Around this time every summer, I see the best signs at the markets: “Ugly but tasty!” “Pretty on the inside!” “Don’t judge a tomato by its cover!” Beneath them are usually buckets of craggly misshapen tomato beasts, with coarse seams like they’d been stitched back together after some rough past and distinctly un-heirloom colors. At prices like a dollar a pound, obviously, they were destined for sauce.
August, 2010 Archive
When blueberries first show up at the market, it feels like sacrilege to bake with them — ditto with raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. Mother Nature made them perfect! Why drown them in batter, wilt them with heat and then leave them out to dry? What brutes we’d be! But there’s a day in August — I think it might have been yesterday* — when something shifts. The high for the day is in the 60s, you run out to the market and what is this? Did you wish you’d brought your cardigan? How strange! And all of a sudden the prospect of a berry baked into something warm and cozy, that you might eat with your first hot coffee of the season, seems very right.
When it comes to bruschetta, I don’t know why tomatoes get all the love. Right next to them at the market, eggplant is sulking… or at least I’d be if I always got stiffed in the Breezy Light Summer Appetizer with Wine department by my fruity field buddies. I got thinking about an eggplant topping for garlic-rubbed, olive oil drizzled toasts last week when I was still on vacation and had nothing but the ocean’s horizon to consider for entire minutes of the day when this constantly-in-motion 11 month-old rested his eyes for a but all I knew is what I didn’t want: a puree, because while there are many great ones, there’s just so much gray and heavy about them and I didn’t want it to need tomatoes to make it work because hey, I love tomatoes but was insistent that eggplant can be awesome on its own.
Unfortunately, we had to come home from the beach. You see, I’d left my chef’s knife at home and seriously, people, I never knew I was the kind of person who had to have their creature comforts to cook. In fact, I get some sort of sick enjoyment out of making do with whatever’s in front of me (see also: my shoebox kitchen with a mini-stove, single tiny counter and a climbing baby over- under- and hanging-off-of-foot, putting everything he can find into his mouth) but I got bested last week by a drawer full of dull knives and not a sharpener in sight. You don’t want to know what the best of the lot did to some tomatoes — it should be ashamed of itself! Plus, there were the small matters of a city baby who refused to sleep in such foreign places with large rooms, crickets and scary flowers outside and the fact that we’d only rented the house for a week. What were we thinking? Two weeks! A month! More! Farm preschool, here I come!
I have decided not to leave. Yesterday, I was eating a drippy peach we’d bought from one of those roadside stands that have baskets of homegrown stuff and instruct you to leave your money in a little container (you know, just like in Manhattan!) over the sink and two tiny deer and a bunny appeared in the woodsy area next to our house and seriously, I cannot believe that people own these places and willingly rent them to strangers. Where else could they possibly want to stay?
And so, we’ve finally fled the coop. We headed out last weekend to a house we’ve rented (with enough spare bedrooms for grandparents to come and
babysit catch up with their favorite grandson, because we are brilliant, friends, absolutely brilliant) and I’m dispatching from the beach this week. I’ve already had a dinner with friends that involved multiple formats of broiled cheese, several tastes of local wines, watched the sunset, had my first and second full night’s sleep in weeks, and now with the promise of Dunkin Donuts coffee and freckles in my near future, I have totally arrived.
Chocolate gets stiffed every summer in my kitchen and this one has been no different. Apparently, the only time I have come near chocolate with a ten foot pole this summer was more than six weeks ago, when I made some impromptu chocolate doughnut holes in the lull between rhubarb/strawberry season and every awesome fruit since. And I love chocolate like some people love bagels. This isn’t right.