Wednesday, August 28, 2013

One-pot summer garden pasta, for August.

August made me very tired. There was a lot of running on the treadmill, and this three-day class I had to take for work that was so in-depth and at times overwhelming, I actually felt dumber by the end. My sister and her family moved to Las Vegas. I attended a bunch of meetings, and made a mistake on our mortgage payment. Laundry. There is so much laundry, always, and it never gets done. The vacuum cleaner is currently standing in the middle of the living room, where it's been since Saturday when I decided to clean and then decided to stop without really finishing.

But that's enough about that. Let's talk about tomatoes now. Because even after coming home from a long day and feeling kind of crappy, plucking tomatoes from my garden always makes me feel better. Like today, when I drove an hour in the opposite direction of home after work to pick up my just-repaired Minolta, and drove an hour back in rush hour traffic, and still had to stop at the store for this Labor Day weekend's groceries, and the only thing I wanted to do was go home and eat dinner, it was the tomatoes that brought me from feeling-all-wound-up to feeling-great-about-life.

Here's what I did when I got home: I went straight for the backyard and picked a handful of fresh basil from the garden. I put a pot of water on the stove to boil. I washed and dried the basil, pulled a zucchini from the fridge, and sliced it into rounds. I grabbed a couple of tomatoes from the counter, picked just a few days ago and getting redder and riper as they sat, and chopped them up so that their juices spilled onto the cutting board and their red flesh practically shined like jewels. Into the pot, a single serving of angel hair pasta. Next, the zucchini rounds. Cooked, drained and slid into a big white bowl. I topped the pasta with the tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese, and a generous handful of roughly chopped basil.

Easy, one-pot summer garden pasta, guys. I brought it to the backyard to take a few pictures, and then sat down under our tree and ate. And then August wasn't so tiring anymore, but instead, just slow and relaxing. August became this single moment, sitting outside while the warm breeze hit my face, looking out at the garden from which I had just picked my dinner. The tomatoes so worth the wait -- worth this whole never ending month, really.

And now, I don't want it to end, ever.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Five years.

I'm not very good with birthdays. Last year, on Murdo's 30th , I brought him Indian food on my way home from work. And that was it. His birthday was so uneventful that year, in fact, that later he confessed he was almost sure the lack of celebration meant that something big had to happen by the end of the night. Oh, Murdo. I'm sorry. I continue to lay the blame on having just moved into our first house that very weekend, and starting my new job that very day. So at least when people ask what you did for your 30th, you can say, "I bought a house." I still think that's pretty impressive.

I made up for it this year by throwing Murdo a surprise party. He never saw it coming. Even after my insistence that we paint and decorate the guest bathroom the weekend before, and my vacuuming the bedroom in the middle of the week, and the way I avoided direct eye contact every time he asked when we were going to throw a housewarming party. After the party, during which we successfully surprised Murdo and entertained/fed nearly 50 people without getting rained out, I told him that lying to him is exhausting. He told me his head wasn't right for a week after -- I suppose when you find out everyone you know has been in on a big secret about you for a good two months, you start to question everything. Sorry, Murdo. But this time, not really.

All that to say, today is my blog's fifth birthday. In true me fashion, I don't typically make a big deal about my blog's birthday. I almost missed the first one, and then there was a cake one year, and last year I didn't even acknowledge it. But this year. If my blog were a child, she'd be starting kindergarten, a whole new world of learning and discovery just ahead. I like that.

To celebrate that, I bring popsicles. Made with fresh, juicy peaches. I got the recipe book and the popsicle molds from my sister, Jenny, on my own birthday back in March. She asked me yesterday how long I thought I'd keep my blog, and I said probably forever. Bold statement, I know, but as of right now, I can't see this space not in my life. I know I'm not here as regularly as I would like, writing and cooking and taking pictures and sharing. But it's comforting to know that my blog is always here, like a good friend who I may not talk to every day, or even every month, but every time I sit down to chat with her it's like nothing ever changed. Even though we've been through a lot together -- three jobs, one wedding and a husband, two apartments and a house, one niece and two nephews, two new cats, a cabinet full of baking pans, too many cameras and pictures taken to count.

But some things remain the same. The feel of the keyboard beneath my fingers as I type, the blank page filling with thoughts and ramblings, the images of food and life and people, the stories that accompany them. The comments from blog readers who have become familiar over the years, who I wouldn't hesitate to call friends. No matter how much life changes around me, as long as these things remain the same, then I can say with confidence:

Happy birthday, Happy Jack Eats. Here's to many, many more.

Fresh Peach Popsicles (from Ice Pops: Recipes for Fresh and Flavorful Frozen Treats by Shelly Kaldunski)

3 ripe medium peaches, about 1 lb, depitted and chopped
1/4 cup suguar
juice from 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
pinch of salt
1/4 cup water

Throw everything into a blender or food processor and blend until completely smooth. Divide mixture equally among ice pop molds. Be sure to leave about half an inch of space at the top, as the mixture will expand as it freezes. Cover and freeze at least 4 hours. If inserting your own sticks, put them into the molds after about an hour, when the pops are partially frozen. Then freeze for at least 3 more hours.

To remove the popsicle from the mold easily, run the mold under warm water for a few seconds.

And now, David Bowie. Because this song has been stuck in my head all day.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What happened in July.

So, July happened. I swear it did. I was there for it, doing July-like things, such as purchasing fireworks, wearing summer dresses, painting my toenails bright pink, eating blueberries, eating barbecue pork sandwiches, learning how to form hamburger patties that don't puff up on the grill, taking long after-dinner walks, discovering frozen chocolate custard with peanut butter and pretzels, napping in a hammock, watching a 15-month-old nephew laugh hysterically while being sprayed with a hose, making a 3-month-old nephew laugh at funny faces, drinking beer, watching our garden grow, wishing that the tomatoes would ripen already, picking zucchini while watching out for the garden's resident spider (his name is Boris), picking cilantro, picking basil, picking sage, picking thyme, picking oregano. Etc.

I can't believe how a July so full could pass so quickly.

In July, I realized that among the many things that I have equated with summer over the years (fireflies, thunderstorms, weekends spent on a boat in a lake in Michigan), summer now also means the smell of fresh herbs on my hands every evening. I love it.

The herbs go in pestos, pasta sauces, scrambled eggs. Mostly, I've been tossing them in a big Ziploc bag with broccoli, zucchini, olive oil and lemon juice, then handing the bag over to Murdo to throw the veggies on the grill. We eat the veggies alongside steak or burgers, and Murdo squirts Sriracha on his, and says things like, "I'm actually excited about the veggies." And that makes me happy.

So, now August is here. The tomatoes are finally starting to turn red (there's a big squishy heirloom that should be ready tomorrow or the next day, and for how long it's been hanging on that damn vine, I sure hope it tastes amazing). Murdo's dad dropped off two large brown paper bags at our front step today, filled with ears of corn straight from the farm. I think grilled corn with herb butter is in our very near future.

Also, I hope to be back here soon, with treats. And if not treats, then at least a few more words and photos, because even though I'm not in this space very often, I do think about it a lot and I'm always glad it's here, and it's time to celebrate that. While we're at it, let's start celebrating August, because summer is almost over but not yet, so we should be soaking it up as long as we can.