Meteorologically speaking, I suppose a Southern thunderstorm isn’t too far removed from its Midwestern prairie-sweeping cousin or New England Nor’easter: warm air/cold air tussles, all of them, that range between small misunderstandings and full-blown wars. Meterologically speaking, they’re all alike, I suppose.
But there’s something transformative about an afternoon storm in the South, a change in barometric pressure that sucks any Calvinist work ethic right out of us, forces us to press the pause button and take a minute (or five) to regroup and breathe. A Southern thunderstorm, particularly one of those surprise summer events that sneaks around the weatherman’s radar, magically creates a feeling of suspended requirement. To-do lists and schedules and “have you started your homework?” and “what’s for dinner?” and grocery shopping and uniform pressing and car service and broken washing machines all have to wait until the warm and and the cold air can get things figured out. Just for a minute, anyway, there’s no pressure to make the most out of seizing the day.
The past three weeks have been no-rain kind of weeks, literally and figuratively, for me, for just about everyone I know and for many people I don’t. Push; go; deal with it. Repeat. Can’t get your arms around the big things happening in the world? Tough. No rest for the weary, not on a sunny day, because there is always something that needs doing, some responsibility to keep in check.
Friends, I need a good Southern thunderstorm. Today, if possible. Just for a minute. How about you?
Food | Week of August 18, 2014
If the atmosphere won’t give me a brief time out, then I’ll just have to carve one for myself. The best way to do that is to keep things ultra simple during the most frantic part of our day, dinner time. This week we’ll have food that’s easy to prepare and unlikely to cause whining – something I am particularly ill-equipped to deal with at the moment. Most of these recipes have options for increasing the gourmet content, if you’re so inclined.
Salmon Croquettes | Green Salad
Salmon croquettes (patties) are easy and inexpensive – a good substitute for crab cakes. This recipe from Southern Living has more binding ingredients (flour, cornmeal mix) and simpler preparation compared to this one from Saveur, which is my favorite but not everyone’s cup of tea. Serve with a simple green salad or as patties on toasted English muffins if your people prefer sandwiches.
Turkey and Green Bean Stir Fry
This recipe from Food Network is definitely geared toward family dinner and not adults-only fare. What I like, of course, is that it’s adaptable: you can add a smoky bit of Worcestershire or eliminate the pickle (not sure why that’s in there to begin with). We also prefer short grained brown rice with stir fry; the texture is a good match for the meat and green beans in particular.
If you didn’t make Ina Garten’s genius weeknight Bolognese when I posted it a few months ago, well here’s your chance. This recipe is so easy and so good – best with the orecchiette that she suggests but probably fine with any other pasta shape. Make a double batch and freeze the extra, and you’ll be in high cotton on that inevitable day when nothing goes your way and it’s suddenly 6:15 and you have absolutely NOTHING ready for dinner. Voice of experience here.
Cheesy Gnocchi Casserole
Here’s another family-friendly preparation from Food Network’s kitchen, this one calling for prepared gnocchi and quick assembly. If your feeling a bit more ambitious and looking for a fun kitchen activity (with friends, spouse and/or kids) making gnocchi is much easier than you think, although it does take some time. Here’s Mario Batali’s recipe, which has worked well for me the few times I’ve tried it. (Make no mistake; I am not making gnocchi from scratch this week, just giving you the option if you want it.)
Grilled Peach & Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese
Since figs have been scarce this summer (polar vortex consequence), I’ve been looking for some alternatives to my favorite summer salad: figs, arugula and goat cheese. Here’s one from Cooking Light that uses grilled peaches (easier to prepare than they sound) and a bit of prosciutto for contrast.