No two foods are more evocative of summer to me than garden-fresh tomatoes and sweet corn. Both fall into the category of “available all year round, but why bother?”. Tomatoes go from juicy, tangy, sweet, vibrant and pleasingly misshapen to pallid, mealy, flavorless, numbingly uniform globes. The sweet pop of kernels in freshly-picked corn becomes starchy mush in the off season. The out of season versions just don’t hold a candle to the real thing. Put them both together and it’s like summer in a bowl. The kind of fleeting pleasure to savor while it lasts and remember (or look forward to) fondly the other 10 months of the year.
Last Saturday at the farmers market, I saw a new (to me) vegetable: purslane. I’d heard of it a few times before, but only vaguely. I sampled a leaf and really liked the flavor: raw purslane has a pleasant crunch, not unlike the pod of a sugar snap pea. Its flavor is mild and spinach-like, but with a tart, lemony note; almost a milder sorrel. It was tasty and I’m a sucker for anything new or unusual; I had to pick it up.
My parents gave me a pasta roller for Christmas this year. Now that I have one, I’m not quite sure how I managed not to have one for so long. It’s not like I can claim I didn’t know how much better fresh, homemade pasta is than the dried, boxed stuff. (And if you’ve never had it fresh, trust me on this one, really.) I learned to make it at Kendall and worked with it during my externship at Green Dolphin Street. I guess what matters is that it’s back in my repertoire now.
Every year my office has a Thanksgiving potluck for lunch one day a week or so before Thanksgiving. The company buys the turkey and everyone brings the rest. I love that I work at a company that encourages this kind of thing, but even more I love that the food is always great. My co-workers are by and large very good cooks. And by the time the whole office brings something, it’s usually bigger (and sometimes better) than my family Thanksgiving dinner.
As I’ve mentioned before, I signed up for a CSA box this year. It’s a great idea in theory, but I think it might just not be for me. When you’re trying to cook for a 3 (almost 4 – that’s hard to believe) year old, getting a big box of random produce every other week can be problematic. The Miss is really good for her age about eating her vegetables and trying new things, but she is still 3. We’re trying to balance introducing new things on a regular basis with keeping dinner recognizable for her so it’s not a fight every night. After all, what’s the point of cooking and eating as a family if no one enjoys it because the Miss is pouting and refusing to eat.
A few days ago, I had hands down the best winter squash I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat. I don’t have such hubris as to talk about my own cooking that way (although my preparation was pretty damn good.) Just the squash itself was amazing. Eating the steamed squash plain with nothing added was phenomenal…rich, earthy and sweet in much the same way as all winter squash, but somehow moreso. Have you ever tried to cook or eat a carving pumpkin? They taste like someone took the flavor of an acorn or butternut and cut it in half. This tasted like someone took the flavor of an acorn or butternut and doubled it.
One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about subscribing to the CSA this year is that I get a box of random produce every other week. It makes dinner every night a bit like mystery box cooking…open the fridge and see what’s there to work with. There are also things I haven’t enjoyed about having the CSA, mainly that I haven’t made it to the farmers market much this year because I don’t want to go get more produce when I already have a fridge full at home. I’m trying to figure out how to balance the two so I can continue getting my myster box (and supporting the farmers) without losing those trips to the farmers market. So far my main idea is just to cook more at home…but that has its own problems.