Strawberries still elude us, and the clock is ticking. But we did make it to PYO cherries this week: fifteen pounds of delight. I become a little driven, let's say, in the presence of fruit-laden trees, but because it was scorchingly, broilingly, miserably hot and there were children in the picking party, I had to stop. Though it sounds sad, in fact this turn of events was fortunate, because the cherry pitter we were using turned out to be fatally flawed and we did not discover this troubling detail until after the local cherry-pitter emporium had shuttered for the evening and we were in a stare-down with the buckets of cherries. My younger daughter was trying to operate the pitter as I made a quick, salty, cold dinner to restore us after the hot day. She was muttering and swearing and slamming things around, and making a hell of a mess in the process. I said soothing things. She grumbled and huffed in fitful exasperation. Cherry debris became airborne. More invectives were uttered. Now that's enough, I said. It's a cherry pitter. Relax. (Hold that thought a sec, dear reader.)
In another fortunate development, my West Coast Fruit Angel took it into her head, as she often does, to make sure we were not suffering from scurvy here in the East. She loaded up some USPS cartons with a healthy portion of the citrus that flows as water from pipes in her yard. This box of magnificence awaited us here when we rolled in with the cherries:
and I am here to report that apple cider over a ton of ice with crushed mint and mashed kumquats is a powerful restorative. The working title for this cocktail is the Flat Rate Love.
After the cold supper (and more on that in a moment), I took my turn at the cherry pitting. WHAT a piece of JUNK that "pitter" was--miserable, non-functional crap. Pure torture to use. Cherry PULVERIZER, more like it. Fricking cherry juice EV AH REE WHERE. In my eye. On my clothing. Pits and cherries flying like shrapnel all over the kitchen. "Mama," said my daughter.... But we persevered, and after swaggering to the freezer under the twin weights of our loot and our tremendous self-satisfaction, we swabbed the decks. Clean as a whistle.
This morning, my older daughter came downstairs kitted out for ballet (to which she was en route), sat down to her bowl of cereal at the counter, and came away with a neat blotch of cherry juice on the one pair of clean ballet tights she owns. It seems it had escaped the clean-up efforts and over-nighted under the countertop. Which reminds me to tell you, if you don't already know, that boiling water, poured through the fabric from a good 8" up, erases fruit juice like magic. And that wet tights worn in hot weather are cooling. And also, though it is not related to this twist, that cherry pit water is almost as nice as strawberry hull water, and is prepared by the same laissez-faire technique.
There will be a cherry clafoutis later on today, and on Monday I'll fill you in on how that turns out. Meanwhile, about that cold supper. It's kind of like Thai summer rolls without the rolling, and it goes a little something like this:
cold supper for hot nights
1 block seasoned tofu*, cut into strips
a nice pile of grilled or broiled chicken, fish, steak or other cooked meat that lurks in your larder
A large pile of greens (chard, spinach, tender kale), chopped
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1 recipe of the following dressing:
1/4 c each finely chopped fresh basil, mint and cilantro
1/4 c fresh lime juice
1/4 c thai fish sauce
2T rice vinegar
2T rice vinegar
2t grated fresh ginger (or more, to taste)
a handful of finely chopped chives or scallions
1 tsp chili paste (less or more, to taste)
1T vegetable oil
1t sucanat or brown sugar (entirely optional but it does balance things nicely)
Cook the noodles until tender and drain, then rinse with cool water and toss with a splash of neutral oil until not sticky. Set aside.
Blanch the greens until tender, refresh in cold water and drain thoroughly. Also set aside.
To assemble: Each dish gets a wad of noodles, topped to one side with a small pile of greens, next to a little colony of tomato pieces, next to a few strips of tofu, next to a portion of the other protein. Pass the sauce.
* you can buy seasoned tofu wherever fine tofus are sold, or you can take a block of firm tofu, cut it into little 2" x 2" x 1/2"squares, oil it lightly and season it with some salt and pepper, and bake it on a parchment-lined sheet at 425 or so until it is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, like an igloo. (I am pleased to report that I can't post a link to that cartoon, but polar bears are involved.)