Oh yes, summer is here, at least unofficially. At least, I’m sweating enough to call it summer. With every snatch of breeze that thinks about coming inside, I lean closer to the open window. At least, until the mosquitoes eat my face. Oh yes, it’s summer. Time for salads and goat cheese, basil, mint, and buckets of water with ice cubes and lime. Or even better, fancy little cocktails with wild tea vodka, strawberries, mint, lemons, simple syrup, and soda water.
It feels like summer vacation every time we sit outside in the backyard. Two tiki torches light up the freshly raked dirt where someday soon there’ll be grass. There’s now a little string of Christmas lights up and always candles burning after dark. Just enough light to eat by at night. Perfect light when your dinner is strawberry-rhubarb pie and cocktails.
There’s been rhubarb at the market these last few weeks and the strawberries have finally started smelling like strawberries. I had been wanting to make a German-style rhubarb tart, but the dough is yeast-based, and being me, I had failed to read the instructions more than ten minutes before my pie friends were about to come over. And as I always come, back to my favorite crust recipe: 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, a splash of milk, a pinch of salt. So easy and foolproof. Effortless like the summer night.
We sat in the backyard, talking as the pie baked and easing out of our stoic poises as the temperature dropped to something comfortable.
Oh, the gooey mess. Four people, one pie, and a few scoops of ice cream. Demolished.
And much the same my summer days go by. I go to work, I come home, I cook a little, sit in the sun a little, try to do yoga when I can, try to stay hydrated so I don’t die.
Yesterday for dinner, Anette and I assembled another of our fabulous conspirator meals. As she tossed together a Greek-style salad: lettuce, arugula, tomato, cucumber, feta, red onion, and olive tapenade with dressing as simple as olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper, I grated sweet potato and mixed it with egg, breadcrumbs, chopped onion, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. I added a few teaspoons of semolina to make my mixture stick together, then formed little patties and fried them. We sat outside and declared it a perfect summer dinner. Greek salad and sweet potato fritters dunked in a sauce of sour cream, mint, and garlic.
All winter I said, “Oh how I wish it was warm. I promise not to complain once this summer if only the weather gets warm.” And I haven’t complained. Just said, very declaratively, “It’s hoooooot.” And I won’t complain. So summer, summer, bring it on. I’ve chosen my weapons. They are: lemons, yogurt, mint.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
1 cup flour
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Splash of milk
Pinch of salt
6 fresh rhubarb stalks
8 medium-sized strawberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. flour
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Vanilla ice cream, to serve
Mix flour, vegetable oil, milk, and salt together in a large bowl and roll into a smooth ball. Add more flour if the mixture feels too wet. Detailed pie crust instructions can be found here. Press dough into a pie dish. Wash and cut rhubarb into 1 inch chunks, and quarter strawberries. To the fruit, add: sugar, vanilla, flour, and lemon juice. Toss well to coat. Pour into pie dish and bake in a 375° oven for 1 hour or until crust is browned and fruit is soft. Serve with vanilla ice cream.