The heat of July can feel oppressive and overwhelming. I forget what it’s like to be cold. Even on the cooler days the humidity drenches us with sweat. July feels like a month to get through. But, we’re at the end of it. We did it.
August has always felt gentler, the breeze cooler and more refreshing. Less like hot breath, more like a cool caress.
The past two weekends have been hot hot hot. All fans on all the day, move as little as possible, ice cubes melt in minutes. The only good thing about it is that the tomatoes and basil like it. The arugula that I grew way too much of doesn’t seem to care either way. It survived winter, it’s thriving in summer, what doesn’t it like?!
I tried to grow Butter Lettuce. Not a single seed sprouted. What even am I doing wrong?! The thing I want to grow won’t, the thing I don’t is so abundant that it’s choking out other plants. That feels very 2020 of it.
Tim has declared that he hates arugula. I’m trying to trick myself into liking it. If I eat it often enough will I start to enjoy it? My friend, Madie, eats it from the garden while we stand six feet apart and chat in the sun.
Arugula is ok when it’s well balanced. As I was eating this salad the other day I could taste the earthiness of the beet greens, the spice from the arugula, and sharpness from the pickled onions. It was smoothed out by sweetness from raisins and balsamic vinegar, finished by smooth peppery olive oil and salty almonds. Some leftover salmon elevated it to a filling meal.
Some things are my best enjoyed on their own: chocolate ice cream, crispy bacon, cherry tomatoes still warm from the sun. They’re great as food pals, but they don’t need any help from anyone. Arugula isn’t there yet. But, Madie, I’ll always have some plain arugula growing in my garden just for you. You can have that while I enjoy my ice cream. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Arugula Salad with Raisins and Salmon
arugula, spinach, beet greens, and baby kale, torn into bite sized pieces
chopped roasted and salted almonds
cooked salmon (or crispy tofu)
Toss the greens. Top with pickled onions, raisins, almonds, and salmon. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Serve with crusty bread that’s been toasted and slathered with butter and jam and a glass of rosé if you’re feeling those summer vibes.
I have so much to say that I feel as though I might burst. My thoughts seem to tumble about and get muddied because there are too many to organize. I don’t know where to start.
I guess I’ll begin here. In the garden.
I feel like I should be talking about something other than plants and seeds and watering schedules. But, right now the world is showing me that there’s not a lot of joy out there. So, I’m going to share something that brings me a bit of happiness in the midst of turmoil.
I’ve been growing vegetables for years. My first garden was planted in hard-packed sandy dirt. It was at the top of the driveway of the second Central California house that Tim and I lived in during our second year of marriage. It resulted in five foot tall tomato plants with more fruit than we could eat. It was glorious.
The next garden was in raised beds set on a cement patio in our third house. That garden’s potato yield was incredible. A year or so later we moved again. This time to an apartment in Southern California. We brought a few of the garden boxes along with us and tried to grow herbs and tomatoes. They were always covered by a thin layer of soot from the nearby freeway. But, the real thwarmp that killed them was when the landlord renovated the unit above us and blew tiny paint droplets out the window and all over the garden. I was furious. I demanded to be compensated for the loss. I was. But, it didn’t fix the ruined garden. A couple of years later we moved into a house with a small front yard that served as our outdoor space. We put the garden boxes on the tiny cement patio. I was able to coax some tomatoes and basil to grow, but not much else. The next year I grew one acorn squash and some basil, but the tomatoes got blight.
We finally gave up on Burbank’s insane cost of living and moved to the East coast. Going from an almost year round growing season to one that’s about four months long has been a challenge. Last year I got three tomatoes. Total. And they were green when I picked them the day before the first frost. Green beans have grown well for me in this climate. My hope this summer is for jars and jars of dilly beans. I made some last year and they were delicious. I’d wanted to make pickles again too, but something has eaten all of my cucumber plants. Last year’s pickling cucumbers produced enough to can two quart sized jars. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that that probably won’t happen this year.
Of all the gardens we’ve had, this one is my favorite. Last summer Tim worked so hard to build it. He cemented eight foot posts to keep the fence strong and the deer out, buried the coated chicken wire a foot deep to deter pests, and made it as perfect as I could have hoped for. This summer we’ve added solar powered lights, an umbrella that Tim found at the dump, and mulch to cover the weed mat that lined our pathways. We’ve planted sunflowers, nasturtiums, and morning glories around the perimeter of the garden. Some hanging in pots, some in the ground. I had great hopes that the English peas would grow up the sunflowers. But, the sunflowers have had a rough spring. The same thing that’s eaten my cucumbers seems to like them too.
Whether or not the cucumbers survive, the sunflowers grow, or the tomatoes produce, in the garden is one of my favorite places to be. Nature is great, from a distance. I don’t like to hike or be outdoorsy. So this little space is just perfect for me.
I don’t know if this is where we will stay for years and years. It’s been a tough place to fit in and feel like we belong. That doesn’t mean we should leave. I love lots of things about where we are. The main thing being my home with Tim and Brando. They are not specific to this place. Home is where we are together. For now, this little piece of the East coast is it. And we’ve built a glorious garden to play in during the warm months.
Yesterday I picked some greens to use in a salad for lunch. It’s so simple that it doesn’t require a recipe. Here are the basics:
Simple Garden Salad
greens (arugula, spinach, beet, baby kale)
fresh herbs (basil) (parsley and chives could be great too)
seeds (pepitas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds) (chopped nuts would be great too)
homemade dressing (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a splash of maple syrup, dijon mustard, and salt)
Wash the greens well. Tear into bite sized pieces.
Sprinkle the greens with seeds and drizzle with dressing. Top with fried eggs or crispy tofu. I like my eggs over medium: whites cooked, yolks still runny so that they become a second dressing. Sprinkle some Black Urfa Chili* and Maldon salt on the eggs or tofu.
Serve alongside last night’s reheated leftovers.
*Black Urfa Chili is an affiliate link, which means that I get a small commission for any sales generated from referrals.
Monday was a very bad day. Tuesday morning started out kinda the same. Remnants of the crappy yesterday had stuck around. I hadn’t been this angry about something in a while.
My response to crisis is usually food. Food is comfort. That can lead to mindless eating. But, sometimes it leads to a really good breakfast that makes for a better start to the day.
I had cereal for lunch with zero plans for dinner. But, at least breakfast was good.
I started it simply, with chopped bell pepper and some minced cayenne pepper from the garden. I don’t know why they didn’t turn red. But, the seed pack said cayenne, so that’s what they are.
You could add a million other things in there too. Leftover potatoes, chopped onions, broccoli, leftovers from last night’s dinner… pretty much any veggies you think would be great probably will be.
After the peppers cooked in some oil for a few minutes I added some beans. I had pinto on hand. Yum. Black beans would also be great. And if all you have are kidney, or cannellini, use them! Why not?!
After the beans got hot, I added some whisked eggs. To keep it vegan, add in some crumbled tofu. Easy.
I took a pic of the tortilla being topped. It looked not amazing. The eggs had turned a bit grey from being cooked with everything else. If you want them to look amazing and yellow, scramble them separately. And then wash that extra dish. Yeah. No thank you. Less dishes is always the best option.
I laid out the tortillas, topped them with a handful of cheese, then the bean mixture. I used a mixture of cheddar and monterey jack, but if you’re going vegan, my favorite is Violife (just like cheddar or just like mozzarella shreds are great!). They got rolled up and then, the best part. A clean skillet with hot oil, cook that burrito on all sides until it’s shatteringly crisp. Yes please!
For topping or dipping, I like avocado with a bit of salt, and some sour cream. Tim likes salsa. Some people might like cilantro or some diced tomatoes.
However you serve them, they’re pretty quick and easy and make for a great start to the day.
Yields 3 burritos
1 tablespoon oil (I used grapeseed)
1/2 of a medium-sized bell pepper, diced (could also use: onion, cooked potatoes, cubanelle pepper, broccoli… whatever you have on hand)
1/2 of a small hot pepper (I used cayenne), ribs and seeds removed, minced
pinch of salt
1-14 ounce can of beans (pinto or black), drained
4 eggs or half a brick of firm tofu
a little more salt
sprinkle of chili powder
handful of shredded cheese for each burrito, vegan (I like Violife) or conventional (I like a mixture of cheddar and monterey jack)
3 burrito-sized tortillas (whole wheat, white, or gluten-free)
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, hot pepper, and any other veggies, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the veggies are tender, about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans and cook until the beans are heated through, about 4 minutes.
Whisk the eggs, or crumble the tofu, in either case, with a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of chili powder. Add to the skillet with the beans and cook until eggs are set or tofu is hot (or you can cook the eggs separately if you want them to stay yellow – have fun washing that extra pan). Taste for seasoning.
Top each tortilla with some cheese. Divide the bean filling between the tortillas and roll them up.
In a clean skillet, add a bit of oil and crisp up the burritos, turning until they’re golden brown and delicious.
I was kinda slow to get on the avocado toast bandwagon. It was so trendy that it got annoying. But, now, I love it. Ugh. It’s probably not trendy anymore. Kinda like skinny jeans. I was late there too. Now I wear them and have no idea if they’re still in style.
You know the part in You’ve Got Mail where they’re stuck in the elevator and Parker Posey says “Arghh! Where are my Tic Tacs?!?!” I feel like her when I say “ugh”.
I usually top avocado toast with a fried egg. But, it didn’t sound good today. I’m trying to get better at listening to myself. Not just eating things because I want them or because they’re there. I’m also trying to be better at having grace for the times when I do. It’s ok. All things in moderation, including moderation… I think Julia Child said that. Gosh I like her!
I had a bruised avocado and a tomato with a bad spot. Perfect. They go well together. I try to keep lots of seeds on hand. They are perfect for topping things like oatmeal, salads, and to put in granola. They also go well on avocado toast.
Today I went for chia, sunflower, sesame, and flax. Plus I added some hemp hearts that have been in the freezer since the last house, but are somehow just fine.
I mixed everything together with a bit of olive oil, some omega 3 oil (Brando and I have started taking it daily), salt, pepper, and Italian hot salt. I had micro greens from a sample at work that went under the avocado mixture. Maldon salt that went over top. Perfect. Done.
You don’t really need a recipe. Use this as a loose guideline.
2 slices bread, toasted
1-2 avocados, mashed (I can eat a whole one myself)
1 plum tomato (or whatever you have on hand), diced (seeded if it’s super juicy)
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon roasted and salted sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon hemp hearts
1 tablespoon flax seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
pinch Italian Hot Salt (or cayenne)
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Omega 3 oil (optional)
a handful of microgreens
Maldon salt, for topping
Mix together the avocado through omega 3 oil.
Top the toasted bread with sprouts and the avocado mixture. Top with a pinch of Maldon salt.
I’m sitting here shoveling this food into my face hole and I keep wondering what that B.O. smell is… Oh. It’s the unused scallions. Why even do they smell like that?! It’s kinda gross.
Not quite as yucky as dog toots, rotten stuff, or humidity. But, off-putting none-the-less.
Speaking of humidity, it’s kinda warm and rainy and humid today. Buuuuuut, tomorrow it’s gonna be in the 50s, Friday night it could freeze, and that, plus the blanket of leaves on our lawn, is making it feel like fall. Which makes me want to eat all the soup and bake all the things.
Today I baked an apple cake and some sandwich bread. I also roasted cauliflower for my lunch, even though what I really wanted were the Red and Green Enchiladas that I made a few weeks ago. But, I don’t have any tortillas and I didn’t want to go to the store or make them. I had the oven on and a bit of time before while the bread rose. I figured I should do something with the very old cauliflower that I’d forgotten about in the crisper. I tossed it with olive oil and salt and let it roast for a while.
I had frozen the leftover farro from the Kale and Farro salad that I made at the beginning of September. It was thawed and in the fridge, ready to be used. I added it to the baking sheet when the cauliflower was browned and delicious. Plus the stinky scallions, a smidge more salt, some Italian Hot Salt, and a grind of black pepper. It just needed to get warm and a bit crispy.
I’m sorry I said “stinky scallions”. That doesn’t make things sound delicious.
I wanted one more element, so I fried an egg in butter and popped it on top. Over-medium, so the yolk could run through the farro. Everything got topped with some local Sriracha and a bit of Maldon salt.
You could skip the egg and top it with a plomp of Fabanaise, to make it vegan. You could use brown rice, barley, or bulgur wheat instead of farro (maybe quinoa?? not sure how it would do – it could end up as tiny crispy bits… nope, that still sounds delicious). Just adjust your baking time accordingly. If you have broccoli, that would be perfect, carrots might be great, you could even use those green beans that are still growing in your garden. Treat this recipe as a starting point. Remember, you’re the boss of your meal. Make it how you want.
Roasted Grain Bowls
1 small head cauliflower, core removed, chopped into medium-sized pieces
1 1/2 T olive oil
1/2 t salt, divided
2 C cooked farro (can sub: brown rice, barley, or bulgur wheat)
1/2 T chopped scallions
freshly ground black pepper
Italian Hot Salt (or a pinch of cayenne)
1/2 T unsalted butter or olive oil (optional)
2 eggs (optional)
Sriracha, for serving
Maldon salt, for serving
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
Toss the cauliflower with the olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Roast, turning once, until cauliflower is tender and browned, about 30 minutes (time may vary depending on your oven).
Add the farro, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, the scallions, black pepper, and Italian Hot Salt or cayenne. Toss with the cauliflower. Bake until the farro is hot and a bit crispy, about 5 minutes.
Fry the eggs in hot butter to desired doneness.
Divide the farro and cauliflower mixture between two plates and top each with a fried egg, some Sriracha, and some Maldon salt.