Monthly Archives: August 2011

Summer Simplicity

I’ve been feeling a little blog malaise. For a while, I was easily posting two, or even three, times a week. Then, last October, I joined an on-line cooking group, which gave me a certain topic for one post each week. Still, I was posting on my own topics during the week. This summer, I noticed that I’m not doing much more than the Friday posts for French Fridays with Dorie. I’m obsessed with food, and we eat very well at our house, so I started to wonder what was up with that. Why haven’t I had much to say?

I think I finally figured it out. As food-centric as our household is, in the summer, it’s not so much about the cooking. In fact, I don’t think I’ve tried many new recipes this summer. I wait all year for summer fruits and vegetables. From June through October, we frequent the local farmers markets. Favorites are the Tuesday market here in Lexington and the Thursday market in nearby Belmont. On weekends in Maine, we stock up at the Chipman Farmstand.

For the most part, we’ve been eating things as is, raw or steamed, without any fancy preparations. I am big on making chopped vegetable or bean salads, but I mostly make the “old favorites”, ones I can do without recipes since I’ve made them dozens of times: Howard will grill steak, burgers, or fish once or twice during the week, but we’re mostly vegetarian in the summer. Our meals are what Howard calls “grazing”. I think of it as a picnic at home.

With some ears of steamed corn, a plate of sliced garden-fresh vegetables, some cheese and fresh bread on them table, what more does one need? At the same time, posting about the first perfect tomato, the sweetest ear of corn, or the berries picked in the backyard seems like it could wait for another day, and so the malaise sets in.

Summer in New England is so fleeting. The local produce available is special, and we give it our full appreciation. I can already feel a hint of autumn in the air. As it cools off, I know I’ll feel the call to be nesting more, simmering pots of soup or roasting vegetables or baking cookies. There’s plenty of months in the year for that. In the meantime, I’m happy to graze my way though the rest of the summer.

Spiced Salt for Raw Vegetables

¼ cup kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne
½ tsp freshly ground pepper

Stir ingredients together and store in a sprinkle jar. Sprinkle over sliced vegetables, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes.


French Fridays with Dorie: Eggplant Caviar

We’re in Week 3 of August, and I have to say that I have LOVED all of this month’s choices for French Fridays with Dorie. So far, we made Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Salmon and Potatoes in a Jar. This week’s recipe for Eggplant Caviar was no exception.

Eggplant is perfectly in season, along with tomatoes and fresh herbs, so the ingredients couldn’t have been better. I roasted the eggplant until it was mushy, than combined it with the various flavorings: lemon (juice and zest), minced garlic, chopped onion, fresh thyme, basil, and cilantro, and the usual salt and pepper to taste. The recipe called for a pinch of piment d’espelette or cayenne. I added a generous pinch of smoked paprika instead, giving it a hint of smoke instead of a tinge of heat. I’m not sure whether it was the right substitution, but I liked the end result. Finally, diced, seeded tomatoes are folded into the concoction, adding a bit more color.

I adore eggplant. I find that people have strong feelings one way or the other about eggplant. I know it’s a generalization, but most people I know that dislike eggplant are men. My dear husband is included in that number, but he is far from the only one.

I made just half the recipe and brought it to work to share with a friend. I also brought whole-wheat pita breads, and we made ourselves sandwiches. I added sliced radishes and cucumbers to the sandwich for some crunch.

Mashed eggplant is definitely not one of the most photogenic of foods. However, it tasted delicious. This would also be great with pita chips for an appetizer or snack. (Have you ever tried Stacy’s? I’m a big fan, especially of the Simply Naked.)

You can find out what other FFwD bloggers thought about this week’s recipe. Check out their links at French Fridays with Dorie. We don’t post the recipes, but consider getting your own copy of the book, Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.

The final FFwD recipe for August is a fancy French hamburger, so tune in next Friday for a full report.