one of the hidden rewards I’ve come to appreciate about trips is the feeling you get when you return to everyday life. You’re away for a few days, and suddenly things seem just a bit more special, like unexpectedly finding a worn sweater you’d lost bunched up under the bed. I was thinking about that as I roasted cherry tomatoes and cooked pasta for farm dinner last night, and when the night’s question was “how would you describe the farm?” I didn’t have to hesitate.
The farm feels like home.
Pasta with Feta, Basil, and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
1 lb corkscrew or farfalle pasta
assortment of cherry tomatoes
2 inch cube of feta
several generous handfuls basil, chopped
salt & pepper
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Rinse cherry tomatoes and arrange on a large baking sheet; drizzle liberally with olive oil and put in a 400 degree oven until golden and slightly shriveled (don’t worry when lots of juice comes out). In a small bowl, mash the feta with the chopped basil to make a paste, then add olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook pasta until al dente then stir pasta, your basil-feta mixture, and the roasted cherry tomatoes and serve warm.