Food Friday: Range Free Summer Meals


Summer. It is a glorious time of the year. We are going to the beach, going to the movies, planning vacations, enjoying balmy breezes at night on the porch watching the moon rise, and we are eating homegrown tomatoes. Admittedly, we have had to buy some extra heirlooms from the farmers’ market to supplement the home growns in most of the recipes we have been reading with religious zeal, and want to prepare for the evening meals with brio (and a glass of wine). Few of the recipes I have been drawn to involve a range, I am very happy to report.

Last night I did have to use the stove top. I whipped up Martha Stewart’s One Pan Pasta, which always amazes Mr. Friday. Tomatoes, onion, garlic (4 cloves!), basil, salt, red pepper flakes, a little olive oil, water, and a box of thin spaghetti. That’s it. It is a bright shiny kitchen miracle. I threw all the ingredients into a large frying pan and turned the gas flame up to medium. Once it started to boil I stirred the mess a few times. Gradually the pasta softened, the tomatoes liquified, the onions were absorbed, and a heady cloud of garlic filled the kitchen. After about 9 or 10 minutes the water had been absorbed and the pasta was lovely; slick and al dente. Full disclosure – I turned the broiler on to make garlic bread. All in all, though, the kitchen was only heated up for 15 minutes. Which is a respectable amount of time for someone who tries to stay out of the heat, and hovers near the air conditioning vents all day long.

We are gearing up for our summer vacation – which will be a modest event this year. We are renting a little house in western North Carolina. Someplace where we can look at mountains, and cool our toes in an inviting, burbling stream. Where our taxing daily activities will include visiting roadside farm stands and stocking up on all the good things that are suddenly in season: peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and squash. And after we have cooled off, we can make a little dinner, one that is easy and tasty, and supports the local farmers. (We are so noble!) And then off to Netflix or to read our trashy summer novels. Bliss.

I doubt if we will have any cocktail parties while on vacation, but I like to think about elegant parties we have missed. I am sure that Katharine Graham didn’t actually make her own gazpacho for her famous summer parties, but I bet she had a swell time squeezing the tomatoes at the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market on Martha’s Vineyard.

And I don’t think we will have gazpacho just as an amuse bouche before a lobster dinner, but instead will consume a few bowls worth as a hearty main course. This was a charming story in the New York Times last week as well as some great advice:

I am not an experienced professional cook – we are still batting away the smoke fumes from the smoldering cookie sheet of bacon I set alight last weekend – and I appreciate advice. I don’t often taste my ingredients as I am cooking, but now I will. We have three different kinds of tomatoes growing out on the back porch this summer – and they all taste wildly different. There are tiny little purplish heirlooms, some pear-shaped Romas, and some hearty beefsteaks. The beefsteaks haven’t ripened yet. The heirlooms are juicy and sweet, the Romas are less moist and have firm fruit. Eventually there will be enough for a nice Panzanella salad one night:

I tossed three little heirlooms and two Romas into the One Pan Pasta last night along with a pint of store bought Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. I had harvested our little tomatoes mainly to get them out of the reach of the greedy cardinals. The damn birds have stripped the container blueberry bushes of their fruit, and now those scarlet opportunists have homed in on the tomatoes. Note to self: buy bird netting next year.

It will be interesting to see what different tomatoes we will find at the farm stands in a couple of weeks. Gazpacho, One Pan Pasta and Panzanella salad will be the building blocks for our summer vacation meals. It will all be deelish!

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
― John Lubbock

About Jean Sanders

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