I always see summer this way. Memorial Day. 4th of July. Labor Day. Beginning. Middle. End. And after July is over, I shift into high gear. "End-of-the-summer-on-the-horizon gear." Here in San Luis Obispo, California farmers market on Thursday night is a BIG DEAL. To be perfectly honest with ya, it's really not my thing. Oh, I love, adore and live for fresh produce, but this Thursday night gig is another animal. And ALOT of people love it. My husband John loves it. So does my brother Mark and his wife Julie. But it is crowded and tends to have a circus like flair. There are dancers and puppets, bands and ballerinas, singers and skateboard contests. I just want tomatoes and squash. But I just file this one under the "be a good sport category", smile and suck it up.
It takes place on Higuera Street and on every corner there is a BBQ. And the lines are LONG. I just don't like waiting for an hour to get a bbqed hot dog. I'll bbq mine in my own backyard. Thank you.
But I did score BIG in the "kinda pumpkin department". It's a squash really. Shaped like a pumpkin and colored black and orange. Halloween enough for me. I'll take whatever I can get at this stage of the game. I LOVE Halloween...and this was my first taste of the glory that is to come.
For me though, walking home on Garden Street was the best part. The moon was almost full, the sun had sank over the hills, and as we walked along Garden Street...all the houses had their porch lights on. Their windows glowed giving me a peek inside. I wondered what they had for dinner. Meatloaf or spaghetti? Pot roast or swiss steak? And what were they doing now? Sewing a quilt? Reading the newspaper? Watching Top Chef?
As we rounded Chorro Street and headed up Upham Street my pace quickened as we got closer to my garden gate. It's been a long time since we've come home in the dark.
I already admitted I don't like the fair, dare I say I don't like summer too. I do like summer, its just that by the end of July I start thinking about fall. I already told you the BREAKING NEWS that Gopher Glen had opened for the 2009 apple season. I might not have been perfectly clear to all you non-locals what Gopher Glen actually is. There is a long tree lined road here that is called See Canyon... the road winds past apple orchards..my favorite thing... most of the farms have apples for sale..but none of them has the charm like Gopher Glen does.It is the last farm at the end of the road. I guess I am just not much of a summer gal. I don't like the beach (don't tell anybody) the sand, the suntan oil, the masses of people. I don't like waterskiing. I kinda like camping, but only when it's time to start supper.So while most people are off at Pismo Beach getting their summer tans, I am home. Waiting for Gopher Glen to open. "Its's Open"! I screamed. "Let's get Buddy and go" ! John and I never miss opening day. It's pretty big stuff around here. And we always go at 3 o' clock. I don't know how that got started. I like baking at 3 in the afternoon too. I like the way the house smells with something baking in the oven late in the afternoon. So maybe it's just a "3 o'clock thing".
As we take the drive up See Canyon, my mind goes to all the things I'll be making this fall. The crisps, cobblers, bettys, dumplings, turnovers and pies.
The anticipation of the glorious autumn days to come. And baking with all those apples.
I have a favorite cookbook called "DOWN HOME" by John Hadamuscin. It is out of print now, but am I glad I have it.
One of the first things I like to make every year is the Apples in Brown Sugar Sauce. Recipe adapted from DOWN HOME by John Hadamuscin
APPLES in BROWN SUGAR SAUCE
makes about 4 cups
Delicious with gingerbread pancakes. This can be made up to two days in advance.
4 cups peeled and sliced tart baking apples Juice of 1/2 a lemon 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 teaspoon cornstarch 1/2 cup apple juice or water
1. Combine the apples, lemon juice, sugar,and spices in a small heavy saucepan. Place over medium heat, stir until sugar is dissolved and bring the mixture to a simmer.Simmer until the apples are crisp-tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
2. In a small bowl combine cornstarch and apple juice or water and stir until smooth. Stir in a few tablespoons of liquid from the pan, stirring until smooth, then stir this mixture back into the saucepan.Simmer till thickened, 3 or 4 more minutes. Serve warm or chilled.
Some people crave chocolate, cookies, ice cream, Snickers, M&M's or Almond Joy. I crave focaccia. It started out innocently enough and at a very young age. As a child, we would go to Santa Cruz to visit Uncle Mill (Emillio) my aunt Rose who we all called Gog..I still to this day don't know what that means..and Noni, my great grandmother. Every Sunday we made the pilgrimage over Highway 17 from Los Gatos over to the beach. It took only 30 minutes, but when your 8...it felt like FOREVER. But it was worth it. We went for lunch, but it was more like dinner. And served at one o' clock. Uncle Mill always had something on the grill. Usually lamb or pork. Gog and Noni would be in the kitchen making the raviolis. The pasta stretched into long thin sheets, filled with swiss chard from the garden, ricotta and herbs. After the raviolis were boiled, they were slid into a big earthenware bowl and dressed with just butter and sage. And then, the best part. The focaccia. All salty and both crunchy and soft. One bite, and a lifelong love was born.
It's country fair time here on the Central Coast of California. And everyone is excited about it. Except me. I'm going to say it. I don't like it. There. I used to love it. But that was "back then". When it was "old fashioned and farmy". Today, it's all about the "big entertainment". People pushing and shoving to see Carrie Underwood or Tim McGraw. Don't get me wrong. I actually like country music. But it is not what the fair that I know and love brings to mind. My mind goes to canned goods. Not Tim McGraw. I loved looking at all the vegetables in jars. Jars filled with corn relish, chow-chow, green beans, dill pickles and beets. And the jam and jelly..Oh, please, don't even get me started in that department. I didn't just admire all the jewel toned jars, I swooned. I think part of what I liked so much was imagining what the kitchens looked like from where theses treasures where made. Red gingham curtains flapping in the warm summer breeze, an old Wedgewood stove with the jars bouncing and rattling in the hot water, a peach pie cooling on the windowsill. And the lady in charge...she had not just come from getting a manicure..you can be assured. Nope, she's been out in the garden. Picking lemon cucumbers to have sliced alongside the meatloaf that she is making for dinner. Dressed in a short sleeved Ship-N-Shore blouse, denim pull-me-up pants and Keds.
My other favorite part was the garden vegetables. The huge orange pumpkins, the green beans, tomatoes, beets...but really and truly for me..it was all about the corn. All the different kinds just fascinated me. Still does. They way they were all layed out on the tables. Silver Queen, country gentleman, peaches & cream, honey & cream, kandy korn, early & often, golden bantam, sweet summer, sugar pearl, corn maple sugar. I am wondering if it is the corn I loved....or the names.
I have planted corn every summer since I was in kindergarten. No matter where I have lived, always...even if it meant the front yard in order to get the good south facing sun. I am in love with corn. Just the other day I heard mine rustling in the garden and I raced to turn down my KJUG radio so I could listen to that instead.
So this year, once again, I'll sit out the fair. I'd rather be home. Watering my corn.
I don't know what it is but I have a thing for squirrels. I always have. When we lived in Cambria my house was named "Squirrel Cottage". You have to be careful with a love like that. It invites trouble. Have you seen those squirrel salt and pepper shakers of the vintage variety? There must be a thousand different versions of those things. And I think I have all of 'em. Birthdays and holidays are potential land mines when it comes to squirrel love. There is squirrel everything. And I have seen it all ! Squirrel tee shirts, aprons, tea towels, pot holders, tablecloths, candles, pajamas, slippers, socks, garden art of all kinds, books with squirrels, pictures of squirrels and even..hey..squirrel cookies. Yep, and I am to blame for that. I was asked to bake some one year for a wildlife Christmas tree and now I knew I had to pay. The recipe below is from a book called " The Blessing Of Toads " by Sharon Lovejoy.
These cookies are for squirrels and birds..but I like 'em too. We don't live in Cambria anymore...but I still have secret squirrel love.
Hang these treats from tree boughs for squirrels to nibble on.
Makes 2 dozen cookies.
1 cup butter,softened 1/3 cup granulated sugar 1 egg 2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (toasted almonds,peanuts,walnuts or pecans) 1/2 cup cornmeal
Heat oven to 350 degrees F Cream butter, sugar and egg together Stir in flour and nuts and mix well Shape into balls the size of walnuts Place on ungreased cookie sheet Place cornmeal in a small bowl Dip the bottom of a drinking glass into the cornmeal, then flatten the dough balls with bottom of glass With a straw, make a hole near the center of each cookie Bake for 14 to 16 minutes Place cookies on a rack to cool String twine through holes and hang cookies from branches
Here on the Central Coast of California we have just been issued a heat warning. Temperatures are to exceed 100 degrees in the next few days. Lucky for me, I don't live in Paso Robles where it can reach as high as 112 degrees or more. Here in San Luis Obispo we will reach 90..maybe 100. But on the bright side, my tomatoes love it, and they are coming on now. More everyday. And I don't know what it is, but these tomatoes are even better than the ones in the farmers market. They are the kind that you picked as a kid and popped in your mouth while they were still warm. That "Hot Pop" of tomato in your mouth..juice running down your chin kinda tomato. Walking past the plants late in the afternoon you get that "tomato smell".
The other day while when I was in Barnes and Noble I picked up the summer issue of "Culture" the word on cheese. What a great magazine. Now I want to try making homemade cheese. I think I'll start with mozzarella...and work my way up from there.
Tonight I am making eggplant parmesan..using my tomatoes from the garden. And if I had it together..the mozzarella would be made by me.
the night will never stay, the night will still go by, though with a million stars you pin it to the sky; though you bind it with the blowing wind, and buckle it with the moon, the night will slip away like sorrow or a tune.