July 15, 2014

Tomato Days and Arugula Nights

Between heat and summer rains, we work in our garden before sunrise and take walks with Spencer before the world grows too hot to wander about in, then spend the day indoors doing other things.

There are always creations in progress in studio or darkroom, and there are domestic alchemies to be undertaken: processing vegetables for the freezer, marshaling quart (liter actually) sealers of pickles, relishes and tomato sauce like legions of foot soldiers and tucking them into the downstairs pantry for next winter. At the end of the day there is tea and a good book, a little Mozart on the sound system, the companionship of clan and kindred spirits, a late hour or so watching little brown bats circling over the trees.

In the Lanark highlands, there is the steady hum of working harvesters, winnowers and balers.  Timothy and alfalfa are soon to be cut, and fields of barley are turning pink and silver.  The first corn of the season is now showing up in roadside stalls and farm gate shops along with cucumbers, beets, sweet onions as big as baseballs, succulent yellow beans, tiny new red potatoes and rainbow hued salad makings.

There is a Mediterranean aspect to our dining in July, and dinner is often a random bowl of fresh garden salad stuff or a lightly wokked melange of veggies in every conceivable color of the rainbow, lightly tossed in olive oil and lemon juice or drizzled with an invented-on-the-spot dressing with a little curry tossed in to kick things up a notch. Then there are the many fragrant pestos being dreamed up - is there anything better than a simple plate of fresh juicy tomato slices topped with basil pesto and buffalo mozzarella? There will be more basil in the garden next year, and there will be more cilantro too.  Some nights, I wish I could grow olives this far north or pasture goats for feta. The artist's eye persists in the kitchen, and I find myself arranging platters of veggies as if they were paintings or sketches or photographs, tucking a little more red in one corner, soupcons of purple and gold in with the frilly greens in another corner...

Ed Brown's Complete Tassajara Cookbook rests on the kitchen counter along with Deb Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and Annie Somerville's Everyday Greens, and all three tomes are getting a good work out.  The last book was illustrated by Mayumi Oda, and it's a treat for all the senses, not just the palate - a fine arty feast from beginning to end. All the aforementioned books are old friends, and this year they have been joined by The Art of Simple Food and The Art of Simple Food (II), two luscious offerings from one of my culinary heroes, Alice Waters.

There is something almost indecently sumptuous about casual summer repasts, an element of improvised ritual and thanksgiving.  How can we not think of harvest and plenty and sharing in high summer?  How can we not give thanks for all the astonishing bounty coming into season, this goodness being held out to us in offering by Mother Earth?

2 comments:

Jennifer said...

Lovely post, and lovely photo! I, too, spend time arranging beautiful summer produce on dinner plates until I think they look beautiful!

Just the other day, I was snapping photos of fresh vegetables from the farmer's market, in between re-arranging them in the colander they had been rinsed in, and adding sprigs of fresh herbs I had picked in my back yard. I told my husband that every July I take similar pictures as the year before: baby squashes, bursting-ripe tomatoes, scrumptious peaches. The summer bounty at the markets is a delight to the eye as well as the tongue! :)

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

Another one who arranges summer's bounty and takes an image.
Most of the time
just for me
but I like doing it...