For me, one of summer's real joys is being able to make ultra-fresh meals from whatever needs harvesting in our organic kitchen garden. I love a good tossed salad for lunch for instance, so in summer, I eat a bowl of whatever greens we have in abundance, topped by something juicy and something proteinaceous (usually slivered almonds or some other kind of nuts).
Hence today's lunch, in the photo above: tossed mixed greens from my lettuce and mesclun patch (summer lettuce blend and Napa mesclun blend, both from Renee's Garden Seeds), dressed very simply with a sprinkle of salt, a small pour of orange-infused olive oil and a splash of cherry champagne vinegar (my own recipe). I've topped those fresh garden greens with tomatoes from the garden (the orange ones are persimmon, the others black krim, both heritage varieties grown from seed from Renee's Garden Seeds), nasturtium flowers for a peppery bite (seed from ditto), and toasted organic almond slivers. That plus a broiled tortilla topped with organic aged cheddar cheese, and half a ripe Colorado peach, make a delicious and largely local lunch for me.
Even as I water (no rain here yet) and pick an abundance of produce from our summer garden, I'm aware that the first frost is likely only a month away. So I'm putting up the fruits (and vegetables) of our garden for winter, when we'll want those tastes of summer's sunshine.
I don't have tons of time to spare, what with helping Richard live with brain cancer, writing, caring for my dad, and managing our household affairs. So when I say "putting up" or "preserving," I mean freezing, because for me, that's the easiest and quickest way to preserve summer's bounty.
The summer squash bed got away from me this week, so I put some squash in the freezer. We grow romanesco squash (from Renee's Garden Seeds), a heritage variety related to zucchini but with the advantage of staying buttery and sweet even when they get large as porpoises… (That's a romanesco above, with its lovely ribby length dwarfing the cutting board.) Here's what I do to freeze them:
Have a vegetable steamer set up and the water steaming, plus quart-sized ZipLoc bags and a freezer pen handy.
Wash and chop each squash into bite-sized pieces. I slice off the end at an angle, and then just slice bite-sized wedges off the squash, turning it a quarter-turn after each wedge.
Put the squash wedges into the steamer and steam 3 minutes (they'll continue to cook for a bit in the bags, so you just really want to get them a bit more than blanched).
Label the Ziploc bags with a freezer (permanent) marker, fill generously half-full, let the contents cool, squeeze out the air, seal and put in the freezer. And there you have it–summer's bounty preserved for winter, all in about half an hour's time.
On the brain cancer front: Richard's had not the best brain week, but he's doing okay. We're agreed that while it may be perilous to go on our "honeymoon" road trip right now, this is the chance we have. So off we'll go week after next, aiming to have a wonderful time. In the meantime, I've got to organize garden-waterers and house-minders, stop the newspaper, get the bills paid, meet several writing deadlines, and figure out how to fit our gear, including our tent and sleeping pad and bags and cooler, into the Subaru while leaving us enough space to be comfortable–in particular, the passenger-side front seat has to have enough room to recline all the way.
Richard's task is to keep taking care of himself: meditating, doing yoga with me in the morning, getting in his 12 minutes on the Nordic Trak every day, eating, reading, and resting. Lots of the latter, so he can have energy for the former. It's all a matter of balance–but that's true of life under any circumstances.
I have always loved a good road trip, and I'm excited about this one, even though I recognize it could well be the last trip we take together. That makes it weightier in the emotional sense, but I'm doing my best to stay loose and flexible and take advantage of the moments that come. Until I look at the calendar that is, and realize how little time I have to prepare. Breathe, I remind myself, breathe.
And I do. And, surprisingly, it helps…