Summer Vacation Round-Up
My right brain is my greatest confidante. My left brain, on the other hand, takes a snooze when I need to remember things like numbers, dates or years. I’m in trouble when I can’t remember the year I got married without counting on my fingers (2007, b.t.w). I know, I know. Pretty bad, huh? But…I remember other things; Like eating fried green tomatoes–a stack of three, with a roasted red pepper coulis and a spot of goat cheese on my first dinner date with my husband. We listened to my college classmates play live jazz, and I pretended not to notice when his arm brushed against mine. In our first months dating, we often sat on his hand-me-down couch and watched Lost while eating spicy black beans and basmati rice (my husband’s bachelorhood specialty).
I can still taste the avocados from the tree in my childhood backyard, sliced in half, salted, peppered and scooped out with a spoon. Sleepovers at grandma’s house always included homemade taquitos and rice pudding at my grandma’s house, which we’d eat before watching the first half of The Sound of Music before going to sleep on a comfy makeshift bed.
Ah, memories…Calendars and clocks get me where I need to go at the right time, but I much prefer to remember my years in food. And so the timeline begins…
Right about the time when the sugar snaps pop their heads out of the soil, the kids at school grow antsy with Spring fever. Girls start to notice boys, and the boys are still oblivious to the girls’ charms. My first bite into a sugar snap marks victory–another successful school year comes to an end.
Mixed greens equal optimistic ambitions; lofty goals of all I will accomplish on my months off from teaching. I plan for my months off between bites of spinach, ruffled red leaf lettuce and toasted walnuts, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.
By ginger-apricot muffin time, I come to the realization that not everything will be done before August. Chowing on a salted pickling cucumber straight from the garden, I decide that I’m okay with that…I’m cool as a–(I’ll spare you that one). Reality hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
When everyone with a yard tries to give away their excess abundance of peg-leg sized zucchini and yellow squash, reality sinks in. I, however, am distracted by the conundrum of how to use my squash, and how to pawn off my excess squash on the neighbors. I think I have a solution for conundrum one*(see below). As for conundrum two…hey, does anybody want some squash?
Tomato time means back to school. My lunches consist of sliced Black Krims, Green Zebras, San Marzanos, cucumbers, and multi-colored carrots. My co-workers look on curiously. All is well so far. The kiddos aim to please for the first two weeks or so…and besides, I’m in a peak-of-Summer-produce-induced mania. All signs point to vacation’s end, but the best of Summer is yet to come.
*Parmesan-Panko Fried Squash
Nutty parmigiano reggiano and panko breadcrumbs crisp up around yellow squash to form an addictive Summer appetizer. Biting into the crunchy coating reveals the hot, crisp-tender squash.
2 1/2 lb squash (about 4 medium), cut into 1/2 inch discs
3/4 c flour for dredging
2 eggs, whisked together with 3 TB cold water
Canola oil for frying
1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese ( I like parmigiano reggiano)
1/4 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1 large clove garlic, pressed, finely grated (or minced and smashed to a paste w/ the back of a spoon
Heat 4 inches of oil in a dutch oven or other heavy medium saucepan until hot but not smoking (the oil should start bubbling immediately when the squash is dropped in).
Place the parmesan, salt and garlic in a medium bowl. Toss and rub the ingredients together until combined. Line up all of your dredging ingredients in a row next to the stove, along with an empty plate (to set breaded squash), and a plate covered with a layer of paper towels (to set fried squash).
Working in small batches, dredge the squash in flour, cover in egg, and coat with the panko mixture. Fry in the hot oil for about 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Remove from the oil, and place on the paper towels. Season with additional kosher salt if needed.
Serve while hot with the arrabbiata dipping sauce.
•For a slightly more healthy alternative, the squash may be breaded, lightly sprayed with oil, and baked in a 375˚ oven until golden.
Arrabbiata Dipping Sauce
I adapted this arrabbiata sauce from a Dean and Deluca cookbook purchased from a garage sale. The book turned out to be one of my best Saturday morning finds! I’ve made this spicy sauce dozens of times, tweaking bit by bit to fit my tastes (ie: ample amounts of garlic and an extra handful of chopped oregano). I also enjoy this sauce as a weeknight meal, tossed with whole wheat penne and grated parmigiano reggiano.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 28 oz can good quality whole-peeled tomatoes with their liquid
1/4 tsp to 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves, chopped
Kosher salt to taste
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan until shimmering. Add the garlic, and cook for about 2 minutes, until softened but not toasted. Give a good stir, then add tomatoes, breaking them up slightly with a wooden spoon. Simmer for 40 minutes, continuing to occasionally stir and break up the tomatoes. Salt to taste (but know that Kosher salt takes a while to dissolve, so be careful not to over-salt.), and stir in the crushed red pepper.
Simmer for an additional 15 minutes, stirring in the oregano during the last 5 minutes. Taste, and salt to taste once more if needed.