Monday, August 16, 2010

Bittersweet Summer

I am usually the type of cook (and the type of person) who welcomes the change of seasons. I relish returning to crisp apples and creamy butternut squash after a long hot summer and, of course, the first strawberries of summer raise my spirits sky high.

But this summer I find myself holding on for dear life. I cannot get enough of the tomatoes, peaches, and corn, not to mention the plums, golden summer squash, and tender baby potatoes. A little olive oil, basil, and salt make nearly everything taste divine. And, aside from the food, I love the sunshine. I love not wearing socks. And even when it’s too darn hot I think ahead to the cold February alternative, and I’m happy.

Sadly, my desire to keep summer here is having little effect (surprise!). Strawberries are already long gone. A sign at the farmer’s market on Saturday warned that it was likely the last week for blueberries. We’ll be able to enjoy tomatoes, sweet corn, and peaches for a few more weeks, and then it will be onward to apples, pears, and Brussels sprouts. C'est la vie.

Maybe my reluctance to welcome fall this year has to do with the fact that we had a particularly cold winter last year. Maybe it’s because my daughter is starting pre-school and the change of seasons are magnified when there’s a growing girl in the house and everything seems a little bittersweet. Or maybe I just need to move to LA where the seasons can pass unnoticed.

Whatever the reason, I am cooking like crazy these days -- in that easy breezy style that only summer allows -- and with an eye toward winter. Saturday I whipped up some tomato salsa in the food processor and froze half of it in small containers to be defrosted for tacos and rice and beans. And, on the not easy breezy front, I made a large batch of killer ratatouille from Francis Lam’s recipe on This weekend I will make zucchini bread and tomato chutney, both destined for the freezer. If I can’t stop winter from coming, at least I'll still be able to taste some summer sunshine come January.

If you’re looking for simple recipes that make the most of summer’s bounty, check out these recipes for chilled soups that I developed for iVillage. My favorite is the ginger-beet, although they’re all pretty good if I do say so myself. The green gazpacho, in particular, freezes well and would be a welcome reminder of summer this winter.