Saturday, July 26, 2008
This may be the week. More stuff is pouring into the kitchen than we can possibly put on the menu each night. Blueberries, blackberries, peaches, figs, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and myriad herbs. Things appear and disappear from the menu nightly. Two days of figs bellevue, then a week with none, but there a few figs left to make fig ice cream. One day the green bean vinaigrette has field peas as well. Blackberries or cherry tomatoes all over everything. Heirloom tomato plates, now as inescapable as pork bellies, show up almost every night until Betsey needs to visit family in California. Then maybe it morphs into sliced red tomatoes with a big dollop of mayonnaise. Beverly Dixon shows up with a weird new squash.
This has been a pretty good season, particularly when you consider last summer, but the present heat may put an abrupt end to the blackberries . Up until now they have been absolutely bounteous. There were so many at one point that we even made infused vodka, which is now available at our bar. I still know one spot where they had already plumped up before the heat, but really hot weather for some reason, can cause them to ripen unevenly. This makes them very hard to pick. I was ambushed once again by my friends who had earlier been cooing over honeysuckle. They came rushing up in alarm recently as I was clearly getting all the fruit, but they were just as quickly repelled by briers and mosquitoes. It was all so unfair. Speaking of unfair, I was dismayed to discover that the honeysuckle seems to be rallying for another bloom. We'll see if there's really going to be enough to bother with. Everybody has a fig tree and this year's crop appears to be mammoth. We're just at the beginning, but I'm hoping to be able to have all our favorites on the menu for a spell.
I'm using tomatoes everywhere. One favorite recipe is baked tomato soup. It's good because you can use all the ugly ones, all the ones that are getting too soft, all the excess and all the trimmings from the tomato plate. I save up all this stuff for a day or two, then bake them slowly and tightly covered with cloves of garlic, saffron, orange peel, and a big handful of fresh basil. When everything has cooked to pieces, I puree them in the food mill, chill and add salt and cream. It's like some fabulous tonic. We serve it with fresh popcorn. As I worked in my own little garden this morning I rustled against some of the tomato plants which then released their fragrance into the hot air. I love this smell. It reminds me of a million past summers.
posted by Bill Smith at 7:10 AM