Summertime Living Is Easy

We have tomatoes! Earlier this week, the tomatoes went from green to red almost overnight. We picked four of them on Wednesday, and had them for dinner last night – I baked some cod with the diced tomatoes, sliced scallions and olive tapenade, with just a little white wine. I made some cucumber salad to serve with it and it was tasty – a perfect summer evening meal. The pepper plants are tall and robust, but so far aren’t making any effort to flower. I’m the most surprised about the sweet corn – there are five little ears of corn forming, and one of them has even started tassling! So it looks like I might be able to grow sweet corn in an apartment after all! The bay tree is continually putting out new leaves and the rosemary is fragrant and healthy. And we still have plenty of garlic greens growing in the window.

We’ve been doing a lot of simple cooking this summer. We grill out every chance we get, and have become mildly obsessed with skewers. One of our favorite skewers so far this summer has been a sausage, shrimp, onion and sweet pepper skewer with a spicy wine vinegar and smoky paprika based glaze. Grilled onions have also been a favorite – we just thickly slice an onion or two into rounds, marinate them at room temp in a little olive oil, sugar (just a few tablespoons), salt and pepper, and maybe a little fresh herbs. We then thread them onto bamboo skewers, and grill until they’re nearly soft and richly caramelized.

I’m also excited to try some new recipes for grilled skewers that I came across in the August issue of La Cucina Italiana. Spiedini  di  Gamberi consists of shrimp marinated in white wine and curry powder, wrapped in a slice of prosciutto and threaded onto skewers with scallions. Spiedini di Pollo con Battuto al Centriolo is cubed grilled chicken thighs topped with a cucumber, arugula and olive relish. And the one I’m the most excited about trying is the Spiedini d’Agnello – lamb, pancetta and sweet peppers, simply seasoned with olive oil and salt and pepper.

It’s been a fairly rainy, humid summer so far so we haven’t made it out to the beach just yet but I’m hopeful we’ll get at least one weekend day this season where it doesn’t rain. We have been getting out for some nice walks around the neighborhood – all of the gardens are in full bloom so the air is fragrant and the breeze off the lake is always nice. One thing rainy days are good for is games – we’ve been pretty hooked on card games lately. Our favorites are Monopoly Deal, Scrabble Slam and 1000 Mille Bornes (it’s a car racing game). The other bonus for these card games is they’re great for travel – we’ll be taking them on our next camping trip for sure.

Speaking of trips, we’re going to take a long weekend over the Fourth of July and drive down to Springfield, IL. Back when we did our honeymoon on Route 66, we pretty much skipped Illinois because we always figured we could do it later, giving us more time to explore the areas that were farther from home. Well, almost five years later we’re finally getting around to it! We’re going to start downtown at the official eastern terminus of Route 66, stop for breakfast at Lou Mitchells, then head off down the Mother Road. We’re planning to stop at some of the cool places we missed the first time – Funk’s Grove for their maple “sirup”, driving by the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, and getting a photo op with the “Gemini Giant”, a huge astronaut statue holding a rocket. There’s a Frank Lloyd Wright designed bank in downtown Dwight, and in Elkhart I’m pretty excited about stopping in at the Under the Prairie Frontier Archaeological Museum.

Once we get to Springfield, I’m super excited to have lunch (at least once!) at Cozy Dog, home of the original cozy dog (strikingly similar to a corn dog, some people say). Two cozy dogs, a pile of fries and a Route 66 Root Beer for me! We also plan to tour Lincoln’s Home and the Dana-Thomas House, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s earliest homes. We also plan on having a meal at Maid Rite – an old-school drive through burger joint. We also plan to catch a double feature movie at the Route 66 Drive In. We’ll also check out any of the Fourth of July festivities going on, especially the fireworks, and we plan to spend a bit of time lounging at the pool. All in all, it should be a really fun long weekend getaway.

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6 thoughts on “Summertime Living Is Easy

  1. I’m happy to say that I have also been harvesting the tomotoes from the small ‘garden’ on my deck. I planted 2 regular tomatoes (Big Boy) and one simply marked as ‘bite size’. I don’t know whether that means grape or cherry tomotoes, but either one will be eaten up, to be sure! I also planted a red bell pepper, and 1 seedling each of parsley, basil, thyme and cilantro. I harvest the herbs regularly, just snipping as much off as the recipe needs each night. Sadly, I was not able to keep the cilantro after cutting all the stems off one day for a Persian herb frittata called cucu sabzi. I guess that it did not grow back because I cut all the stems down to the earth, while I should have just snipped off leaves? So now to keep my ‘herb garden’ going all summer, I’m careful to only snip a few stems at a time.
    My tomatoes have been turning red for the last 10 days, one at a time, but I’m hoping that July and August (for sure August!) will bring the full-blown tomato ecstacy induced by multiple pickings each day! My pepper plant has some minor blossoms, but only one small little pepper. That plant was put in a pot, albeit a large one, with the ‘bite size’ tomato, so it might be a bit crowded and therefore have a smaller yield.

    This is all pretty new to me, but we get such satisfaction from the luxury of just sauntering out to the deck to pull something, anything, for our supper. To be realistic and learn from the experience, though, I’ve seen that I will definitely need to plant more herbs next year if I’m to actually satisfy my family’s recipe requirements. My husband is Iranian and that cuisine traditionally serves lots of fresh raw herbs in addition to salad with lunch or dinner, plus uses lots of herbs as ingredients in recipes, not just as seasonings, such as the cucu sabzi that I mentioned above.
    Many thanks to The Apartment Farm and other such urban farming blogs for getting me into farming action!

  2. Awesome that you’re growing so much this summer. I don’t have enough herbs either, I definiately plan to do more of them next summer if I have the space. Wuold you mind posting the recipe for the cucu sabzi? That sounds really good!

  3. Cucu (sounds like what the bird in the clock says) sabzi is one of those ‘eyeball’ recipes, in other words, I eyeball it for correct proportions and cook it up! Basically you need 3/4 — one cup chopped, fresh herbs to each egg or egg white equivalent. The herbs used can vary based on what you have on hand. The basics are parsley, cilantro, and green onion, which are pretty much available yearround, and the most ‘neutral’ of the greens. I add smaller amounts of dill, mint, basil, thyme and/or a very small amount of tarragon to the ‘basics’. In addition, I find that it greatly helps the finished texture and cooking of the dish if I add about half a smalll head of iceberg lettuce to the food processor/blender when I’m blending the herbs. Sort of acts like the glue to the whole mixture.
    Anyway, you pick over and rinse your herbs, whatever the mixture and wrap them in paper towels to take away the excess moisture. Puree the herbs with the lettuce in FP or blender.
    Pour greens into large mixing bowl and add the proper equivalent of eggs. (See I told you that I eyeball it! I’m terrible with written recipes!! But if I’ve pureed 4 BIG handfuls of herbs, which will usually fill the basket of my Cuisineart food processor twice, to that I add at least 6 eggs. the batter should be about the texture of cake batter, not too runny but definitely pourable. If you make a mistake and get too many eggs in, you can balance by adding cooked mashed potatoes or cooked plain rice or even cornmeal. Two or three tablespoons of flour, salt&pepper to taste and 1 teaspoon baking powder go in the mix. If you like, you can crush a handful of walnuts into it as well. Or craisins, that’s yummy too!
    Butter a skillet (nonstick) and fry on medium heat until you can lift the edges and see that the bottom is firm. Then do the best lift and flip trick that you know (too detailed for me to try to describe adequately here!) and cook the other side til nice and brown.
    It might sound complicated, but it’s really not. Cook it like you would any frittata, just with herbs instead of potatoes or whatever. We like to eat it with pita bread and feta cheese. It’s a great way to introduce LOTS of GREENS into your kids diet!

    good luck with it! Let me know how it turns out for you and how your family likes it!

  4. Sorry to say that I have been diagnosed by another newbie farmer with tomato blight that is supposedly ranging all across Maryland this summer. We are still getting a bit of tomato, though! In addition, the heat wave and numerous days of three-digit temperatures have really dried out my plants! They are hanging in there, though and I still go out and harvest a handful of herbs and one or two tomatoes every day or so. The pepper plant only gave one small bell pepper 😦

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