For a long time, heirloom tomatoes were my absolute favorite thing about summer. Lately, though they have fallen ever so slightly in their ranking to make it closer to a tie with something else.
That probably seems a lot less exciting, but I think it’s because the older I’ve gotten, and the less I’ve had corn from our own garden growing up, the more I appreciate a really good ear.
I can still remember going to friend’s houses in the summer and my hosts joyfully proclaiming that we were having sweet corn for dinner. One bite into those chewy, tough kernels and it was all I could do not to set the ear down and leave it be for the rest of the meal.
That was not sweet corn. If you’ve ever had an ear at its peak ripeness, you know the difference. Good corn is crisp with kernels that literally explode with flavor in your mouth. There is nothing quite like it.
Fortunately, I haven’t had a difficult time finding good corn here. There is a farm nearby that grows corn in the summer and pumpkins in the fall and winter. I usually try to buy from them, but even the ears I pick up at the grocery store from time to time tend to be really great.
I was digging through the long, purple Japanese eggplant at the farmers market on a recent Saturday morning. Suddenly I spotted a much smaller, baby eggplant. As I started to pull away the larger variety, I found more and began piling as many as I could into my hands the crook of my arm.
Seeing my determination, the vendor came over and pulled away the larger eggplants so I could find more. Clearly, he understood my mission.
Eggplant is one of those vegetables that I always have to research after I buy it to learn the exact name. These were Indian eggplant, which are often simply called baby eggplant. At about 2 inches long, it’s no surprise why they got the latter name.
At that point, I had no idea what I was going to do with them. That sums up most of my farmers market strategy – buy now, think later.
I’d seen these eggplants stuffed and baked before, but we had plans to fire up the grill that night so I took a different approach.
When I was in Italy attending Meeta’s food photography workshop back in May, we were given the opportunity to pick from loads of gorgeous produce to take outside and photograph. And as I just mentioned – Italy. So you know everything was perfectly ripe, heirloom, and stunning. The tomatoes were the most coveted item, beautiful varieties I hadn’t seen before.
When it came time to gather our things and head outside, my Cut Throat Kitchen style grabbing skills failed me, though. The tomatoes were the first to go.
After coming in second place for those, I started to eye the olives on the table. My first thought was – these would look great with those tomatoes – but those beauties weren’t coming back any time soon. I had to get more creative.
There are two things I love about summer – sweet corn and white nectarines.
Normally, I wouldn’t think of putting the two together, but lately I’ve had this thing for mixing fruits into savory foods. I’m a huge fan of the of sweet and savory and combining fruits and veggies feels like a better habit to me than, say, eating too much salted caramel.
So blueberries sometimes find their way into chicken salad and cherries often appear in my bean salads.
Given this new habit I found myself wanting to try nectarines with my corn. My first thought was a corn fruit salsa, but then I decided to skip the chips and eat this as a summer side dish.
We got a new kitchen.
If you’ve been following me on social media, it’s been a huge spoiler alert, I know. I’ve been showing the process for the past seven weeks or so.
As of the first week of June, we were back to a fully functional kitchen (YAY!). But as these things go, there are some odds and ends that need to be finished up. So I’m not ready for an official reveal.
And I’ll also share some about the process of outsourcing this type of thing. I’ve had a lot of people ask if we did the work ourselves and the answer is a satisfying no.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve abruptly slammed on my brakes at the sight of fruit for sale since moving to California. Don’t worry, I’m careful. But at least one of every 10 drives involves a brake and swerve.
In this case, it was local cherries.
I’d lost track of the timing since last year, and I wasn’t quite sure what week to expect seeing trucks with them for sale parked at intersections. I was less than a mile from the house last week, when a truck came into view.
No. It couldn’t be. Is it that time already?
I was coming from behind the display so the truck was blocking my view. But just as I got close enough to see those round, glossy cherries piled high in cups lining a folding table – brake, swerve, park.
Peas and carrots have never been all that appealing to me. Carrots by themselves, good. Peas by themselves, or maybe in a pasta dish, good. Together? It’s lost on me. I’m simply not a fan.
So what do I do when I’m not a fan of something? I make my own version. Sub green peas with chickpeas and magically I find one of my favorite side dishes.
I caught a glimpse of them out of the corner of my eye. It seems like yesterday that I was asking the vendor at a local farm market if the blood oranges had arrived yet, only to be told it would be a couple more weeks.
And here we are now with the season ending.
I think it might take moving to California to truly appreciate citrus. Heck, maybe it takes moving to someplace like the Central Valley. (Although, I was equally excited about this season when we lived in the Bay.)
There are so many varieties, so many bright colors. It’s such a welcomed sight and taste during a season that is void of other favorites like berries and cherries.
Those last few lonely bags of blood oranges were staring at me, begging me to make one last thing before their season was over.
I’ve always wanted a messy garden. I know that sounds strange. Most people want a gorgeously organized, symmetrical growing plot with every veggie in its place.
Not me. I’ve always loved the look of gardens that are bursting at the seams with greenery growing in every direction. Like a forest gone wild that produces food.
This might be because I lack the skill to produce one of those perfect gardens. Maybe I’m drawn to messy gardens because they are easier to maintain. But really it’s how they look.
I’m getting there.
My Thanksgiving preferences typically go in this order of importance –
√ Pumpkin pie (specifically my grandmother’s recipe)
√ Sweet potatoes
√ Brussels sprouts (yes, a vegetable!)
You can really just leave turkey off my list entirely. I’d rather dip into my calorie and carb savings account for the four options above.
I don’t have time this November to do a full Thanksgiving post series like my Thanksgiving Cooking for Two last year, but I can’t let the season slip by without sharing a few menu options. Specifically this one from my top four categories of Thanksgiving foods.