Cucumber Sandwiches

It’s a hot July afternoon, steamy with showers and intermittent sunshine. Each round of it builds heat and pressure. Tomorrow’s promise is for an even hotter day, when the temperature will cross the line and go into the nineties, something we find worthy of grocery  line chatter, along with the nor’easters that will barrel in from the Atlantic a mere six months from now.

It’s the perfect day for a cucumber sandwich.

TT got a call this morning from EB, his big-garden buddy, alerting him to the mass of green beans that are ready for picking. I can picture EB standing in the middle of their four acre vegetable patch, cell phone in hand, squash plants tickling his knees. It’s quite a place, the big garden. It’s more than a garden though. Over the years it’s become a little community, with shared spaces, exchanges of onions for corn or potatoes, or vegetables in exchange for planting and weeding help as the season progresses.

We didn’t plant green beans in our backyard garden this year, so this is a welcome call, and I add “green beans” to my errands list and make a point of taking a tote bag with me when I set out.

Well, you know I can’t stop at picking just green beans. I spotted a couple of small tomatoes that had ripened when no one was looking. Their red skins were blushing from underneath the protection of their leaves, so I picked those, which are enough for tonight’s salad. I heard a couple of bright yellow summer squash calling my name, and even though we have some in our own yard, I had to oblige.

Then I meandered over to the cucumber patch, and glory! What a year it has been for cucumbers! Before you could say Israeli salad, I had ten of them in my tote bag, picked from just three plants. I’ll be making an Israeli salad for twenty next Saturday. I guess having enough cukes for that won’t be a problem.

This is the long way around to tell you this:

I got home, mixed up a batch of double chocolate zucchini bread and had that in the oven in less than half-an-hour. My stomach rumbled its discontent at being empty as I then eyed the cucumbers, which were still warm from the field.

It was meant to be, so I went for it and slathered my multi-grain bread with more mayonnaise than would be considered respectable in polite company, doused that with salt and pepper, then peeled the best looking cuke of the bunch and trimmed it so its length matched the size of my bread. Then I sliced it into thin lengthwise slices, and stacked the slices on the bread.

Such luxury the bounty of summer brings to the gardener. An entire cucumber on a sandwich. This was no fussy tea sandwich. This was a two-fisted, open your mouth wide to take a bite, feast.

As I was constructing my lunch, a mantra waltzed through my mind.

“Thank you, dear mother earth, thank you, dear mother, thank you.”

And before I knew it, I was sobbing in grief for my mother, who I miss every day, as I have for more than twenty-nine years.

And I was sobbing in gratitude for her, and for the times the two of us would sit at the table on a hot summer’s afternoon enjoying a cucumber sandwich together.

Sometimes it’s the littlest thing that will trigger a flood.




Comfort + Food = Comfort Food

It’s a cold rainy Thursday night, and exhausted is not enough word to describe how I feel tonight.  I would like to be treated in the way I treat freshly picked leaf lettuce.  Washed clean, then gently wrapped in a towel.

Bottom line, I need comfort, and I’m hungry.  So I guess tonight is a good night for comfort food.   Comfort + food = comfort food.

The chocolate chip pecan banana bread, which is baking away in my oven, is beginning to send its soothing aroma through the house.  I had some overripe bananas on hand, so that’s a pretty good start.  Dessert first.  It takes an hour to bake, so it will be lovely and warm when it comes out of the oven and the chocolate chips will still be soft and melty when we cut into it after…..dinner???

Uh-oh.  I forgot to plan for dinner, so that will leave TT and me indulging in a dazzling array of leftovers with which to nourish ourselves when he gets home from the office.  It will include a single chicken leg, some cottage cheese, a container of blueberry yogurt, leftover pasta sauce, (so I guess I can cook some pasta), and some wilted and slightly brown cilantro.  Oh, I have some slivered almonds too.  I cook from scratch most days, so tonight, I’ll let myself off the hook, but I guess it’s time to make a list and do the grocery shopping.  Tomorrow, maybe.

Tonight, we have banana bread.

Frozen Surprises

I searched my freezer for pesto this week.

Sad but true, there wasn’t any left, so this summer I’ll have to be sure to grow extra basil for making a few batches and freeze them in small containers for next winter’s blues.  I love pesto.  Summer in February.  And growing my own basil rather than buying it helps to redeem the investment in really good olive oil.

What I did find in the freezer, which I had squirreled away and forgotten, was the rhubarb.  Aha! Rhubarb is one of those love-it-or-hate-it foods.  I should think it would be hard tolerate by those who have a strong sense of sour taste.  I personally like to pucker (no further information on this puckering subject is currently available), so given the right proportion of sugar to fruit, rhubarb is more than a food; it can be a sensation.

And, it’s easy to grow – just plant some and you can almost watch it develop day by day, it thrives  in many growing conditions, it likes cool weather, and it is very E-A-S-Y to use.  No peeling, just trim off the leaf, which is toxic by the way, a quick wash, some evenly sliced pieces and it’s ready to play.  Since the rhubarb I had in the freezer had already been washed and cut, by the time my oven was preheated, I had a rhubarb crisp assembled and ready to bake.  With some vanilla ice cream on top, a homey comforting Saturday dessert awaits.

When is the last time you had rhubarb?