Wednesday, August 15, 2012
On warm nights, we sit out on the little deck off our bedroom. We’re talking about buying an outdoor heater for the space so we can use it even more than we do. We read, or watch an episode of Friday Night Lights on a laptop– we’re midway through season 3 – or just sit and catch up. I saw my first shooting star last night, just as we were about to come inside. Alexi said he hadn’t seen one since he was around 8 years old. One of those little moments of magic that happens around me all the time, somewhere in the background, that I was lucky enough to witness this time.
Also noteworthy, I made my first and, likely, last batch of ice cream of the summer. It was well worth the wait. Nectarine. The scent of the nectarines cooking, in the process of putting it together, nearly knocked me out.
Our dinner was entirely comprised of vegetables.
When I was growing up, we ate home grown vegetables all summer; legendary sized cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and the like, thanks to Alaska’s midnight sun. Most of our back yard was roto-tilled and turned into a garden. The rest of the year, much of the produce we ate was of the canned variety. The only fresh vegetable I remember having in winter was in the form of a salad of iceberg lettuce accompanied by tomatoes that tasted like nothing. Not much was shipped to Alaska in winter, and what did arrive was expensive and not very good.
Generations ago, the first people in my family who became farmers did so because it was a way to survive, most likely, and not for the love of it. Their cultivation of food was so that they’d have it. It may have become a love, for the land, for the act, and that may have been passed on to their descendants. A few years ago, close to retirement age, my parents took up farming. My dad started out by studying agriculture in college and if his father hadn’t died when he was twenty, he might have stayed put in Texas and farmed with him. I know my parents feel a great tie to the land they inherited, and their present efforts at least partially spring from memories of place.
One of the vegetable dishes we ate with some regularity in the winter months of my childhood was canned green beans with canned new potatoes, and I loved it. (I think it’s safe to say this is the only canned vegetable dish I can speak about with animation, aside from canned spinach, and that’s another kind of animatedness entirely.) When I was deciding what to make for dinner, looking over the contents of my refrigerator, I took out the pound of beans and pound of fingerling potatoes, remembering that dish.
String Bean and Potato Succotash Salad
1 pound waxy potatoes, such as red potatoes or fingerling potatoes
1 pound string beans, trimmed
4 ears corn, shucked
1 shallot (or 2 scallions)
small handful of fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper
optional: feta cheese
Bring two large pots of salted water to boil over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes to one and the corn to the other. Remove the corn from its pot after 5 minutes, reserving water, and let it cool. Return the water the corn cooked in to a boil, and add the string beans. Cook until their color changes from bright green to a deeper green, 3-4 minutes. Rinse the cooked beans under cold water until cooled. When the potatoes are tender, after about 15 minutes, remove from the heat.
Cut the corn off the cobs and put the kernels in a large bowl. Cut the potatoes into chunks, and add them to the bowl with the corn, followed by the string beans. Add the olive oil, parsley and shallot, toss, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more oil if it seems dry. Divide onto four plates; sprinkle with optional feta as desired.
Yield: 4 as a main course; 6 as a side