Saturday, August 24, 2013

blowin through the jasmine in my mind

Well, I've been busy, still am busy. I had a large project to finish which started late, I had a month of illness, and Caitlin moved in, which is the good kind of busy, but still means I haven't been blogging much. Right now I am halfway through combining our kitchens, and I realize I better update or the whole summer will have gone by!

I've neglected for instance the opportunity offered by the season to talk about melons - the glut of supermarket melons from California and overseas has ended, and with it the period of time when I seem to have a little bit of Crenshaw melon or cantaloupe every day. But if your growing season is at all comparable to New England's - and I hope it isn't, but if - then your local melons are coming ripe about now and through the next month, and you should get on that. Picking out a melon can be tricky, especially if it's grown by someone who grows a lot of different things - because in my experience they may not know when to pick them themselves. If there's that one woman at your farmer's market who only ever has melons, maybe currants for a couple weeks in July and some herbs or something? She's the one to buy your melons from. She will know what she's doing. A farm stand that sells eighty kinds of produce, it's more of a gamble.

But when it's good, freshly grown melon that didn't spend a week on a truck or in a warehouse is awesome. It's much more flavorful, it's much more complex, and I'm told that's even more true if the melon is never refrigerated - just goes from dirt to pickup truck to farm stand to your car to your table. I'm not convinced it's true of every variety, but it's what I've been told by badass melon farmers.

Personally, I think cantaloupe and its many muskmelon cousins are the best bet, the most summery, the most interesting, the deepest in flavor, the best for juicing should you want to juice them - but that's me. Smell the stem end of the melon, see if it's fragrant, see if you like it, spend your four dollars.

I don't have any photos of melon. What have I got photos of.


Indigo Rose tomatoes
These are Indigo Rose tomatoes, which I've only ever seen this year and only at Kimballs in Pepperell. It's the height of tomato season right now, and thank God for it. We've been having tomato sandwiches, ratatouille, tomatoes and okra, scalloped tomatoes, BLTs, you name it. These Indigo Rose fellas, you can see the outside in the top left corner there - dark and eggplanty. The inside varies from green (though still ripe-tasting) to pinkish.

Lobster roll, ratatouille
The key to ratatouille for me is long, slow cooking, so that the wateriness of the ingredients is all cooked out. This is not a very good photo, but next to the lobster roll is a wedge of the ratatouille I'm talking about: thin slices of squash, eggplant, and tomato, seasoned with salt (or Old Bay or Tony Chachere's or what have you), often with some celery leaves or garlic thrown in, covered and cooked at 300 for a couple hours until very tender, then uncovered and cooked for several more hours until everything cooks down and the liquid reduces.

It's better the next day, when the remaining liquid is reabsorbed into the spongy tissues of the vegetables.

When tomato season was gearing up, we had a lot of burgers with tomato on them, sandwiches with tomato on them, etc. This nice little fella is one of the dark tomatoes - dark tomatoes like Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, and Carbon have been my favorite farmstand tomatoes this year - which is blushiest in the center.

Lamb sandwich

I also need to give a shoutout to Glazed in Amherst, Mass. We took a day trip out there - I was a Hampshire student 20 years ago and wanted to show Caitlin around - and man, almost everything was closed on Mondays or closed for lunch. But most of the stuff I'd grown up with in the area was gone anyway - Pioneer Valley Coffee is long gone, the Jamaican meat patty place by the Black Sheep is gone, the little diner where I got burgers or breakfast near Henion Bakery is gone, the calzone places are mostly gone, it even looked like Pinocchio's is gone. And obviously the record stores are all gone, because this is 2013 and that was 1993.

But there was this doughnut joint, Glazed. Caitlin yanked me back when she saw there was a menu in the window, and after seeing peanut butter doughnuts on said menu, we had to go in. So good!

Doughnuts from Glazed

The peanut butter chocolate doughnut is in fact not in this photo because I ate it, but beyond the lacuna you can see the caramel-toffee doughnut. In the back, we each got a coffee cream doughnut - like a lot of New-Style doughnut joints, they slice their doughnuts in half in order to fill them. The coffee cream was good but I've been spoiled by coffee-flavored things lately - my own coffee ice cream and the Ritter espresso bar chief among them - and so the somewhat weak coffee flavor was a disappointment in comparison. However, in the other row there, you've got Caitlin's chai-glazed coconut doughnut and the French toast doughnut, which I thought was actually the best of the bunch. I don't even know how to explain what "it tastes like French toast" means, but you'd know it when you taste it.

We're going back to Amherst in October, and I'll have to try the apple fritter.

More coming soon! I finished making the homemade ramp jack cheese, so there's that to talk about.

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