During the summer when it’s hot and I’m lazy, I don’t do a lot of involved, complicated cooking. Well, not as often as in the cooler months. I’m still prone to wacky things, like making French onion soup in July when the craving hits because what are you going to do? But most of the time I just sort of throw things together with stuff from my garden or farmers market purchases. Simple, fresh ingredients that taste best served really cold lead the list.
Le Marché Nocturne. The summer night markets in French villages, specifically those in the Southwest or Gascon countryside, are something to behold. Next to endless fields of sunflowers, they are one of my favorite things and I try to cram as many into my few short weeks as possible. In fact, these are things I heavily consider in the timing of my visits each year. Nearly every summer evening in July and August, village squares transform into big parties with music, cheap but delicious wine and booths manned with the neighborhood producteurs selling the delicious local specialties. The offerings vary by village but could be platters of melon, local cheeses, bread, duck confit, oysters, big vats of snails, frites (always frites), pastries, grilled sausages and maybe one of my favorites, duck hearts and gizzards slowly cooked in duck fat. We are in duck country after all. The best strategy is to go with several friends so one can stake out a spot at the long tables, one can grab the wine and the rest of the group can scatter to the various booths to assemble a meal. Everyone meets back at the table for a most enjoyable night. It’s really fantastic and I highly recommend you seek them out.
Posted in appetizers/first courses, seasonal, vegetables | Tagged bloody mary garnishes, pickled cherry tomatoes, pickled cocktail tomatoes, quick pickled tomatoes, refrigerator tomatoes | 3 Comments »
There is a particular dish that calls to me this time of year. Maybe it’s all the summers I’ve spent in the French countryside, but a stuffed vegetable just says late summer to me, especially a stuffed round zucchini. Courgette farcie, I really love the sound of that. Bring out the olives, the cheese, the simple grilled meats or sausages, and most importantly, the big pitcher of cold, cold rosé. Round up the glasses, circle up the chairs, put the big platter of stuffed roasted vegetables in the center of the table as my French friends do and dig in.
Three things signal the height of summer produce like nothing else: sweet corn, tomatoes and peaches. Three of my very favorite things. That they all show up about the same time around here is an opportunity for rejoicing. This is when the summer BBQ season really peaks, when pie crusts get rolling and a regular dinner around here is nothing more than 2 or 3 ears of corn with butter, salt and pepper. I eat an ungodly amount of corn in these few short weeks.
We’ve reached that point of the summer where gardens are exploding. I came back from several weeks out of the country and my sweet little plot in a community garden had grown to Amazonian proportions due to a rainy June and generous fertilizing. My cute tomato plants were 6 feet tall and growing in every direction like gangly, awkward teenagers. And like teenagers, they needed some firm guidance and a bit of discipline. The sugar snaps had wound their invasive tendrils into damn near everything and needed to be redirected. And the herbs, oh god the herbs. They were enormous unruly bushes, candidates for a topiary or bonsai artist perhaps. I went in with a pair of shears and aggressively pruned those suckers. Aggressively. I tamed those beasts.
I’ve been reading a lot lately about how much food we waste. Appalling numbers. Through a series of rabbit hole clicks on twitter, I ended up on the United Nations Environmental Programme website reading the “Food Waste Facts”. Ready for this? Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tons — gets lost or wasted. Really. But what caught my attention was this nugget: “Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).” Good lord. Rich countries. Oh, to be so privileged as to throw out food when so many have none. Makes me want to hide under the covers.
Man, oh man, it’s hot. It’s hot everywhere. I know it’s summer and it’s supposed to be warm but every year it just slaps me in the face when I’m the least prepared. I grew up in Arizona; you think I’d be acclimated. No way. Living in the Midwest has made me soft, temperature-wise, to both the heat and the cold. I’ve become a typically Midwesterner whiny weather baby. How unoriginal. When it’s this hot, I don’t feel like eating and I certainly don’t feel like cooking.