Dreams and Lemons

March 17, 2008 at 1:30 pm 17 comments

Tree branch bent to the ground with the weight of its lemons 

Do you ever get the sensation you’re spinning your wheels?  Metaphorically speaking, of course.  I can’t seem to shake that sensation since I got back home, with floundering productivity here on the blog and other facets of my work.   Last night I had a frighteningly vivid dream, illustrating just how deep my spinning mental wheels had sunk into my subconscious.

Soft stinky cow's cheese in Portugal

The Dream : I was fast asleep (yes, I dream sometimes that I’m sleeping, I’m that desperate for it), slowly becoming aware of a pain in my hip.  I thought I’d get up to walk it off.  Groggy, I managed to stub my toes four times as I made my way out of the dark bedroom.  Between the pain in my hip and the pain in my toes, I decided to just roll down the stairs, landing smack dab on a cat (couldn’t tell which one since all of ours are gray tabby cats).  I freaked out, thinking I had smooshed my cat to death!  I ran outside into the parking lot, which was eerie in the moonlight and ice cold, sobbing and swinging the smooshed cat around, trying to get air back into its lungs.  After what felt like hours of dizzy spinning and terrifying panic, I suddenly realized the smooshed cat was really just the fuzzy rug from the bathroom that had gotten gray from all the cat hair I’d been failing to clean off of it.  Nearly hysterical with relief, I began to make my way back into the house, only to find my hip and toes hurt even more, so much so that I couldn’t walk.  So, for whatever wacky dream-state reason, I just rolled myself down the driveway (because it goes downhill, unlike the walkway to my house) instead and the last I knew, I was rolling along some littered side street in my neighborhood, clutching a cat-hair infested bathroom rug. 

Broccoli stalks gone to seed on Portuguese farm

See what I mean?  You’d feel like you were spinning your wheels too if you had dreams like that!  Luckily I woke up right then and found my beloved cats safely snoozing at various locations around the bedroom.  But I did resolve to get another post up on the blog pronto to prove that I wasn’t just some unproductive rolling slouch with only a dirty old bath mat to her name. 

Broccoli florets

To start with, here’s a slideshow of the interesting people I crossed paths with while traversing around Portugal.  I was struck over and over again by the lines etched in their faces, both of joy and of sorrow.  I had not realized how turbulent Portugal’s history had been until I took time to read my guidebook’s synopsis one afternoon on the beach.  These people have had many ups and downs, and it shows in the way they gaze upon the world. 

If this slideshow is showing a form to be filled in, just click the “X” in the upper right-hand corner to see the pictures.  No need to fill in the form!   

Now, to return to our previously scheduled programming on this blog: FOOD! 

I had what some might call a spartan kitchen at my rented cottage and took a lot of pleasure in creating very simple and very fresh meals from what I gathered during each day’s treks out into the Minho regions small towns.

my cottage's kitchen_this is all the bigger it was

Let me take a minute to rave about the sublime luxury of picking lemons off a tree outside my cottage.  The act of picking lemons for yourself is no doubt old hat to some of you lucky readers who get to exist in a moderate to tropical climate.  I, on the other hand, had never before picked a lemon for myself.  You’d better believe I picked a great many of them during my eight days at the cottage.  Jose, the estate owner, was quite insistent that I take as many as I liked.  I wonder if he regrets that now…

One evening I had a nice head of broccoli, some baby potatoes, parsley, a local soft cow’s cheese that was a bit stinky (in a good way), some olive oil made in Portugal (but bought at the grocery store) and, of course, lemons.  What unfolded from these components was the perfect meal to fill a hungry belly that had been hiking the remote mountain trails in the Peneda-Gerês National Park.

wild horses in Peneda-Gerês National Park

Lemon and Herb-Tossed Broccoli and Cheese with Smashed Potatoes

1 large head of broccoli
1 lb. baby potatoes
1 lemon, juiced
Soft cheese (as little or much as you like), cut into thin slices
¼ c. olive oil
Fresh or dried herbs, chopped (parsley, oregano, and/or basil all work well)
Salt and pepper

Cut the broccoli into florets.  Steam, covered in a medium pot, just until tender.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Meanwhile, boil the potatoes until fork-tender. 

In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil until quite hot.  Add steamed broccoli and sauté until it begins to lightly brown.  Remove from heat and toss with the lemon juice, herbs and salt and pepper. 

Remove boiled potatoes from water and smash just a bit with a fork (or cut in half if you like a tidier presentation).  Toss with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper. 

Place broccoli and potatoes on a microwave-safe serving platter.  Layer cheese over everything and microwave on high for one minute, or just until cheese is melted.  Serve immediately, preferably with a good glass of Portuguese wine.

(serves 1 hungry hiker)

Lemon and herb tossed broccoli and cheese

Entry filed under: Extra Credit, Purely Vegetables, Recipes, Taste of Travels. Tags: , , , , , .

Muitos Mercados Simple Is Best

17 Comments Add your own

  • 1. marimann  |  March 17, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Welcome home~ I’ve enjoyed looking at your pictures very much, the street market scenes and the people and the food! Were the horses in the park friendly? Having that lemon tree nearby woudl have been a huge temptation to me too. This recipe looks very good~ love that stinky cheese! What would Freud do with the hairy bath rug dream?? And you rollling down the driveway? Now there’s a picture…

  • 2. VegeYum  |  March 17, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    I love your pictures. Perfectly captured moments.

  • 3. Jessica  |  March 17, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Wow thats a crazy dream! Do you actually have your own lemon tree? Or is that just a picture, because if you do have your own lemon tree, I’m totally jealous lol.

  • 4. Judy  |  March 18, 2008 at 9:55 am

    OOOOHH! That recipe is great and just the type of thing I love. That dream was really bad…like really bad????!!!

  • 5. Jennie  |  March 18, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Marimann – Thanks for the warm welcome back. 🙂 Glad you are enjoying the travel pics and tales. The horses in the park were not exactly friendly but they weren’t mean either…they let me get pretty close but then walked away. They were beautiful to see, scattered across the stark landscape. 🙂 As for what Freud would say about my dream, I can only imagine. I do know that there is a lot of “stuff” going on in my life right now that no doubt “inspired” it. I’m about to embark on a very exciting but also scary change in career – more on that another time. In any case, it’s nice to be back on the blog and sharing life with you! 🙂

  • 6. Jennie  |  March 18, 2008 at 10:46 am

    VegeYum – Thanks! 🙂

    Jessica – The lemon tree in the picture was “mine” for a far-too-short week while renting a cottage in Portugal. I too am totally jealous of anyone who has a lemon tree to call theirs all the time. 🙂

    Judy – Glad you like the recipe – it was just something I tossed together at the end of the day so it’s fast and delicious. As for the dream, it is a bit scary, isn’t it? I don’t remember it being a nightmare though at the time – just very odd. 😐

  • 7. gintoino  |  March 18, 2008 at 10:51 am

    What a crazy dream! I can’t usualy remember my dreams but I bet I have some weirder ones 😉

    Now, as for todays recipe….what can I say? It looks great! I absolutely love broccolli and usually have them at home, so guess what’s for dinner tonight? 😉 And all made with portuguese ingredients! I don’t have the lemon tree yet but will plant it next fall.

    As usual the pictures are great!

  • 8. Jennie  |  March 19, 2008 at 7:03 am

    Gintoino – It’s so nice to be able to have a recipe that’s entirely Portuguese. Luckily, it’s also easy for everyone here to make too. 🙂 I hope you liked it! I’m glad to hear you are planting a lemon tree. I will now be as jealous of your lemons as you are of my cranberries. 🙂 How is your garden doing so far this spring?

    So, I think I am going to try that pastry dough you sent this weekend. I have read through it several times now and keep getting a little intimidated but decided I should just try it. If it doesn’t work, then I’ll just have a little less butter and flour. If it does work though, I might have to open up a pastry shop just to sell traditional Portuguese pastries! 🙂

  • 9. gintoino  |  March 19, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Very yummy. I used a bit of chives to give it a “garlicky” flavour (I do like garlic with my broccoli) and it worked very well. I do hope you will manage to master the “massa folhada” (I have faith you will). Please let us know how it went.

  • 10. Jennie  |  March 20, 2008 at 7:24 am

    Gintoino – I’m glad you enjoyed the broccoli! Oh, another question for you, now that I think of it. I noticed that all over the farms in the north they had their broccoli plants grown very tal with flowers. I guess they let them re-seed themselves each year? I don’t know if that makes sense…in other words, do farmers plant new broccoli seeds each year or do they let them just grow without ever pulling them up? Here in the States, we only grow the broccoli plant until it produces a nice bunch of broccoli and maybe a few small pieces too, but then we pull it out of the ground. I had not seen broccoli grown so big before. Is it good for the grapevines or something? I saw it growing like this among a lot of grapevines. Very curious about it. 🙂

    Obrigada, as always, for answering all my questions about Portugal. 🙂 I will definitely let you know how the massa folhada goes this weekend! 🙂

  • 11. gintoino  |  March 22, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    Hi jennie, I’m not sure about those “broccoli” but I think that was “couve galega” , a type of kale (I think…we call couve to all types of brassica, so it is difficult to me to say in which group does it go), the one we use to make “caldo verde” (the one in your picture, with the turnips). They let it go into flower to collect the seeds, but we also eat the flower buds (we call it “grelos de couve”. We also eat “grelos de nabo” – turnip flower buds)
    I really hope you will master that “massa folhada”. 😉

  • 12. Jennie  |  March 24, 2008 at 7:28 am

    Gintoino – Really, that’s not broccoli?? Wow, I would have sworn it was but it explains why there was so much of it if this plant is what you use in caldo verde. I think I remember you telling me about eating the flower buds. I really must try growing both broccoli and kale this year until they flower and go to seed so I can 1) see which plant this was in the photos and 2) try eating the flowers. I love how differently our two countries approach the brassica family of plants. Portugal definitely puts them to better use! 🙂

    By the way, I didn’t get a chance to try folhada this weekend, but I promise it’ll happen this week! 🙂

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  • 15. kenji otsuka  |  May 20, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    i have grown galega kales like you.they have white flower.where did you get the seeds?

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