A collection of seasonal recipes and stories

Archive for September, 2008

the local difference

Given my near-worship of all things agricultural, it’s entirely possible that I was born into the wrong century. Or perhaps I just read too much Little House on the Prairie as a child.

For weeks I looked forward to our local dairy’s annual open barn, an opportunity to tour the facilities, meet the cows, and eat ice cream.  This delightfully rural event had been noted on my calendar for over a month, and I’d mentioned it dozens of times to friends and family members.  Early last week I began a mental cow countdown and by Friday evening I was practically bursting with anticipation. “Guess what tomorrow is,” I eagerly prompted Chris.  But after three lame guesses (one of which he actually wasted on “Saturday”) it became clear that he’d forgotten all about the cows and he was therefore forced to endure yet another round of my open barn enthusiasm.  

Chris looked somewhat crestfallen.  “I thought you said I didn’t have to go,” he sighed.  Which I did, but it hadn’t occurred to me that he might not want to go.  I mean helloooooo? cows.  “You can see cows anywhere,” Chris pointed out.  “True, but these cows make our milk,” I countered. 


brown butter cornbread

Although there are still a few days left before the Autumnal Equinox officially ushers in fall — with its crisp days and crunchy leaves, summer has been quietly fading for weeks now.  The days have grown increasingly shorter, the sunlight itself seems softer, and the smell of wood smoke from neighbors’ fireplaces has replaced the quintessentially summertime scent of sunscreen.  All of which leaves me feeling restless and wistful.

I begin to realize that afternoons squandered in tidying up the house or running errands might have been better spent lounging on the beach, and to regret those nights I succumbed to the siren song of takeout pizza rather than avail myself of summer’s abundant and delicious fresh produce.  I’m disappointed to discover that I did not pack enough summer into my summer.

So when my favorite corn farmer warned me last weekend that we could expect only three more weeks of corn, I might have been just a teensy bit overzealous in my purchasing.  (sensing a theme here?)  Not to worry.  Corn freezes beautifully and easily, plus I’d recently run across a piece by a corn-obsessed columnist in The New York Times and was itching to try her cornbread.

summer tomato sauce, two ways

In the past ten days I’ve purchased nearly twenty pounds of tomatoes, and I have every intention of continuing the insanity right up until the farmers run out of tomatoes to sell me.  You see, we had a long, cold winter, and I’m not just saying that because any winter would have seemed long and cold to a girl who’d recently moved from southeastern Virginia to northern Michigan — I’m saying that because it was still snowing in May.

So it seemed like those luscious orbs of sweet, juicy, vine-ripened summer freshness would never arrive to replace the barely-worth-it hydroponic greenhouse tomatoes that had characterized June and July.  And then suddenly, there they were — real tomatoes, spilling out of baskets onto tables throughout the farmers market.

I’m not taking them for granted.

I’m making sauce.  Lots and lots and lots of sauce.  Which is time consuming, but not at all difficult. 

watermelon granita

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who own ice cream makers and those who do not.  And sadly, though my dream machine has been languishing in a virtual shopping cart all summer long, I have yet to determine how I might squeeze another uni-tasker into our tiny kitchen. I gaze longingly at tables overflowing with fruit and yearn for sorbet as I pass through the farmers market, but I remain squarely in the have-not category.

Which was all rather depressing until yesterday when I discovered the slushy goodness of granita. 

In a perfect homage to summer, Chris and I spent the day swimming and sunning ourselves at the beach, then passed the evening eating cold slices of watermelon and spitting seeds off our deck.  Even with all that eating and spitting we still had quite a large hunk of watermelon sitting on the cutting board, so I flipped to the watermelon page in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything for inspiration. Bittman doesn’t exactly sing the praises of watermelon, but he does concede that it’s “not bad when made into Granita.”