Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer Makes Every One A Better Cook

Posted by Lisa Simpson: There’s a familiar list of what is so great about summer, but I’ll just cut to the chase: The best thing about summer is the food. I can’t get enough of the weekly kaleidoscope at the farmer’s markets, and I can’t get enough tomatoes and fruit in my belly to begin to satisfy the long dark hunger of winter. When I see the first Eastern Washington tomatoes arrive in Seattle, I am like a bird dog pointing out unsuspecting grouse. Usually arugula arrives at the same time, like a happy coincidence.

I am always fascinated by the slow drag of early spring that jumps into the full explosion of summer and then the quick dwindle of the season, back to the Sisyphean task of winter. At this time of the year I’m always convinced I’m missing something, a feeling that there is a big party going on and I’m totally oblivious to it- somewhere there is something delicious and ripe and I’m missing it. I just noticed, only this morning, that my raspberries (callously stomped and slept upon by heartless deer last summer and given up for dead) have a burst of fruit on their crushed little limbs. I’m heading out with a bowl as soon as I finish this.

Nothing, to me, is more evocative of the season than salad. (Well, I'll talk about stone fruit next week.)

Jeffrey Steingarten wrote that anyone that eats salad more than twice a week is a salad abuser. Maybe I’d agree with that in January, but today? Why the heck aren’t you taking advantage of those succulent nibbly little lettuces and stuffing some in your mouth? Not eating greens in July- That is salad abuse.

And here is my favorite July Salad, cobbled together from a memorable lunch on a rainy vacation day in Italy.

That One Salad We Ate on Lipari salad

Arugula (also called ‘rocket’)

Butter Lettuce (wasn’t in the original salad, but I love it)

Thin red onion slices

Ripe, local tomatoes (Especially if you live somewhere good and hot)

Excellent mozzarella (the soft, fresh kind in brine- Bufala if you can source it)

Really Really good Olive Oil (spend some money on a bottle you use simply for salads- it will make a huge difference in your meals)

Really Really good Balsamic Vinegar (spend more money on a bottle you use for dipping- life without quality balsamic is grey and flat and a long hard slog to decrepitude)

Really Really good tuna (I buy a Spanish type, but then, like Hobbes, I’m kinda stupid that way).

Salt and pepper

Cut everything into bite-sized pieces, toss with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Eat that good stuff up, preferably outside with a nice glass of lightly chilled pinot grigio. Practice the art of doing nothing, an Italian specialty and one of the reasons why Italians seem to enjoy life more than Americans.

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