Epic dinner? I think so.

It’s not bragging if you wish your friends were here. Besides, it was more epiquirky than epicurean.

Late in the day, with half a package of bacon in the fridge, our thoughts turned naturally to tomatoes and Walker’s Farm. Mr. Walker lives a few miles away, and has an honor system barn. The price per pound for what’s available is listed on a whiteboard in the wife’s curly cursive, and you bag and weigh and stick your money in the mailbox (which has a slit in the top like a piggy bank … and a  padlock on the door).

Mr. Walker happened to be about, and gave my beloved M and the Boy a lesson in melon-thumping. While they picked two likely candidates, I bagged half a pound of peaches (blushing from already smelling like peaches), a pound of pinkie-sized okra, three pounds of tomatoes, some beautiful banana peppers to go with the poblano lurking in my fridge, and a dozen small summer squash. (He was out of sweet corn, more’s the pity. Last week’s was delectable.) The menu was writing itself in my head, creatively conspiring against certain constraints, gluten-avoidance among them.

So, here’s how it went. First I improvised an Irish soda bread from a recipe in my bed and breakfast cookbook: it had to be a quick bread, and I had to be able to fake it with Pamela’s baking mix. It worked great (M liked it, and Chandler had four pieces; they are gluten-able, so I was about to tell them to quit). Actually, it worked better than great … my first thought on biting into a steaming chunk was, “This is good enough to be Jesus.” (Can you tell I miss real communion bread?) It didn’t rise enough to make BLT-sized slices, but you know what? With sliced tomatoes and bacon around, you can build a BLT in your mouth, bite by bite. A little Bibb lettuce, and it might have been too good.

So, the bread … four cups of Pamela’s baking mix, three teaspoons of baking powder, ¾ t baking powder, two eggs and 1 cup of yoghurt and enough water to get to the right consistency, baked at 350 degrees for one hour and 15 minutes in a round pan. The recipe said knead for a minute, but I didn’t. I just dumped all the dry ingredients in my Kitchen-Aid and swirled ‘em up, whisked my eggs and poured them in, and then chased the eggs with the yoghurt (goat’s milk, thank you very much) and a little water. The bread baked up dense and brown and crusty … with a smear of butter, this was all bread needs to be.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. While the bread baked, I chopped up the poblano (dark green) and the banana peppers (one red, one orange, one yellow) and some green onions (light green and white; yeah, I like the colors). This went into a hot pan with a little olive oil, immediately turned down to sweat, mellow, and caramelize just a tad. (Need a playlist for chopping? I recommend a little Stevie Ray Vaughn. Loud.)

M likes her squash steamed nekkid, so I sliced hers and set them aside. I julienned and diced two more squash and put them in a pan with about ¼ of the pepper mixture and set those aside. Dripping-ripe tomatoes, bright red sliced onto a yellow Fiesta plate. (The rest of the pepper mix is going to rock some eggs later  this weekend.)

Just then the bread timer dinged, and I pulled the bread out of the oven. It popped right out of the pan and cooled for ten minutes on a rack while we finished the final phase. M grilled a few turkey sausages and cooked the bacon outside, and I sautéed my squash-pepper mixture, and then had my moment of Sheer Genius.

M likes a little dab of butter on her squash, microwaved under a paper-towel for a minute or two. But my butter was a refrigerated chunk. As I gazed at it, I suddenly thought, “cheese grater.”

And then thought, oh my gosh, am I the most amazing cuisinical genius? Grated cold butter? How fabulous is that? Well, the answer is, it is quite fabulous. You heard it first here. (And if you heard it first somewhere else, I don’t want to hear about it.) The grater dropped perfect little shreds of butter all over her squash, and I tapped a few leftover bits into my sauté pan as my squash-pepper mixture was finishing. Sigh. So good.

An amazing dinner … Irish soda bread, steamed buttered squash, tomatoes, bacon, turkey sausage to fill up the Boy (although he was hitting the soda bread pretty hard), my squash-poblano-banana pepper-onion sauté, a lovely pinot noir … wonderful conversation (from the turkey family wandering in the yard this morning, to our flower beds awash in swallowtail butterflies, to the moon landing and 9/11 … we were all over the place), the summer hoot owl punctuating the evening and the lightning bugs coming out and the bats chasing them and the sky turning that after-sunset-not-quite-dark electric blue that tells you God so knows what she’s doing. Some nights are just all grace.

And yes, for those of you keeping score at home, there’s still watermelon and peaches … wish you were here!

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One Response to Epic dinner? I think so.

  1. Bucky says:

    TAM! That visit to the honor system produce stand takes me back to my Mom’s dear friend in Mississippi….Tootsie. She always had the best garden and we ate like pigs when we visited in the summertime. Ahhh, fresh, ripe ‘maters on a plate, a little pepper and that’s all one needs. Fresh squash and the corn, oh THE CORN! So sweet, I could eat it raw-and I was caught frequently chewing the raw cobs when Tootsie would make skillet corn. Yummy. Yummy. Yummy. Tootsie had deer visitors during dinner hour, never failed to look out the window and see a family walking through the middle of her giant garden. Great memories..thanks for bringing ’em back to me Tam. Hope you all are well, sounds like that is the case :). Miss ya’, bucky.

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