Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hands down

I like my hands in the kitchen. I like tongs, a lot, but my hands — short of handling heat — make a good set. I seed tomatoes with them, and pit cherries. Dare I say, there's nay a better cherry pitter than two hands. They're good for mixing up Tuscan bread salad, and for screening the white of an egg from the yolk. It slips mysteriously, magically through my fingers, leaving a globe of gold. I grip hard the pestle as I grind salt and garlic in the bowl of a mortar. I hope that's as close to war as I ever get. I like to dig my hand in a bag of basmati. What a feeling. I enjoy running my fingers tightly up a stem of thyme to free the leaves. Dry fingers, here, work better than wet. I like to pinch salt. I like to punch dough. Pasta is on, off I go.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tomato alley


Tomatoes, of course, are reddening the Cherry Street Farmers Market these weekends. Especially the cherries. (The golden "cherry" tomatoes of the Three Spring Farm kids a glorious exception.)

The squashes and zucchinis are lining up in firm regiments, and the basil is thick as thieves. Meaning, ratatouille time.

At 15th and Peoria, Everybody has a home-groan tomato to sell. Even Paul Halvaci, whom you might recognize if you ate coneys downtown regularly (or with cheese) between, like, 1960 and 2000 or so. Anyway, Paul, God bless his Greek-fed soul, was displaying a very pittance of a garden variety collection Saturday - a few cucumbers and zukes, some herbs, some chiles, not much else. But I bought some of his tomatoes because, well, I bought some of his coneys. And because.

"Here," Paul said, tossing a fourth tomato into my basket, "four, four. Two dollars." That way, at 50 cents a tomato, he wouldn't have to find change.

The farmers turn their tomatoes stem-down on their tables, to hide the cracks. But they needn't. Summer cracks - the result of rain and heat - are signs of life and flavor untapped. Slice away the gray zones, if you must. Or buy the perfect tomatoes sitting pretty on the store shelves, with their Martha Stewart color and their museum-like stems. Yummy.

Yes, ratatouille is a movie. And a concoction: an answer to a burden of bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplants and zucchinis that blossom in the heat of Provence. We should come up with a name of our own, so ripe are we Green Countrians with said ingredients.

Summer stew? Nah, let's work on it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Basil aplenty

If you're growning basil, it's probably starting to do its thing. In our feeble garden, it's the only thing that is. We didn't plant the tomatoes deep enough, don't have the thumb for sage, needed a new rosemary bush when ours withered. We grew radishes and got six. Wee, slender things, more like suggestions of radishes. The carrots, well, the carrots ...

Coupla things for basil: In pasta, we love a sauce made from fresh lemon juice (and some of the zest), olive oil and a generous heap of Parmesan. The cheese tends to melt into the vinaigrette, with the acid licking away at the lactate. Tear some basil leaves and throw it into that.

Another pasta, I got out of Jamie Oliver's Italian book. It's from the area of Trapani, out on the western tip of Sicily. The sauce relies on tomatoes, basil - 4 handfuls - and almonds. Cheese, of course.

If you have a good source for lamb chops, marinate them in a vinaigrette of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper before grilling. Lush.

Monday, July 6, 2009

How old are you really?

OK, it happened this time: I post a blog, short and sweet (sour, really) about, well, not posting much lately because of the heat. Something about that, maybe, caused Google to insert an ad that presumably wants to measure my life expectancy, gauging by the headline.

Gauging by the image, well, you decide: It was an animated girl in a ponytail eating a green apple, to match her green summer dress.

I don't like green apples.

Too hot

I apologize mightily for the dearth of entries lately.

Something about 100 degrees Fahrenheit makes my blood boil — just not the fatted calf's.

More soon, promise.