On a hot Saturday at the beginning of this month, our friends L. and D. invited us to the “Hoes Down Harvest Festival”, an annual celebration organized by Full Belly Farm in Capay Valley, Northern California. The day started with a very promising drive, less and less constructions, more and more ocher and green landscapes… Then we encountered an unfortunate Casino in the middle of where-it-should-not-be, and then more gorgeous views of the valley’s fertile, colorful and welcoming land.
Two hours later, we turned into a small dirt road that lead to an afternoon of tasty discoveries, hopeful learning about the success of a sustainable organic farm, and joyful play with Loulou. We got to taste delicious, wholesome foods, quench our thirst with locally brewed beer and kombucha – one of the best I have ever had- and to dance. We took a tour with one of the four owners of the farm. He explained how, with care, imagination and collective efforts, the land and our health can be preserved. Phew, finally a positive approach on the subject ! And of course all that in the midst of fun activities, crafts and games.
No wonder National Geographic described the farm’s children area as “the best in the state” : it not only offered a wide variety of choices for our little one - painting, zip-lining, hay riding, apple bobbing and many more – but it was also thoughtfully organized to keep the little and big kids engaged and curious. In a few hours, Loulou got to pet small and bigger animals, play with clay, climb a mountain of hay, waive a flower crown, milk a pretend cow, launch gigantic bubbles, hang her paintings among dozens of other young artists’ creations. She could even refresh in a creek and start over again.
A day like that inspires you to cook earthy, wholesome meals. Meals that preserve and reveal the natural flavors and colors of the ingredients. I learned the following recipe from my friend S., a very generous person, a great cook. There isn’t really a recipe per se. It is just about vegetables and condiments. And that’s it.
Pick a few colorful vegetables and cut them in big chunks. Pour one or two tablespoons of olive oil, add some “fleur de sel” or any other type of coarse salt, some pepper, finely chopped garlic, and toss the ingredients until the condiments are well mixed in.
Let them soften and golden in the oven for about 30 minutes at 375 F (you can either use little casseroles like I did, or just toss the vegetables on a rectangular baking pan). I like to add some fresh cilantro or chervil on top when cooked. Et voilà.