Sunday, August 25, 2013

big, BIG August

When people talk about the good ol’ “salad days,” I think they must mean August. And not just because here in the Midwest August sees the height of our produce season, leading to lots of salads—kale in a creamy yogurt dressing, crunchy panzanella, and fresh caprese to name our favorites.  August is the easiest month of the year to eat food that is seasonal, whole, and recognizable by one’s ancestors.
So these are literally the salad days—but also the ones that we’ll remember as “the good times,” whether it’s drinks on the town with friends, banger dogs at Pleasant House, six-dollar movies, a lazy day at home, a book in the tub, caponata on toast with Alex on his lunch break, faking my way through a bubbly tasting, or evening swimming off the rocks at the Point (taking into account the romantic elements and that I don’t have to smear myself with sunscreen). A month full of really great moments that make you feel like “Yes! This is why I always wanted to grow up!” (You know, stuff that really takes the edge off jury duty and health insurance deductibles.)
The most magical day was a few weeks ago.  On August 10th, after nine months of waiting, Alex, Shannon, and I saw Taylor Swift drop everything now at Soldier Field with at least a million other screaming, latino men in their late 20s. (I may have modified the demographics here to help Alex feel like he fit in.) I’ve never been more delighted, or seen so much badly applied red lipstick in my life. It was breathtaking. I was literally out of breath.  I was also out of voice having loosed one too many “TAYLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOR!”s, excitement getting the best of me.
The regular, Taylor-free days are still bright. The days are shorter, fuller, as August plays that annual trick of speeding up the last weeks of summer.  And there’s been time for other big, big moments—moments that may lead the reader to recall my status as a married, respectable homeowner. Well. I'm married and a homeowner, in any case.  Our home has finally come together with the delivery of the couch and bookshelves—resulting in the final boxes being unpacked (yes, we moved in March).  Yesterday, I even engaged in some rudimentary glassblowing—followed by half-priced sushi #winwin.
I made my first summer pie this August. A peach melba beaut that encased the rosy softballs and jammy raspberries in a buttery, latticed crust.
Lest I accidentally convey the idea that anything remotely close to “chef”-ing occurs when I’m in the kitchen, I should make plain that this is as fancy as it gets around here.  I may not always recall the exact way pancake batter dripped lazily onto the stove this morning, but I will remember the ease of these days.  Especially if my kids are being super loud and I’m hungover from book club.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Corn, tomato, bacon, repeat.

The arrival of corn and tomato at the market has, for the last few years, also sparked an increase of bacon in our diets. I know there are many camps of bacon standards out there: those who think bacon is best without accompaniment, those who think perfectly delicious vegetables don’t need bacon, those who think everything—every vegetable, sandwich, and dessert—is improved by bacon. I think I’m in a camp that doesn’t think any of those things are true all the time. It may be heresy to say, but sometimes you don’t need bacon. And sometimes bacon doesn’t need you.
Corn and basil tart recipe from Shutterbean.com with cheddar and tomato
Fat slices of heirloom tomatoes on toast need bacon. Corn fritters as breakfast for dinner need bacon (fat for frying, you understand). Potato/corn hash needs bacon. And so much of our July needed bacon.
As for bacon brands, I’m pretty firmly in camp Nueske’s, which appeals to me for both its deeply smoky flavor and as a “local” item (Wisconsin-made, Midwest approved). Plus, their nitrate-free variety makes me feel downright healthy.
There are other regulars besides bacon during the corn/tomato takeover: basil, mozzarella, red onion, cucumber, and avocado, in any combination, but all prepared simply, dressed in oil, vinegar, citrus, salt, pepper. It’s a raw, colorful season (the theme of that last post).
In addition to (and probably as a result of) the excess bacon, our July included lots of lovely bikes rides—two long ones out in Michigan farm country, where we visited our beloved Pleasant House’s new location.
We also took in a few birthday parties, a Dawes concert and picnic in Millennium Park, a trip to Girl & the Goat (fried oysters and French 75s really take the edge off the heat), and a French pastry class, making July a month of celebration. (To balance this out, I should also add that I have read an awful lot of books that are about to be movies starring Shailene Woodley.)
With the impending arrival of our new couch, bookshelves, and the Taylor Swift concert I’ve been anticipating for the better part of the year, August will be the month of delivery. And I’m sure there’ll be more corn, tomatoes, and bacon. Repeat.