Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lemony Brown Rice Salad with Stone Fruit and Herbs

I am here to fulfill a couple of summer requests! For this Satiny Chocolate Sauce, for example, which is different from the healthy fake Magic Shell, and also different from my famous hot fudge, which you will see is not hyperlinked, because I have never posted the recipe! What? (Mental note.) For this Minted Cherry Tabouli. This One-Bean Salad. All are back. Yay! Thank you for the requests and please keep them coming. I also need to make my annual plug for this pasta, which continues to be so crazily good that I actually look forward to zucchini season, and for this cake, these popsicles, and, for that matter, this book, which, come August, I am so glad we own.

Okay. Moving forwards.

Ben and his friend Ava, 2015
And backwards.
Ben and his friend Ava, 2005

And right up to the present! 

This is the kind of late-summer clearing-house dish I love. Tangy, herby, crunchy, juicy, fruity, and a perfect vehicle for any harvesty overabundances that might be coming your way. 

It is also a terrific potluck take-along, as it gets big, enjoys popularity, and travels well. I confess that we got invited to a party last week, and I committed to making a salad with only what we had in (and behind) the house, which turned out to be quinoa, foraged beach plums, purslane from our yard, miscellaneous herbs, and a jar of pickled green beans. It was not bad! But this might be better.

Lemony Brown Rice Salad with Stone Fruit and Herbs
This is the late summer version of the springtime brown rice salad, and is similar to the Summery Whole-Grain Salad, but please don’t feel captive to the vagaries of my personal hell-hole of a refrigerator! Use whatever you have that’s lovely and fresh: different herbs, different fruit, barely steamed green beans, peas, sautéed squash cubes or onions, finely chopped kale, cherry tomatoes, anything good. Furthermore, if you don’t have or want to use the rice, use farro, barley, or quinoa. And finally, if you don’t have lemons, you can’t make lemonade! Or this dressing, so make Ben’s Perfect Vinaigrette instead, and start with about half of it to taste.

2 cups brown rice (I like short grain, even though they recommend long, because it’s sweet and nutty)
4 teaspoons kosher salt plus another teaspoon
3 tablespoons good olive oil
The grated zest of 1 lemon, plus its juice (around 2-3 tablespoons)
2 peaches or nectarines or plums, diced small (or 1 ½ cups pitted cherries, halved)
1 cup crumbled feta or diced fresh mozzarella
1 English cucumber (or 2 regular), seeded and diced small
2 scallions, slivered
2 stalks celery, with their leaves, sliced thin
½ cup chopped or slivered almonds, toasted or fried in a bit of olive oil until just browned
1 cup chopped herbs: I used basil and parsley, but mint and cilantro are great here too

Cook the rice: Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the rice and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is just tender (around 25 minutes). Drain the rice well, then put it back in the pot, put a dish towel over the top of the pot, and replace the pot’s cover. Let the rice steam and cool for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest and juice, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Add the rice and all the remaining ingredients, and stir to mix. Taste for salt and lemon, and add more if it needs it. You can also, if something seems at all off about the balance, try adding a little pinch of sugar.

Let the salad stand at room temperature for up to an hour (really try not to have to refrigerate it, or it will lose a great deal of its loveliness).

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Summer and Summer and Summer

Well, it was worth a try!
Forever, right? Because even though the apples are already dropping from the tree down the street la la la and even though it is already August la la la and Ben held up a crimson maple leaf and said, irate, "What the fuck? No. I mean seriously. What. The. Fuck?" I am just going to pretend that the summer will go on and on. If your kids are back at school already, please just ignore me. Likewise, if they are little still and/or a total pain in your harse-ole and you are counting the seconds until they are.

Birdy's Eebo camped in his own tent, which came inside the big tent when the nights were long and scary. (Note for longtime readers: Strawberry is alive and well! But he doesn't come camping because the raccoons once made off with Birdy's Pink Dolly. Not that she wouldn't be devastated to lose Eebo, of course! #awkward) 
But that's why, instead of offering you useful bagged-lunch ideas or homework helpers, I'm going to pretend that what you want, still and always, is advice about summer! Even though just this very day, I was wading through the Halloween displays at TJ Maxx while Michael, who is maybe in the most denial of all of us, looked for a beach towel, since his had gone missing. "Where are the effing beach towels?" he said, and I had to say, "Um, Honey? I think the store is kind of moving on." And he was pissed.

"I'm thinking we'll call it Neutral Skin and Hair. You dig?" "Yeah, yeah, totally. Should we keep thinking, though? I mean, you don't actually put it in your hair. Or, nah. Forget it. That's perfect."
So I'm here to recommend this sunscreen. Because we're still having fun in the sun, right? It is the best sunscreen we have ever used, at least since switching from lovely silky spray-ons to the gloppy, sticky, white mineral kind, and it's also the cheapest, at $12 for 8 ounces. Plus, it's called Neutral Skin and Hair, so you know they are not wasting a lot of money on, say, frivolous marketing. The Environmental Working Group ranks it pretty high, as do my complaining children, who have now used it for two (one and a half!) summers whilst complaining remarkably little. The fact that it is very oily bothers them less than the fact of the other kinds being very pasty. If you have acne, though, you will hear your pimples slurping long and happily before burping and thanking you.

I wouldn't say that painting those bowls was the best thing that ever happened to me. But only because then you'd think I was lame.
The other thing I want to recommend is these watercolors. I bought them for our summer adventures (and then I bought them again for Ava's birthday), and now I'm starting to think that I've never actually used good watercolors before, even though I thought I was buying this set mostly for its compactness. The hues are as vivid or washed as you want them to be, and the colors themselves are simply thrilling. I brought them camping, and kids and grown-ups alike spent many happy hours hunched over the pages of this wonderful coloring book. The whole series is great (we got this one too), and the pages are sturdy enough to handle the paints. I know grown-ups and coloring books are the hot couple of the month or whatever, but it's true that a coloring book seems to take away people's art-fear factor.

That's Billy Boiler, the camping kettle that Michael and I have been using now for. . . 25 years. Holy fuck.
I also painted the same still life three days in a row, and it was so much fun.

I can barely tell you about camping, about holding Birdy's hand on the way from the bathroom and trying to guess how many times we've walked that path together in the many years since her birth. We guessed 150, but it could be more or less. Her chubby toddler legs must be somewhere deep inside these new long ones, right? 
The view out back.
The view out top. 
The view inside.

Mostly while we're camping what we talk about is how much we love camping. That's how it's always been. I think that if you'd tried to describe to me the bittersweet flavor of growing kids, I wouldn't have been able to understand. It's like trying to explain color or something. The kids are so completely here, but already missing and half gone, and also leaving us. In the tent, I can watch their faces while they're sleeping without, like, being a total freak about it.

Speaking of "learning to let go," this book came in the mail, and I am so excited to read it. It's by the incomparable Jessica Lahey, and, as you know if you've followed her NYT Parent-Teacher Conference blog at all, it is going to be so, so good--challenging and good. There! Those yellow pencils on the cover. That's my one concession to fall.

Happy summer, my dear ones. xo