Our Carolina Piedmont springs and falls are almost obscenely beautiful. That’s the swap we make for having to endure the almost unendurable steamy summers.
As I write, we’re moving toward Amazonian rainforest temperatures and humidity. The wisteria is trying, once again, to yank the deck from the house. The roadsides are morphing from Monet-scapes of red and pink poppies and blue larkspur into the Gauguin yellows of day- and canna lilies.
After weeks of what seem like daily thunderstorms, I had to whack the rosemary. Our front entrance way where it grows was beginning to resemble Boo Radley’s creepy porch.
Rosemary is supposed to thrive where the woman’s in charge of the house — I prefer to think of it as a sign that “Strong women grow here” and skip the “in charge” bit. Legends also say Aphrodite rose from the sea covered in rosemary and that the Virgin Mary threw her wrap over a rosemary bush, forever changing its shy flowers from white to blue.
I started emptying cat water bowls onto this rosemary tree last summer, and that may be the reason for its blooming for the first time this spring and for its gargantuan size. When we put feeder goldfish in cow watering troughs years ago, the goldfish grew to the size of Flipper from the silage clinging to cow muzzles. Maybe kitty kibble crumbs are also a powerful growth stimulant.
Rosemary, of course, is the natural partner for pork or lamb on the grill. Not being much of a griller yet, I put it in drawers for its fresh, pine-trees-after-rain smell and send it by the fistful in care packages to our daughters. We also love it roasted with garlic and new potatoes.
Wash rosemary and pull needles from branches. Peel and mince some lovely fresh garlic cloves. Pull up as many buttery, waxy new potatoes as you’ll eat in two meals. Wash them and peel (or not — the skins on our new potatoes disappear if you simply use a brush on them). Cut them into bite-size pieces and toss with olive oil, coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Add rosemary and garlic to potato mixture and spread in a single layer in a jellyroll pan.
Make sure oven’s preheated before you put in potatoes — otherwise, you won’t get as much of the the brown crusty, crispy parts that are the best part of this dish. Plan to stick around, stir the potatoes every 10 to 12 minutes and repeat until they’re crunchy on the outside, melty-soft on the inside. This should take between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on the size of your potato bites. Warm up leftovers, if you have any, on a toaster oven tray, again stirring diligently every few minutes.