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When I was growing up, meals from my mother’s kitchen were necessarily seasonal. In the Fifties and Sixties, the only fruit available year-round were oranges, grapefruit (no one used lemons or limes), and canned pineapple (fresh pineapple wouldn’t show up in Ambrosia until the 1950s when refrigerated transport improved.) BLTs were strictly summertime sandwiches. We ate sweet corn (with tiny little fork-handles) in July and August. According to Daddy, “First you put a pot of water on to boil, then you pick and shuck the corn, then you run from the garden into the kitchen (everyone seated at the table and corn-ready), boil the corn for five minutes, and eat immediately.” Gramma’s German-style green beans with bacon, mustard, and vinegar always started with Blue Lake beans from the garden. Gravenstein apples, swiped hard and green from the neighbor’s backyard, were salted with a shaker lifted from the dinner table and eaten only in late June while sitting on the curb. In the winter, nothing but broccoli and cauliflower showed up on our plates, served on Sundays with Velvetta cheese sauce.
Today the Sweetie can have Driscoll strawberries on his cereal in January, mangoes and sticky rice are possible everyday, you can always find green beans at TJs, I make butternut squash soup any old time, you can depend on tomatillos throughout the year, ripe avocados show up on the counter regularly, and December Heirloom tomatoes taste a bit like the real thing. Recently I saw Dragon fruit, yellow jackfruit, and Brazilian dwarf bananas amongst the apples and oranges at Safeway.
Anyways, we’ve become used to finding a wide array of imported fresh produce all year long—not necessarily a bad thing. But there’s nothing like just picked. In late June, we ate our first flat of Picha strawberries—dark red to the center, white shirt forever dyed red, fingers stained for the rest of the day. After a year’s absence, bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches made with tomatoes still warm from the sun were on the lunch menu three times this week—well worth the wait. I’ve made lubia, Lebanese lamb and green beans, with garden green beans and authentic tomatoes three times this season and everyone around the table marveled at the taste. Last night for dinner, my sister made grill-top pizza with ingredients straight from her backyard.
It’s that old conundrum: satisfaction is all the sharper after scarcity. A tall, cold Arnold Palmer after an escape from the desert, the sound of silence when the twins finally leave, a warm fuzzy robe after you’ve been sitting on the front steps waiting to get back in, the first bite of this summer’s tomato crop—well worth the wait.
A Buddha bowl with Nancy’s beans and broccolini, Ginny’s tomato, my peanut sauce.
- 1-2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup maple syrup or agave
- 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce or Sriracha
- 1/4 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter
- 1 tablespoons rice vinegar or cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
Whisk together sesame oil, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, maple syrup or agave, and chili garlic sauce until smooth. Whisk in peanut butter, and vinegar or lemon juice until combined. Thin with a bit of water if necessary.
Lubia (Lebanese green bean stew)
- 1# ground beef or lamb
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 2 T. minced garlic
- 1⁄2 t. cinnamon
- 1⁄2 t. cumin
- 1 t. salt
- 1⁄2 t. black pepper
- 1 can diced tomatoes or 4 peeled, diced Romas
- 1⁄2 c. tomato sauce
- 1/2 c. chicken stock
- 1# fresh green beans
Brown meat, add onion, garlic and seasonings. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and chicken stock. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Add green beans. Simmer until beans are tender, 30-45 minutes.
Serve with rice and yogurt.