Eating Local for Urban Families. Gluten-free and Dairy-free, too!

Saturday, September 26

Kicking and Screaming

I will never understand why, when those last days of August come into view, people wish for the end of summer and can't wait for fall. Their giddiness over cooler days, cozy nights by the fire, chunky sweaters is understandable, I guess, but I'd still rather be half-naked, outside, in the sun.

Maybe people succumb to this phenomenon because they are just exhausted by the sun-drunk pace of the season. In Oregon, where our summers are gloriously mild, but tragically brief, we try to cram every outdoor activity imaginable into those three short months before the damp and moldy winter sets in. As the days get short and Labor Day comes into sight it's as if these fall-lovers have rung every ounce of summertime enthusiasm out of their cells and welcome the dark and the wet just so they can hibernate until March. By then they'll undoubtedly have cabin fever and start wearing shorts as soon as it hits 65 degrees.

This is not me. Mainly because as the summer draws to a close I look back on my mental of list of things I wanted to do while I didn't have to wear some kind of water-repelling gear and always feel like a failure. I never picked enough berries, or rode my bike as often as I wanted to, I didn't re-landscape the front yard, or invite everyone I know to a barbecue. On and on. I was really meant for more of a temperate, Mediterranean climate where these activities can be spread out over the entire year. (Like Oakland, where I went to school, and where I am as I write this, the night before the first annual BlogHer Food conference).

This last week, the first week of official fall, we got a bonus week of hot weather. It felt like an overindulgent gift (but I'll take it). And for once, instead of letting all the annuals and the vegetables rot into the ground and ignore their brown, slimy selves until spring, I actually pulled out the tired and waning squashes and now-bitter greens and got to extending my gardening season. We planted another round of greens and little root veggies: arugula, kale, chicory, radish, radicchio, broccoli raab (which has always succumbed to bugs before, we'll see if it does better in the cooler weather). I put up new twine lines for beans that I hope to get into the ground when I get back home. I've still got rainbow chard which I might be able to keep going if I get a cold frame built to protect it (another item on the summer list that didn't get done this year).

Maybe I won't go into this fall kicking and screaming like years past. If I can keep my hands in the dirt, even if the rest of me is covered in wool and raincoat, and spread out the garden tasks over these long and dark months, I might avoid my own cabin fever and frenzied do-it-all-now mentality next summer.


Monday, August 3


Last year I had my first vegetable garden. It did okay. I found I can't really do tomatoes (doesn't get hot enough in my beds), greens do beautifully (and I learned I really love arugula), and cutworms are the most disgusting, frustrating beasts in the animal kingdom (and I'm proud to say I got rid of them, knock wood).

So we had our beds, along the driveway where I'd taken out a few of the old roses. And then on the other side of the house, where it's shady, we had some volunteer pumpkins, likely from dumping our jack-o-lanterns in the compost pile there. They were fun, growing up the fence, and we cut some and used them for decoration in the fall.

So I was kind of happy to have some volunteer pumpkins pop up on the driveway side when I planted this year's veggie garden in May. "We won't need to go to the pumpkin patch!" Clara squealed. I love it when the kids get excited about what's growing in our garden.

And so I planted beets and carrots and radicchio, three different varieties of lettuce, cantaloupe and basil and rosemary, and some others. I can't remember everything else. I haven't seen them all in so long...

...because those damned pumpkins have not only taken over the garden, they're taking over the freaking world. And the zucchini and patty-pan squash are their loyal accomplices.

Wednesday, July 29

Hot Salad in the City

I’m sitting out on my back deck, my flesh a feast for the mosquitoes, sipping some very drinkable sangria. And it’s 90 degrees. At eleven at night. Portland is in the middle of one of its worst heat waves in memory. Tomorrow we’re expected to tie our all-time high temperature of 107 degrees. All I can say is I am so, so grateful Aaron installed the A/C window unit in our bedroom this afternoon. Oh, yes, it’s true: many Portlanders don’t have A/C. There are even some, like us, who technically do have it, but never actually use it.

Earlier tonight we ate some quickly-thrown-together dish of rice spaghetti (at Iris’ request), garden zucchini fried in oil, leftover grilled chicken chunks and some torn basil. I tossed it all with some salt and pepper and a mayo-curry dressing I whipped up a few weeks ago when we ran out of salad dressing. It was fine, meaning everyone felt fed. But it wasn’t anything to get excited about.

As I was boiling the noodles, just that little bit of burner heat set off the emergency fan on my range (seriously) and the kitchen was almost inhabitable. And since I’ve just returned from BlogHer (more on that later) I hadn’t done any grocery shopping or meal planning and I’m literally just throwing protein together with veggies as quickly as I can.

(Oh, who am I kidding. I never do serious meal planning.)

Photo credit: Francesco Tonelli for The New York Times

I've got a few more quick dishes for hot nights in my repertoire, but not as many as The New York Time's Bitten columnist, Mark Bittman, who has 101 Simple Salads for the Season.

I love the way the recipes are divided. The first group is all vegan ingredients (unless you want to add the bacon Bittman suggests) so I know they're dairy-free, too. Then there are vegetarian salads, then seafood, then meat and then noodles. Most don't require any cooking, and best of all, almost all of the ingredients will be in season in the US at some point before October.

Here are a few standouts I want to try:

16 is really close to one of my favorites (fennel and apple).
28 is a revelation. I never would have thought to put figs and almond butter together.
38 is one of the many recipes with watermelon. I love watermelon in savory dishes.
They call 43 obvious, but I've never eaten raw beets. Have you?
50 may become my new lunch salad. Boiled eggs are a new staple.
78 sounds like something my sausage-loving, Midwestern husband would love and may force me to figure out how to make gluten-free bread.
79 could be a great one for impromptu dinner parties with grown-ups and kids.
I want to eat 81 right now. But the prune plums in my neighbor's tree are about a month out.
And 82 may work with all my arugula that's bolted.
94 Quinoa Tabbouleh!
I think even my quinoa-hating kids may love 99 since it calls for cherries (I'd make it with red quinoa, which is less bitter.)

There's a you can get even more ideas or offer some of your own at the Bitten blog's comments.

Tomorrow night, we may eat well. And not melt.