Dreams of self sufficiency

If there's one thing I thought I wouldn't miss when I left London was the obsession with weather. It's either too warm or too cold... too much rain or even more complaints when a water ban is put in place. I learned to be at ease with the London weather, eventually. Chicago has had it's share of bitterly cold weather this year and I find myself glued to local weather man, Tom Skilling, with wide eyes as he's just mentioned temperatures in the eighties for next week.

Yesterday, I started the day with a cup of coffee on the patio, shockingly without a woollen sweater. I topped half an English muffin with some of the lemon curd I picked up in Michigan at American Spoon and several plump blackberries. The sweet and tangy curd with the ripe berries was a delicious start.

As the sun continued to shine, we raced to the beach with the dog before the forecasted clouds could spoil our mood. But the warmth continued and I headed straight to the garden center, determined to put some vibrant flowers in the window boxes and start sprucing up the roof deck. I never dreamed of a day when I would trade in my gorgeous little urban garden in London. Complete with a dizzying fragrant jasmine awning over a tiny wooden bench and my favorite hydrangeas, it was a quiet oasis in Hackney.

Sunny days in London seemed few and far between, although I remember several summers that were just stunning and when the sun does shine there, I don't know if there is a more beautiful place on earth. Everyone becomes giddy. Men walk around shirtless, with pasty white skin flaunted outside pubs where the beer flows freely. You feel lucky to be alive, and those few stolen rays are never taken for granted.

Naive as I am, I've decided to grow some heirloom tomatoes on the roof deck that gets scorching hot and has very little, if any, shade. Secretly, I'm dreaming of serving bountiful plates of Aunt Ruby's German Greens and Black Krims seasoned liberally and sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil. I've also added a few pots of Serrano chilies to fuel my obsession with the spicy plant. My little green fingers will be the envy of all of my neighbors and I will feel a completeness within my soul that can only ever come from eating things you've grown yourself.

This dream is contingent on many things. Firstly, it's supposed to be damn cold again this Tuesday with rains threatening to wash my tiny seedlings away. Secondly, I am not very green fingered. I don't automatically kill plants, but they never seem to thrive under my attention. I either over water or under water. It's a very fine line. Lastly, I'm most nervous about the idea of removing the little shoots from their cow pots into real pots of soil. When I pried open the seed packets, my eyes met minuscule writing giving instructions for "staking" and a large sectioned label "Problems" where the disastrous results seemed unavoidable.

Enough of the worry. I'll haul water up to my deck in bucket loads if I have to. I'm even considering buying a water butt which seems very environmentally friendly and I'm sure will only add to the feeling of self-sufficiency that I'm hoping for.

It was one of those days where we're ambitious enough to have the season's first barbecue, sit outside and watch the Cubs fans walk past, drunk with a late win in the early season. I even roasted chicken to make chicken salad sandwiches to take to my sister's.

Chicken Salad Veronique
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

4 split (2 whole) free range chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
good olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 cup small-diced celery (2 stalks)
1 cup green grapes, cut in half

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken breasts, skin side up, on a sheet pan and rub with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside until cool.

When chicken is cool, remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin and bones. Cut the chicken into 3/4 inch dice. In a bowl, combine the chicken, mayo, celery, tarragon 1 1/2 to 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and toss well.

I tend to add the grapes when I'm serving this as a salad and omit them when I put it on a sandwich.

Knowing that the clouds were rolling in, we pushed the window shutters wide and enjoyed the short-lived warm breeze as we sipped some Prosecco and watched the evening pass.


  1. oh my god, that muffin with lemon curd and blackberries looks too delicious. really fancy it - and i don't even like blackberries...
    i am staying in tomorrow night to make your fishcakes and tartare sauce, will report back! loving your blog xx
    ps have you got any good recipes for chilli oil?

  2. Thanks Henri! I spoke to Liz tonight (staying up too late with little Ollie) and she mentioned that she invited you over for dinner but you were staying in and making the fish cakes. This made me laugh and also a little sorry that Liz was losing out to fish cakes:)

    I love chilli oil....garlic oil too. They save time cooking without losing any flavor. Check this link out and I'll have to do a post soon about different oils.

    ps thanks again for the flatbread recipe! Any other Greek contributions are always welcome! Love to you and Simmy!