An Ode to Summer Produce.
It’s summer again.
I know this not just because the calendar already tells me that June is on its last leg, or because the low light of dusk lasts until nearly 9 in the evening. It’s not the linen pants I’m giddy to wear, or even the (slightly) warmer weather.
No, it’s my appetite.
Summer has always been my favorite time of year. When I was young, my reasoning was obvious: summer meant nearly three months off from school. The summers of my youth were filled with vacations, trips to the neighborhood swimming pool with friends, impromptu sleepovers on a Tuesday night, and grilling in the backyard with my father.
Sure, when I think of summer now, I still anticipate the vacations, albeit they’re much shorter than they used to be–a quick weekend jaunt here and there. But when June hits, what I think about most are the fruits of the season.
Actually, I shouldn’t say I think about them so much as crave them. One whiff of the sweet, honeyed scent of a nectarine and my senses get thrown into overdrive. With apricots, plums and peaches hitting the market, all I crave is fruit, fruit, fruit.
And then there’s the tomatoes. It’s still a bit early for the ripest tomatoes, but the ones stacked tall at the markets in June hint of things to come. A promise. In the dead heat of summer, one of my favorite aromas is the stem of a freshly picked tomato. It is haunting, earthy–almost an aphrodisiac.
I can’t help feeling this way about the produce. It just happens. A few nights ago, for example, my dinner consisted of two plums, a string cheese from Horizon, a quarter pint of blueberries, and a whole tomato, sliced and dressed simply with balsamic vinegar, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a shaving of reggiano. Each item was its own course, and I loved it. I relished the differences between the two plums–one juicy and very sweet, the other crisp and tart, since it was less ripe.
With the blueberries, I gingerly popped each one into my mouth–daintily, as if they were tiny little bon bons–savoring the various individual textures and flavors of the fruit. A few, with a deeply concentrated, brambly flavor, reminded me of notes one could easily pick out of a Bordeaux. I wish you could bottle that flavor.
Dessert has never been my favorite course, but in the summer, one can’t help but be inspired by the fruit. I remembered last week my go-to summer standby dessert, which I had yet to make: a baked crumble using stone fruit. Oh, the thought of the crumble coming out of the oven, crisped and bubbling with the natural fruit juices oozing out of the crusts’ crevices…
How I love thee, summer.