Tuesday, 2 August 2016 | 17 comments

Summer, then

I have an aunt who likes to ask people: “If someone shook you awake in the middle of the night and asked you, Quick! How old are you? What would your response be?”


No one ever seems to think this is an odd question, which makes me think that it hits on something important. My aunt is in her fifties, but I think her answer is 27 (is that right, Colette?). The point of the exercise, I guess, is that hardly anyone believes that when startled awake, they would give the age they actually are. What does that mean?

There’s nothing like summer to make me mull over how vague and relative time is. In contrast with the Everglades-heavy air outside, summer time feels fluid, perhaps sluggish in the moment but then, whoops, it’s late July, high summer and the black-eyed Susans are blooming. I measure time in bumper crops (first, zucchini; then, berries; now, tomatoes).





Summer brings vacations, if we’re lucky, which have their own odd way of messing with time. Ben and I went on a mini-escape to Seattle as part of a work trip, which was mainly an excuse for me to eat as many bivalves as I could get my hands on. Molly and I hung out for a couple hours at Dino’s. (We had a lot of Campari, which, if you read Molly’s stuff at all, you’ll know is the way to hang out with Molly). Ben and I also carved out a little brunch with Tara at the famous Orchard House. Seriously, though: mostly I just ate oysters washed down with white wine and Puget Sound views, and tried to get my mind off of accumulating work emails (seeking strategies for how to deal with this stress of “unplugging”.) (Seriously.)

My little sister had a baby in June, which was a wonderful, monumental, crazy thing itself that I am still processing. We traveled together to Colorado with the baby to meet my mom’s family. On one particularly fussy day, the baby ate constantly and then crash-slept for 8 hours. When Louise picked her up in the morning, we were stunned: was this the same baby? Did she actually just grow a full inch and gain three chubby thigh-folds? Can you be five weeks old but look different overnight? (Do babies have a startle-you-awake-in-the-middle-of-the-night age?)

Back in Virginia (and back to work), it is very, very hot, and accordingly, appetites are not robust. Last night for dinner I had a beer, a handful of cherry tomatoes, and some sour cream and onion potato chips. When I have been cooking, it’s in response to all the aforementioned zucchini and berries and tomatoes. I haven’t been grocery shopping in a long time. I thought I might round up some of the ways I’ve been using up all of the good summer stuff, which is a bit of a cop-out laundry list, but it’s all I can muster in this humid haze.

I hope there’s a cold one to crack open wherever you are.

I grew a fancy Italian heirloom zucchini this year, and maybe because of that have been cooking zucchini recipes almost exclusively from Rome-based Rachel Roddy, which is not a bad way to be cooking.
Simplest: Zucchini slowly cooked in garlic scented olive oil. Drape over toast or eggs.
Slightly more involved: Pasta cooked with a carbonara-style creamy egg sauce and ribbons of zucchini.

Because of some ridiculous oversized, overblown zucchinis that I grew, I also dredged up this baked zucchini fritter recipe from the olden days of this blog, which remains delicious and not too difficult, although I would now brown then a bit more.

Someone recently reminded me that you have a good guide (from three years ago now) to the ways I mostly deal with summer tomatoes, here: Tomatoes at the Yellow House. I still make that tomato jam every year, although Domenica Marchetti’s new Preserving Italy book has me contemplating a golden version: stay tuned.

We tried this unusual tomato salad with cumin and lemon – really nice with a summery dinner.

I have become convinced that good ol’ caprese is way better with burrata than with regular mozzarella – do it.

And still more Rachel Roddy inspiration: We made these tomatoes stuffed with rice for dinner and they were so lovely, and so worth the wait time involved.

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§ 17 responses to Summer, then

  • Your tomatoes look amazing… my bf and I planted eight different varieties, but we were a little late to the party for various reasons, and I’m just hoping that Nepal’s weather is different enough that they still have a chance. I know what you mean about summer eating, though – I’ve got a cold one open right this minute!

  • Lovely!

  • That table full of tomatoes! Wowza.

  • Summer is the best! Agreed. Sounds like you’re making the most of it. Me too. I think right now I’m startled awake at 17, but that’s unusual and just because it’s the summer and I’m back where I’m from. Otherwise, I don’t know how old I am in the middle of the night, usually. A tricky question.

  • We have been growing tomatoes in a single, industrial sized greenhouse for just the three of us my whole life, so the ‘glut’ is just another part of summer for me. This is my favourite way to deal with them, if you’re interested: http://www.rachelphipps.com/2016/08/recipe-only-tomato-salad-recipe-youll.html

    Also, I like to freeze them when they get too many, and then they are great in place of tinned tomatoes in recipes in the winter.

  • Your tomatoes look beautiful. The colours! Summer is my favourite time of year, for the produce and for the long, seemingly endless days. I’ve also been obsessively cooking from Rachel’s column!

  • Now that’s a bumper crop of tomatoes. I haven’t had that generous amount yet, but I can’t wait to make a caprese with burrata now.

  • Susan

    I make Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce – the one with butter and onion (though I sub a clove of garlic for the onion). I freeze it back. I save it for cold blizzardy winter nights when I’m longing for summer’s heat. August tomatoes during a snowstorm!

    • I also made a bunch of Marcella sauce! It is the best. I just freeze a bunch of it in quart zipper bags and, like you, pull it out when I need some sunshine. –S

  • Amy

    I think your zucchini crumble is how I found your blog. No one has gifted me with their overabundance of squash, so I may have hit the farmer’s market this weekend.

  • Thanks for sharing your aunt’s question. I never really know my age when I’m awake, either – I have to do the math to tell people, and I’ve felt this way since I was 16. Now I have to think about whether the discrepancy between math-age and felt-age is changing, and how.

    • I also see how this applies to time, and even season. I moved mid-summer so since I missed the first half of summer here, it feels perfectly naturally that we’re having 80’s and 90’s temps in mid-September. On the other hand it is strange to see leaves falling in the middle of Berlin-summer-on-my-timeline.

  • The Internet led me here today. Really glad it did. I want to live on that table amongst the tomatoes. xoxoxx

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