I’ve learned some things since becoming a food writer. Discovered. Realized. Over the next few posts I’ll share them. Today? Things that still cause me to get up out of my chair and actually take action.
Summer Produce.Ignore the ongoing restaurant drama, the most exciting thing going in the Charlottesville food scene is the PLETHORA of summer produce. We’re bursting at the seams people! If you ain’t partaking in our bounty, you’re missing out. You haven’t gone to Chile’s or Carter’s Mountain, or the local farmer’s market yet? What’re you waiting for? Do you know how many people in DC would give their eyeteeth to have a gazillion local farms and sources for fresh food right outside their door? This is high season folks, get out there and bite a peach!
Summer produce is the most flavorful and delicious when it’s in season. RIGHT NOW. Cut up a tomato, sprinkle it with some olive oil and salt, and start eating. Sauté fresh chard in olive oil. Boil up some ears of corn, slather them in butter, and tell me that isn’t just the best thing you’ve ever devoured.
Keep preparation simple and let the flavors come through, plus it doesn’t heat up your kitchen to Hades. There is seriously nothing better than a fresh peach cut up in a bowl with some Greek yogurt. So sweet it doesn’t need honey. Healthy, simple, and cheap. This is the stuff that’s going to bring me outta my funk. Winter produce here is special, but the summer stuff? It’s gold.
Dried Beans.Canned beans suck. They just do. Sure, they’re convenient and quick, but they’re mushy, salty, tasteless. Trust me on this. Dried beans beat it all over canned. Mark Bittman is right on the money when he talks about this in The Food Matters Cookbook. Dried beans are sweet, a helluva lot cheaper per pound, and not a lot of work. Soak them overnight in a bowl, then simmer on the stove with a little salt and a lid for an hour, 2 at the most. You can keep the heat on low, and never have to watch it. I’ve started a pot of soaked chickpeas when I get home at 5pm, and they’re ready for homemade hummus no later than 6:30pm. There’s no better light dinner when it’s 100 degrees outside than homemade hummus on a cracker:
Lemony Hummus1 cup chickpeas
lemon juice (to your liking)
1 clove garlic (more if you like garlic breath)
Few dashes of green Tabasco
Blend it all in a food processor, switching it up to taste. I like mine lemony and less garlicky. Soak and cook black beans for black bean dip, cook white beans for Italian white bean dip. With the dewpoint hovering at 73 and 95 degrees, I’ve decreed this the summer of dips. Great on grilled bread as an appetizer as well.
My Garden.I don’t care what kind of day I’m having, all I need is to look out my back door to my container garden to feel better. Rows of herbs, tomatoes, peppers, chard, mustard greens, kale and sunflowers bob the tops of their green heads back at me in the sweltering heat and I am calmed. Sounds silly, but I made all that happen. All that tedious planting of those tiny seeds while watching the NCAA basketball finals back in March paid off. There’s nothing like fresh chard you grew yourself. Leaves so tender you can use them in place of lettuce in sandwiches. A taste so GREEN you feel as if your mouth is a superhero because it can really taste colors. Very satisfying. And the anticipation when you see those first few tomato-lettes on the vine? Always exciting.
Zynodoa.I’ve reviewed this restaurant recently, but I must say it again, Zynodoa continues to excite and amaze me. Ate there recently as part of The Hubby’s birthday dinner, and once again, the meal was stellar. Perfect. Even the sides looked and tasted like complete dishes in and of themselves. Not just some pile of veggies thrown in for color, but REAL, ACTUAL dishes that took careful thought and planning. Fried softshell crabs served alongside smoked potato salad and eggplant puree. Um, wait.......EGGPLANT?!??! But it worked. And worked in spades. Light, lemony, with a strong taste of green Italian parsley that gave an herbal flavor which paired perfectly with the fried saltiness of the crab. Bite into that softshell and not only do you taste crab, but the fresh brininess of the sea. The best I’ve ever had in my whole freaking life. I’ll say it again, Zynodoa delivers. Every. Single. Time.
What’s got you excited about food lately? What do you want to scream about from the rooftops?
In other news, thanks to everyone for your words of encouragement... Tweet