I’m Meeeeeeeeeelting

My apartment is an equatorial swamp.

Inside, I lose my sense of time, watching Netflix and reading fiction like I have the flu. Ayla sprawls in the corner, torpid and immobile; every once in a while I glance over to make sure she’s still breathing. The blue ice I press against my neck, the fan, the copious water I drink, bring negligible relief.

My lassitude is self-perpetuating, and I’m feeling like an invalid. But to return my library books, to go to the store for popsicles and watermelon, to walk Ayla, to leave the stifling box that is my home, is too great an effort.

So I slump awkwardly on the couch, neck twisted painfully, nauseous from thirst, though my belly is quivering with water.

At least it’s summer 😀

1

People Watching

On the ferry.  A pair of women who look to be mother and daughter. One thickset in black shorts, pearl grey blouse, the younger one svelte in a flowered sundress. Each with long, blondish hair, painstakingly highlighted and straightened: expensive hair. For some reason I find this hair depressing. Tragic, even.

A man leans against the lifeboat cage, gazing at his screen. He’s got on jeans holey at the knees, a black baseball cap with a red Polo logo on it. He sports the kind of trucker ‘stache I’ve got a weird weakness for.

A plump girl with curly auburn hair displays her butt in cutoffs, her belly in a cropped shirt. Though I admire the confidence and body acceptance evinced by such a getup, I can’t imagine ever being comfortable dressed like that (unless I was at the beach, maybe).

There’s another girl wearing pink shorts so short and tight that they grab at her crotch, jam themselves aggressively into her butt crack. They’re smaller than most of my underwear. She tugs at them, and I wince in sympathetic discomfort.

A young woman with pale skin and chin-length dark hair passes, wearing a long skirt of diaphanous ochre, a short-sleeved polka dot blouse, and black strappy sandals. Her elegant, flattering ensemble is a refreshing departure from all of the awkward and ill-fitting clothes I’ve seen today.

Sated on salad, fries, and coffee, hot sun beating down, stroked by sea breeze, Ranier’s majestic bulk looming across the sound, the smell of salt water exciting pleasure as keen as a lover’s caress. This place is paradise.

Inextricably entwined with Seattle summer’s idyllic nature, though, is an awareness of its ephemerality, an insistent anxiety that nibbles at the edge of consciousness, reminding you that it will be gone all too soon.

 

All the things…

…the good things. The sweet sunshiny summery things. The things that make breakfast worth savoring and sighing and swooning over. I submit, for your consideration, The August Breakfast Taco:

Yes.
Yes.

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Heaped on top of warmed corn tortillas: scrambled egg, grated sharp cheddar, pan-grilled onions, peppers (red, orange, and yellow bell peppers, Hatch chiles), and squash, fire-roasted corn, blistered cherry tomatoes (Sungolds), and cilantro. Also: fennel, cucumber, and radish relish, and, of course, a generous dotting of Sriracha.

Lucky me.

To make these tacos:

Take sliced onions and bell peppers. Sear them in a very hot cast-iron skillet with very little oil until they develop a nice deep char. Using the same pan, do the same to cubed summer squash. Then whole cherry tomatoes. If you have a gas stove, roast a whole ear of corn over the flame until some of the kernels blacken. If not, use the cast-iron for a similar effect. Cut the corn off the cob, mix with onions, peppers, and a healthy handful of fresh chopped cilantro. I toasted cumin and coriander and ground it up with dried oregano to make my own taco seasoning. Spice at your discretion.

For the relish:

Finely slice half a fennel bulb, and finely dice a cucumber and a bunch of radishes. Add a quarter cup of minced onion, a handful of chopped cilantro, a big pinch of salt, and squeeze half a lime over the whole thing.

Warm some torillas, scramble some eggs, and throw it all together. Add hot sauce, sour cream, and cheese if you want.

Note: this is a very loose casual recipe – these are loose casual tacos. You can use any mix of summer vegetables you want. They can be dinner tacos with beans or meat, and anytime tacos with cold beer.

Fruit of the vine

Late in the spring, blossoms on the berry bushes that blanket the Pacific Northwest give way to tiny green fruit, hard and sour. Their annual appearance is followed by months of anticipation as ripeness slowly imparts juice and sweetness.

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Boysenberry (I think?)

Fast-forward to August, and the continued presence of unripe berries is a reassuring sign that summer is still in effect. Though inevitable, chilly mists, waking in darkness, and seasonal depression are still far (enough) away. There are still pies to be baked, preserves to put up, and faces to be smeared with vivid purple juice.

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Blackberries
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False solomon seal (inedible but lovely)
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Raspberries
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Marionberry

 

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Huckleberries
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Elderberries

The good stuff

Arriving home after work with the pressing knowledge that I had fresh mozzarella in my fridge, I only wanted one thing: caprese. The humble insalata caprese is a fixture on many restaurant menus, and it’s easy to see why: tender, delicately milky fresh mozzarella, luscious ripe tomatoes and basil represent the perfect fusion of flavor, color and texture.

Sadly and predictably, restaurant capreses often stray from the platonic ideal they represent. Dry, flavorless mozzarella, anemic basil and, worst of all, hard mealy tomatoes seem to be the rule rather than the exception. As a result, I stay away from caprese unless it’s summer and I have complete confidence in the restaurant. After all, the simplest dishes reveal their flaws most readily: when the focus is on the purity of ingredients, the ingredients have to shine.

I made my caprese with a tomato from Songhaven farm and a sauce of basil, parsley, olive oil, garlic, salt and a splash of olive juice and apple cider vinegar. Against tradition? Perhaps. But it was perfect, none the less.

Herb Vinaigrette

1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves

1/2 cup loosely packed parsley leaves

1 medium garlic clove

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup vinegar (white wine, white balsamic, sherry or apple cider)

Splash of olive juice (optional)

Pinch of salt

Place herbs and garlic in the food processor and blend until finely chopped. Add vinegar, olive juice if using and salt. Process until blended. With the processor running, add olive oil in a steady stream to emulsify. Serve with salads, grilled meats and steamed vegetables, drizzle on sandwiches or use as a marinade. 

Everything stew

I have a problem.

Don’t get me wrong – I recognize my astounding good fortune in having an overabundance of fresh, beautiful vegetables. But it’s still a problem.

Last night, arriving home in the dark after an epic day of running from yoga to garage sale to feed store to grocery store, getting stuck in thigh-deep mud (wearing a mostly-white sundress, no less) and experiencing car-related worries, I was faced with a fridge full of produce that demanded to be eaten. NOW.

I did what any reasonable person would do under the circumstances: I made a stew.

Summer squash? Check. Chard? You bet. Eggplant? Naturally. Green beans, leftover tomato sauce, a bunch of basil, onions, garlic, parsley? Of course. A splash of week-old sauvignon blanc? Why not?

I ate the resulting stew with mashed potatoes; it was delicious.

Ingredients at the ready
Sloppy choppin

Yes, that’s a flashlight in the foreground.
Earlier that day…

 

 

 

Beer fest 2012

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending Montezuma Land Conservancy’s Harvest Beer Festival and silent auction. Many local brewers were on hand to sample their wares, and $25 got you all the beer you could drink – not a bad deal!  On offer at the silent auction were hiking packs, wine, forged iron door-knockers, cross-country skis, jewelry, gift certificates for massage and yoga, spurs, and a big bag of jalapenos – among many other delights.

My favorite beer was a black lager from… I don’t remember which brewery. The samples were generous, and it soon became hard to keep track of which beers I was trying. I enjoyed them all tremendously, despite not remembering which beer was from where!

A convivial atmosphere, a great band, a huge variety of delicious beer and plenty of unrestrained dancing were a lovely way to celebrate the waning summer.

Carver Brewing Co.
Dolores River Brewery (his shirt says “These Machines Kill Fascists”)
3 Rivers Brewery
The many uses of a pint cup
Festive fashion
My beer fest finery