What I’m cooking: Summer

What I’m thinking

For the first couple of months of social isolation, I compulsively tallied up everything I made in my kitchen: meals, snacks, staples, cocktails, anything that felt like an act of creativity or self-care. The list made me feel more present: I’m here, I’m surviving, I’m finding pleasure now and then. What I cooked and ate also serves, for me, as a record of what procuring food was like during the stay at home order: what we could or could not buy, ways the supply chain faltered, how we felt about all of that.

My cooking habits remain very much the same as they did in the spring. My reliable CSA coordinates local vegetables as well as bread, cheese, eggs, and tofu; I get a box of these basics (plus some treats, like shrub or tea) delivered to my doorstep every other week. I shop two or three times a month at a tiny neighborhood grocery store that offers more staples like rice and lemons. I place an order for pickup once a month or so at a local butcher that sells local beans and tallow soap as well as meat. I get takeout once a month. It’s not the same routine I had before the pandemic, but it is a routine, and it no longer feels urgent to write down everything I make.

In the Beforetimes, I did these What I’m Cooking posts to remind myself of the highlights of my kitchen life: seasonal foods I love, new-to-me recipes I enjoyed, recipe-less stand-bys I wanted to share, dinners and party menus I wanted to remember. It’s a recipe archive but also an emotional record. In that spirit, here I go.

What I cooked this summer

  • Black beans and rice. Black beans always in the slow cooker, joined by a seasonal selection of vegetables (mizuna, kale, purslane, carrot, corn, potato). Garnished up with various combinations of egg, avocado, the pickled radishes I made way back in March, and cheese.
  • Feta cheese as a garnish. Fresh parm was hard to find, but the little grocery store always has feta, so I sprinkle some on pasta, beans, lentils, whatever.
  • Smitten Kitchen’s sheet pan meatballs. I must have made these once a month; they are easy, and the little grocery always has ground turkey for some reason. The recipe calls for yogurt, which helps the meatballs stay tender instead and get caramelized outside.
  • Rice (sometimes fried) with various veggies (celeriac, kohlrabi, broccoli, carrots, bok choy, tofu) mixed up with a spicy peanut sauce.
  • One million variations of fancy local pasta (with flavors like tomato basil, spinach, and spicy garlic) served with wilted greens (mizuna, chard, kale), with chicken sausage or bacon if I have it, and tomato or pesto or whatever I have on hand to make a sauce.
  • Not a frequent recipe by any means but this miso-glazed turnip recipe turned out to be a good way to dispatch turnips.
  • I tacked on a bread CSA to my vegetable delivery so there is always toast with peanut butter, avocado, or cheese.
  • A lot of not-quite-meals: apples with peanut butter, cheese and crackers, a giant peach.
  • I was finally able to place and receive an order from the Reading Terminal Market and got an enormous amount of oats, which I baked into granola with almonds, walnuts, and honey. Granola and yogurt breakfasts rise again.
  • Fruit jam, which is really more of a puree the way I make it: strawberry, rhubarb, sour cherry. It goes in yogurt or somethings in baking.
  • Cookies, often, especially once I got my hands on real flour again: buckwheat chocolate chip cookies, tahini chocolate chip cookies, my favorite sugar cookie recipe with strawberry rhubarb jam mixed into half of the dough to make pastel pinwheel cookies, because why not?
  • I did Dry July and mixed up a bunch of syrups and whatnot. Going sober (even for a little while) is very…. sugary.

What I look forward to cooking

I almost deleted this section, because it feels like enough work to keep myself fed week after week without getting excited about it. But I regularly ask my friends: what’s one thing that made you happy this week? what’s one thing you’re looking forward to? And sometimes it’s hard to think of anything, but your body has a physiological response to thinking about things that give you pleasure, so it’s an exercise worth doing now and then.

I’m looking forward to more peaches and berries. I’m not tired of those yet. I’m looking forward to figs and apricots. I’m looking forward to making myself some really simple and portable food (a ham and cheese sandwich, maybe) and carrying it to the park for a socially distant picnic. I’m not ready to look forward to fall fruits and vegetables yet, but they will come whether I’m ready or not, and I AM looking forward to Halloween (virtual this year) so in a manner of speaking, I am literally looking ahead toward fall.

What I’m writing

I took a couple of summer classes on screenwriting and creative nonfiction, which turns out to have been a good thing for my memory–my brain is like a sieve lately and I forget everything if I do not write it down. I’ve already forgotten a great deal of this spring and summer, but at least I have a record somewhere.

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2020 was to pitch some of my writing for publication. I am happy to report that one of my short stories from last fall won a Climate Fiction prize from Euphony Journal. I also wrote about feeling like a video game NPC for Sidequest.

What’s getting you through the summer, friends?

One response to “What I’m cooking: Summer

  1. For me, it’s making fresh pasta on a fairly regular basis. I like the physicality of the process and then tucking into something delicious when I’m done.

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