Monday, August 13, 2012

Mixed Plate: Summer Dazed

I'm already starting to see the Back to School sales popping up at the stores, signalling a significant change of seasons -- summer is on the wane and just the faintest early whispers of autumn are in the air. But don't fret, there's still plenty of time to soak up that Vitamin D and enjoy the many hours of daylight that we will soon be losing. Before summer scurries away, let's celebrate the days we've had and commit ourselves to enjoying what's left of the season before we return to our usual nocturnal Pacific Northwest Mole People status.

Fresh, sweet corn - it epitomizes summer for me - Photo by Wasabi Prime
It's just corn, yes, but how can you not admire how intense and beautiful that color is? No butter, only seasoned by some salt in the water that it was boiled in, which helped develop that bright hue. The natural patterning of gold and white kernels, dotting the surface like some natural Morse Code. And that first bite! Incredible sweetness and a freshness that can only be described as the reason why eating seasonally is the only way to go. Despite the fact that corn should come with a packet of dental floss, for the requisite cleaning of pulpy bits that inevitably get lodged between every nook and cranny of your teeth, sweet summer corn epitomizes summer for me. I spent a lot of summers in Maui, at my maternal grandparents' house "upcountry" in Makawao. The cooler air, mineral-rich volcanic soil and periodic rainshowers made it easy to grow just about anything. I called it a farm as a child, but it was more like a household garden, just big enough to feed a family, which it did for many years. My grandmother had an incredible green thumb. She could grow anything. Someone once gave her hemp seeds, remarking how difficult it was to grow "the pakalolo" and she tried growin' the ganja out of principle, just to see if it was a difficult as the stinky hippie neighbors complained. Luckily, it didn't take, and she left the illicit gardening to more dedicated souls, and our family never had the pleasure of being the subject of a federal raid. But Grandma did grow corn. Tall stalks of sweet white corn in plenty of rows, which myself and all the cousins would help shuck during the summer harvest. I got a rude awakening more than once by enormous, fat caterpillars, nestled between the corn and the husks. Nature can be gross. What the bugs didn't eat, the humans thoroughly enjoyed. The white corn was just that, white, so it never turned that enticing yellow color when cooked, but the sweetness was unparallelled. It was my first taste of something truly incredible, coming straight from the soil to our plate. Even if I didn't realize what it meant at the time, the memory planted a seed that would grow into an appreciation for fresh, seasonal produce, and the importance of eating with the harvests.

Eating with the seasons - Photos by Wasabi Prime
It's not rocket science, but seasonal food just tastes better. I got a bunch of local radishes from our CSA delivery that were literally as sweet as candy. They were perfect red jewels and only a hint of that peppery burn, which only complimented the radishes' sweetness. The snow peas have been plentiful and the new herb starts I planted have been coming along nicely, even if the slugs munched down more than I'd like. These photos of herbs and tomato starts were taken earlier in the season. Mint always does well and I decided to get a regular mint and an orange-mint plant, to round out our natural supply for mojitos and juleps. Cocktail gardening, anyone? The tomato plants have thankfully gotten much larger and are flowering. No tomatoes yet, but I'm keeping fingers crossed...

Herbal infusions and hopeful vegetable starts - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Garden pleasantries not your summertime cup of tea? If I could plant hot dog and hamburger trees in our yard, I surely would. But until that genetic abomination of awesomeness becomes available, we grill like everyone else. Since the Fourth of July when the Mister turned me on to the technique of spiraling wieners, we've been obsessed. Before you think it's some kinky 50 Shades of Gray business that you need to integrate into your next Key Party, step off, it's a food thing. But if you, Bob, Carol, Ted and Alice decide you want to spiral wieners, the video, originally from, has pretty much gone viral, and it's a relatively easy technique. It's a DIY method to convert hot dogs to a more effective grilling meat with a skewer and a small knife. That description alone makes it sound like the most heinous bris known to humankind, but believe me, this surgical act on your food is worth the time.

Here's to summer, let's spiral our meat - Photos by Wasabi Prime
We made spiraled hot dogs topped with kimchee for July Fourth, and at a cookout party later that month, we upped the spiral-ante by weaving strips of bacon in the spiral cut. It made for delicious bacon-wieners and the process elongates the hot dog, so you're ensured there will be no bite of just hot dog bun. True, it's probably a bit over the top -- as if regular hot dogs weren't un-Kosher enough, we added swine. The flavor was grand, but it was tricky to get the bacon crispy. It will cook, but won't crisp on the grill. I'm fairly confident that if I spiral and weave bacon into a hot dog, I need to boil them to par-cook the bacon, possibly in beer, just to add some extra flavor. You'll lose some fat, but I feel like cutting the cook time on the bacon will help it cook more evenly and quickly over the flame.

The joys of summer - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Of course summer is made up of many pleasures. We've been blessed with some incredible sunsets, which flood the social media-verse so that the world can see that the Seattle area isn't all rain and gloom. Flowers are in bloom, Indy likes pretending she's a supermodel in the yard when a breeze kicks up, and I'm still making ice cream. Orange Dreamsicle was the last batch I made, a perfect summer flavor. Another grand summer flavor is Beer. Cold, fizzy, in whatever flavor you like best. Our summer evenings have been regularly enjoyed at spots like Malt and Vine and Black Raven Brewery because they both have outdoor seating and they're a bit more under the radar from more prominent spots with patio seating. I especially like them because it's just drinks, no food, but they let you bring in or order food from neighboring restaurants who are happy to deliver. Malt and Vine is very dog-friendly, which Indy appreciates, both inside their shop and on their patio, plus they have a great selection to do your beer/wine/cider shopping, especially when you're tipsy. Black Raven has taken to having food trucks park in their lot on certain days, which is a plus. They share The Box with Matthews Winery on Fridays and on Sundays, Los Chilangos is there all day. Winning.

The days of summer are made better with beer and scary bonfires - Photos by Wasabi Prime
So grab that SPF 75 to keep those sweltering 80-degree days from burning us to a crisp, and enjoy this marvelous summer, Pacific Northwesticans. I look forward to more spiraled wieners, patio beer and drunken bonfires with propane blowtorches. Viva!

1 comment:

  1. I have never heard of the spiraled hot dog before, your photos and the idea of spiraled bacon hot dogs are mind bogglingly awesome!


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