I took my Mac to the Apple store recently because I was notified that its serial number was one marked as having a hard drive that could potentially fail. I dropped it off, a new hard drive was installed free of charge by the next day, and I was able to restore all the data I had conveniently backed up on an external hard drive. It sounds like not much effort was made on my part to get things back up and running, but I spent the better part of several days organizing what was in my files, reviewing my ridiculous number of photographs, and making sure I had them backed up in several different places. As much as I could tell the young man behind the counter at the Genius Bar that, yes, I’ve got everything backed up, I still worried.
If you’ve been reading here for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve come across at least one comment I’ve made about squash in general. It’s something I didn’t learn to like until I was in my early twenties with two babies at home and a small garden that produced zucchini the size of battleships. I became quite adept at figuring out what to do with those behemoths, and more importantly, our resources were meager, so being creative with squash became a fascination in general.
It seems like that was a few lifetimes ago, and since then, although I continue to learn about and experiment with different kinds of squash, I am always amazed to find how good it really is even with very little preparation.
When the friend I was visiting recently on my trip east graciously allowed me to prepare dinner my last night with her, she volunteered to make a veggie side dish which happened to be squash. She used a julienne peeler tool I’ve had in my kitchen for several years and have been less than successful with to slice some zucchini she’d purchased from a roadside stand that day.
I’ve only recently tried spaghetti squash and love it, but this was so much more easy — no baking required! And yes, it really did remind me of pasta if I need to say that.
Have you tried squash prepared this way before?
It really doesn’t get hot where I live until August. I spend each summer quietly enjoying our temperate weather, often more chilly than some would like. And so when we invite them to our house for dinner, we tell them to bring sweaters and then snicker about it because the idea of needing a sweater on a gorgeous 65 degree evening is funny. The doors to our patio and several large windows are open all the time to allow the fresh air in so it’s usually cool in our house — the way I like it.
I often hear others say they don’t like salad. My first reaction is, really? How can someone not like salad? And then I wonder if the person is suffering from the idea that salad involves a head of lettuce and a few tomatoes slathered in bottled white creamy dressing and understand. That would get old quickly. But salad doesn’t have to involve lettuce. I think the first time the idea of salad without lettuce was presented to me was when we lived in Spain. Thinly sliced onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes were arranged on a big plate and drizzled with a light dressing of water, vinegar, and olive oil and sprinkled with salt. It was delicious. Over the years, each time my mother made this salad, she added sliced red and green peppers to the mix and would allow it to sit so the vegetables could marinate a bit. We loved this salad in the summer, picking at it as we went in and out of the house on hot days. The crunchy, briny vegetables were always a treat and we never tired of them prepared that way.
We eat salad all year long unless I’m going through one of my lazy streaks when doing something a bit different with a salad takes more time than I am interested in giving it. That’s deplorable when you consider that it doesn’t take much to be creative if you’ve got the right ingredients on hand — and I usually do. We’re lucky to have an extremely long growing season here, and with Mexico just to the south, are able to benefit from what is grown there when it isn’t available here. Our farmer’s markets keep locally grown vegetables and fruit available every day of the week in communities around San Diego all year long so there’s no excuse not to be creative with a salad.
Some of our favorite flavor combinations are derived from classic combos: basil, tomato and mozzarella; tomato, avocado, jalapenos, and cilantro; bacon, lettuce, tomato, and blue cheese; cucumbers, onions, roasted peppers, kalamatas, and feta. When we want to add something more substantial to our salads, then prosciutto is added to the basil tomato combo. Grilled shrimp, chicken, or steak can be added to the second. White beans added to the third. It’s fun to mix and match everything sometimes to make sure there’s a nice balance of crunch to creamy, and tart to sweet.
In the extreme heat of summer, a good salad can be a one dish meal. All you need is fresh tender crisp ingredients, a good vinaigrette and a bit of creativity.
If you’re just home from work and not relishing the idea of prepping all the vegetables then get all the ingredient possibilities out of the fridge and put everyone to work. Pour a cool beverage to sip while you’re prepping and talk about the day. If you’ve got picky eaters in the house, the place the ingredients in separate bowls, salad bar style — but make the best possible combo on a plate first and allow the others to see it to give them the idea of what is possible. Make a big deal over the art of a perfectly loaded fork. If you don’t have converts after a few sessions, then at least you’ll have had fun in the process.
This simple green bean corn and tomato salad is a simple combination of summer vegetables that is perfect for a barbeque, picnic, or just to have ready for a hot day when even plugging in the slow cooker is more than you can deal with.
I like to think I’ve always enjoyed vegetables — especially those others would prefer didn’t exist, let alone show up on their dinner plates. The what are those, how does one prepare them, cook, or eat them vegetables. But my perspective was limited early on by what so many of ours has been: the availability and affordability of certain types of fresh vegetables as well as what our mothers actually served us.
Which brings me to beets.
The only beet I recall sitting on my dinner plate was a deep magenta slice of somewhat gelatinous matter not too unlike the canned cranberry sauce sliced and served at our holiday turkey dinners. It was smaller in circumference and served with iceberg lettuce suggesting it was a salad. My mother might tell me otherwise, but I’d also venture a guess cottage cheese was involved — or something white — and remembering our fridge, know that had to be it. Creamy, soft goat’s cheese, salty feta, or crumbly cotija would not have been regulars in our cheese drawer which housed my stepfather’s sacred box of Velveeta, a wax-covered package of American cheese slices, and a green can of Kraft Parmesan.
I never learned to enjoy the taste or texture of those beets, an odd combination of sour and sweet and something I thought should be warm instead of cold. Years and years would pass before I learned of how one friend enjoyed them — from jars with spooned sauce drizzled over a homemade chicken pot pie hot from the oven. I can hear her now singing the dish’s praises with the accent her small town Texas roots provided her, and remember watching the respective juices ooze and mingle across the bowl she served the meal in.
I did not want a bite regardless of how happy she was about the idea and suspect she knew it was an odd favorite, goading me to take a bite. I loved her in spite of that beet fiasco because don’t we all have at least one oddball of a dish we secretly enjoy?
Since that time, I’m embarrassed to admit that as much as I realize how good beets are for my body, I still have not quite learned to fully enjoy them. I see them among the other vegetables I routinely purchase and pass them by unless I see rainbow beets, or golden beets. Somehow their beautiful color tempts me to stop and wonder an extra second or two before I give in and throw them in the basket, giving them the benefit of my persistent doubt. But rarely do I consider picking up a bunch of red beets unless I’ve seen a recipe somewhere that suggests I might reconsider trying them. And I’m still reconsidering, because I do try them, then decide not to share the recipe. What favorable comments might I make when the recipe isn’t what’s lacking, but my palate?
Beets leave me thinking that sure, the flavor is okay, and possibly bordering on pleasant, but I can’t shake the memory of those Harvard beets years ago sitting on my lettuce and making everything pink. We’ll call this salad made of roasted golden beets with arugula and sorrel picked from my sad excuse of an herb box a truce of sorts. My continuing attempt to enjoy beets.
I’m not quite there yet, but maybe.