[Note: still marooned in fog, though a weekend out-of-town beckons with promises of sun in the afternoons and temperatures in the 70s.]
Despite the chilly wind blowing through my living room windows (and which makes me dive under blankets on the couch, cup of tea securely in hand) in my kitchen it’s summer. Out-of-doors I may still wrap my scarf securely ’round in the mornings and curse the endless, eternal (yet somewhat ethereal) mist that made me wonder the other day if it had rained in the night the streets were so wet but in that little stretch of stove and counter space I’m dreaming of Tahoe in August (hot) and Greece (hotter still). The California of my long-ago youth was always golden-brown and warm, the oak trees along 101 north tipped with sun, and sometimes it was even hot at the coast — but San Francisco is another creature entirely, with what seems like dark skies for days on end.
But this is not news. And thus I must make my own summer.
Even though there’s been pizza and root beer float-making, which is all very well and good and summery in its own way, the real gift of summer comes in the form of my farmers’ market and my inability to exercise any control over my fingers, itching each Saturday morning to snatch up pounds of wax beans, fingerling potatoes, and all the rest no matter what weeknight plans may shove cooking to the back burner.
Let me tell you about my vegetables of summer — specifically this summer. Actually, maybe I shouldn’t — then I’d have to admit I have a Problem. I’ve been eating vegetables with every meal, usually more than just one. I’ve even been making salads — enormous bowls of it, and eating it all — and I don’t usually eat salad at home. This addiction seems to have no cure; like any drug (see: coffee, obsession with) the more I have the more I want (see also: why I don’t keep a lot of ice cream hanging around). It’s truly hopeless.
I find myself craving beets and not just, say, scattered at the bottom of a bowl. No: I want lots, roasted, and I want them doused in lemon-tahini dressing and sprinkled with coarse pepper. (To avoid any moment of being beet-bereft I’ll snap up a few fat bunches at the farmers’ market and roast them all at once. Then I slip then from their skins, slice, and put in a tupperware to tuck away in the fridge for any time I might want one. Or 10.) I want piles of greens beans cooked quickly in butter and garlic olive oil. I want corn on the cob tender and sweet. I want baby chard and its grown-up sibling, too, and I want it all, right now, all the time.
Also: tomatoes. Oh, you hadn’t heard? It’s now truly tomato season and one of my favorite ways to consume them is just thickly sliced and strewn with salt and pepper. I’ll take any kind I can get: heirlooms (preferable), early girls, zebra, and sungolds, which I eat like candy straight out of the bag when I don’t toss them into a salad. To cook with: just buttery soft red onion doses with a little red wine and extra olive oil with the heirlooms added for 10 minutes and cooked down into the most flavorful, pungent sauce you’ve ever eaten, to then drape over spaghetti.
(And I’ll do this: scrape the end bits of cucumber or tomato in a little sea salt and eat those straight off of the cutting board. Sometimes I even make sure that end piece of cucumber is extra thick so there’s more for me to eat. This is yet another perk of cooking for oneself; you can be as greedy as you like and no-one will be the wiser. Don’t tell, OK?)
Also: radishes. My favorite are the really sharp ones — the ones spicy enough to make your tongue sting a bit, but not so much as you can’t eat them — that add a much-needed crunch to my salads. Or maybe for lunch after yoga: fresh bread and butter topped with radishes and salt. Or! if I had more time or was planning a luncheon picnic for one of those elusive sunny afternoons I know will arrive any day now I’d chop them up fine and stir them into hard-boiled eggs for a pay-attention-to-me salad.
Also: summer squash. I have as-yet unattained visions of a sort of squash carpaccio, maybe made from patty pans, with feta and mint or basil. But mostly I slice it very thinly and saute it with or without garlic until it’s very soft; sometimes I’ll add fresh corn, sometimes chickpeas, sometimes I’ll use it as a base for tomato sauce (usually, though, I just eat it like that), It makes me think of Italy — another hot place in the summer — and wish I had more time to travel to all the places I so long to (re)visit.
I’ve also been considering bringing a salad to work to augment my lunch (but can I really handle two in one day?) — and this is unheard of for me. So you see what I mean? Hopeless.
I guess I’ll tell you about the fruit another time.
Stuff in my Salads Lately
radishes, all kinds
corn, raw, sliced from one ear
leftover cooked green beans
sugar snap peas