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Tools of Summer

July 11, 2018

It’s probably not a surprise that I define the seasons based on the foods I get to eat.

But time does this crazy thing the older I become. It just gets faster and faster. And even though I remember this past winter seemed to go on forever, there were still some winter foods that I never had the chance to enjoy.

Notably, I never made a batch of the most delicious split pea soup in the known universe. But I also never made a batch of bolognese. There was no chili. I didn’t make a single pot of red beans and rice.

Now summer is here. We put the regrets of the past behind. It’s time to embrace the season and enjoy as much as we can. Strawberries have been consumed with great gusto. Our CSA had its first fruit share today, and we received a basket of cherries.

As we approach the peak of summer, I wanted to take a moment and talk tools.

Just this week I fired up the old crappy grill for the first time. Last summer I thought it was on its last legs. This summer I know it is. One of the knobs just fell off. But dammit, it still works for my modest needs.

I needed to char some spring onions, and I can’t tell you how grateful I was to be able to do that over gas with just a moment’s notice. Would it have been better over lump hardwood? You bet. And one day, I hope to be able to figure out how to work that time back into my life.

Today is not that day.

These days I find my summer cooking projects getting stuck because they all require the same tools. The salad spinner and the Cuisinart are in high demand, and become the chokepoint in production.

Recently, I had three batches of greens to process: basil, arugula, and parsley. That was easy enough, because I didn’t have the wash the food processor in between batches. The basil pesto went first, followed by the more assertive arugula with walnut, and finished with a garlicky mass of parsley, capers, dried mustard, and pepper flakes.

A little bit of basil or arugula left in the bowl would never be noticed.

But that’s not always the case. Because the cooking projects I have on deck right now are a batch of hummus with requires the food processor, and a batch of slaw that requires the food processor too. In theory the parts can be washed by hand. But I prefer to send everything through the dishwasher.

Although, oddly, the salad spinner doesn’t go in the dishwasher. Probably it should. But I see that as a way of getting loose debris off leaves. It’s not dirt. It’s soil. Still, I can only wash one batch of greens at a time. And as much as I love my CSA, the greens we get are filthy. Oddly, I see that as a good thing. However, the salad greens require three changes of water to get the grit off.

For the slaw, the cilantro will require at least two changes of water. Plus there’s a head of lettuce that will have to be cleaned for a straight up salad later in the week.

In California, it would not have been environmentally responsible to use so much water in the preparation of food. I’m not sure if we have the same problems here. Hopefully not. Especially because I love how refreshing it can be washing and rewashing a bunch of greens on a hot summer day.

Grilling is less pleasant in the heat. The eggplant is the only thing that goes on the grill this week, and that will get turned into baba ganoush. So I’ll try and get that project lined up with the hummus. I’ve been told the Trader Joe’s frozen falafel balls are pretty good for convenience food. Maybe they’ll be even better when doctored up with some freshly made spreads.

Eventually, we’ll get corn and tomatoes. I’ve seen those precious gifts of summer out and about. But I will wait patiently for Roxbury to send some our way. It will be worth the wait.

And then there are all of the other things about summer, like making sure I get a lemon ice from Civitello’s. At some point we’ll have to go on a summer tour too. But these are topics for another day.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2018 10:17 am

    What kind of salad spinner do you have? I am guessing it is one of the plastic centrifugal ones based on your remark about the dishwasher. Why are those so expensive? $30 or so when they should be $10. And whatever happened to those wire baskets of our youth, where you’d achieve the same result plus water your garden and get a workout by swinging it around your shoulder?

    • July 11, 2018 12:26 pm

      You are correct, I have the Oxo model. I like that it has one central push button, for one handed operation. It’s on its last legs, but most likely I will replace it with the updated model when it craps out completely.

  2. -R. permalink
    July 11, 2018 10:24 am

    Four years on the shitty gas grill? Better than I had anticipated…

  3. July 11, 2018 9:53 pm

    My latest favorite summer cooking tool is the turkey fryer. That thing boils a pasta pot full of water in a few minutes and all that cooking heat is left outside.

  4. July 12, 2018 10:32 am

    I’ve learned to use a pair of pliers quite well on our grill. And I found a nice salad spinner at a garage sale for $1.50 several years ago; it gets good use for any greens we eat. Thanks for a great post!

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