The Summer Album

Summer in its mostly simple and very delicious glory.

I held on to our Hawaiian adventures for perhaps a little bit too long, and the balmy months on this end of the country were overshadowed. There was a party. There was, of course, food, lots of food.  I have a few words to share, then we can move on to the beauty of late that is the sweet spot between dog days and holidays.
Note: There’s a 3-ingredient, dairy-free root beer float recipe at the bottom if you’re more in an eating mood than a reading mood.

June: A Party

Untitled-8.fw

Dedicated in its entirety to a restaurant celebration of epic proportion in honor of the celebration the month prior. I think I’ll save the deets for another time. Though I will say, folks hailing from far and wide raved about the food and were largely in high spirits, so it was deemed a success. The morning after we, overconfident in our ability to recover from the night before, decided on an open house for our guest consisting of mostly-Turkish breakfast and a nice array of the best donuts in town. Another success! And, I must add, the realization that my husband is indeed the host who makes the best iced coffee in town.

By the end of this month, I needed  to be cared for. A return to some sense of normalcy. I started to cook more. Oh, and I changed my name. Now you wanna talk bizarre…

July: A Nose-to-Tail Introduction

Clockwise, from the left: Figs, Liver, and Onions, Plum Tarte, Head Cheese, Seared Beef Heart, Fried Zucchini Blossoms, and Veal Liver Bordelaise
Clockwise, from the left: Figs, Liver, and Onions, Plum Tart, Head Cheese, Seared Beef Heart, Fried Zucchini Blossoms, and Veal Liver Bordelaise

I’m never one to celebrate summer in the city; The heat is sometimes-suffocating, and the smells…never mind the smells. Most sneak away come Friday evening to the oasis of the seashore, but some of us press on, reveling in the empty streets left behind. July shed its negative reputation and proved itself to be so rich. The farmer’s markets burst with the brightest colors of berries, stone fruits, and all the vegetables representative of the peak of Pennsylvania’s growing season.

Making my best effort to find inspiration rather than frustration from my dietary restrictions. I got creative. I made pies and tarts and all sorts of stove-top masterpieces that were free of wheat, eggs, and dairy. Imagine that! Pushing ourselves further in an attempt to find an affordable way to incorporate the quality of meat we know best for us, we dabbled in the world of nose-to-tail eating aka offal. We learned many lessons from this experiment:

  1. Most Americans are missing out on a whole world of delectable fare.
  2. It takes work, craft, and time to transform these unwanted pieces into something beautiful.
  3. You save an absurd amount of money buying these often-wasted cuts.

I am still not yet confident to serve this semi-alternative fare to guests. Unless I have a volunteer?

August: WastED

august.fw
“Wasted” Gluten-Free Lavender Peach Tart

August saw more cooking and more focus on reinventing our approach to food after finishing Dan Barber’s The Third Plate. Oh, that book. It was a slow start, but after I got going it read like a thriller. It reaffirmed our attempts from July to expand our minds a bit when it came to keeping a healthy, sustainable diet, and supporting the people that make that possible without us ourselves getting our hands dirty. It also brought to light so many issues that have further shaped my attitude towards the necessity for real change. In other words, this book is everything a book should be and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Dan Barber leads a charge against food waste called WastedNY. It strives to bring awareness to the fact that creative cuisine is almost always born out of the “scraps”. Fresh in my mind, I found a vendor at the Rittenhouse Market that week after week struggled to sell luscious peaches because they had been damaged by an early season hail storm. As a result, they were handed off for a bargain and I made a (Gluten-free) Peach Tarte with Lavender Crust that goes down in the record books for one of my favorite creations. Now if only I could get better at jotting down those damn ingredients and ratios.

September: My First Root Beer Float

Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA
Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA

The last of the seemingly never-ending summer days brings a sort of bitter-sweet end to the season. Early in the month, for a very belated celebration, we ventured on a perfect day-trip out to Longwood Gardens. While the crowds are indeed heavy, there are so many sweet escapes among the beautiful meadow and in the forest at the back of the property, that it is such a worthwhile visit. A secret: Across the street is a picnic area where there are grills and an umbrella of trees that make for the perfect lunch spot.

The last weekend brought some welcome excitement to our fair city as Pope Francis came for a wee visit. The streets were bare of cars and studded with National Guard and others brought in for the occasion. It was all a little ridiculous as the crowds paled in comparison to expectation, but it made for quite the vacation from chaos for those of us who stuck around. That weekend was an experience that won’t leave us. There was a feeling of positivity and excitement all around, that reminded me further that hope and belief are both rather universal.

In between I focused on me and my health as I visited a functional medicine doctor, a medical doctor dedicated to finding the root cause of illness. It was just one visit, but 90 minutes later I had confidence we would find answers. It did, however, bring me face-to-face with the reason for my avoidance: fear and discomfort. No answers as of the time of posting, but a step in the direction of my long-neglected health.

Vegan Root Beer Float and Rice Noodles with Edamame and Sesame
Dairy-free Root Beer Float and Rice Noodles with Edamame and Sesame

My birthday I was reminded (as if I need a reminder) of the sweet man I was so fortunate to marry almost a half-year ago. Armed with the Plenty More Cookbook by Ottolenghi (another must-have), he treated me to a custom-feast fit for royalty (and my plethora of dietary needs). Oh, was I spoiled! Two beautiful dishes, one a roasted eggplant and the other a rice noodle dish, followed by a surprise dessert that completely blew me away:

A Dairy-Free Root Beer Float

You will need:
~3 bananas, frozen then left on the counter for ~5 minutes prior to making
1 tsp vanilla
1 bottle Virgil’s Root Beer, cold
2 mason jars

To make:
Add bananas and vanilla to a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour half of the root beer in each jar. Using a large spoon, add as much soft-serve as you’d like.

Looking Forward:

We celebrate my sweet’s big day this month and eight years since we first met. I find out the results of my medical tests taken last month and commit myself to necessary change, dietary and otherwise, in those that follow.

I’m going to take care of myself now. I’m going to allow myself to dive back into the routines and joy that fell away over the better half of the past year. I’m going to light a little fire and look and push forward. I’m going to not only allow but push myself to do something great, something unique, something me. It’d probably be a good idea if you did the same.


A few resources for the curious:
June: Party Vendors
Monsu Restaurant
Federal Donuts
Flowers
July: Local Philadelphia Farms (Meat)
Beef
Veal
Pork
September: Day trip
Longwood Gardens

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