Summer: The good, the bad, the hotter’n all hell
July 14, 2012
It has, friends, been summer. More specifically, it has been summer in a home whose central air unit is undersized for the amount of square footage it is designed to serve. Which means it has been too freaking hot for cooking in the evenings, which is, y’know, when I can cook. So there have been a lot of salads, a lot of make-aheads, a few Crock-pot meals, and some take-out, at least until this last week, when it’s cooled off to the point I have turned the stove on briefly to cook a few things. Like fried okra. And purple hulled peas, and crowder peas, and squash, and eggplant, and such. Oh, and corn. We have corn. Dear Sweet Baby Jesus, we have corn, and I’ve eaten it half a dozen times already since I got the first corn maybe three weeks ago.
Will have corn tonight, as a matter of fact. With a slowly-grilled Boston butt, which is slowly grilling as we speak. And a tomato and cucumber salad, and some slaw, and maybe some baked beans. More on that later.
Anyway. Garden veggies are in full swing, at least for those farmers who have the equipment and wherewithal to water them. Otherwise, they’re, in the vernacular, “burnt plumb up.” I’m finding a fairly good selection at the Saturday markets, but I’m also seeing folks sell out of corn pretty quickly, and a dearth of canteloupes, as my go-to cantaloupe vendor told me this morning hers had met the above fate. Today I got tomatos, squash, fried pies, tamales (which we had for breakfast with a duck egg), okra, sweet potatos and something else, but I forget what, and then went to another side-of-the-road produce market and got corn and peaches and cherries.
And I have done a cool thing with the peaches. I’ve been turning more to fruit-based vodka or rum drinks during the hot weather (it was in triple digits for 18 straight days before it finally broke with a few scattered rains and it’s been at least partly cloudy for a week with occasional showers now, thank God). Red wine just isn’t appetizing (though I found a new restaurant downtown that makes some kickass sangria). So I made me some simple syrup, and I used that and citron vodka and lemon and Mountain Valley Sparkling Water, and that was quite tasty. So today, when I was peeling and slicing peaches to sprinkle with sugar to have over waffles tomorrow morning, I decided I’d make use of those skins.
I had made another batch of simple syrup, because I knocked the container with the first batch out of the fridge the other night, whereupon I had to mop the kitchen floor Five Times before it wasn’t sticky any more. And it was heating while I was peeling peaches, and I thought to myself, “Self? Why don’t you let those peach skins steep in that sugar syrup for a while, and see what that gives you you can put in a drink?”
So I did. And the result, a shot of which is combined with a shot of vodka and topped off over ice with Mountain Valley Sparkling Water, makes a delectable summer cooler.
My Hot Springs peeps know Mountain Valley water, as do, probably, most of my Arkansas peeps. For those of you from elsewhere (bless your hearts), Mountain Valley Water is a genuine Arkansas treasure. It comes from a spring right north of Hot Springs, and has been bottled and sold from said spring since 1871; details here. They still use part of the original buiding; built a wall into the facade of their current plant. And they sell both still and sparkling water.
I’m a sucker for sparkling water; love the stuff. I’ll drink a liter of San Pellegrino at a sitting. And I have learned I can buy Mountain Valley Sparkling a case at a time. And I do. Because it is the finest thing known to modern man with a good distilled spirit. Get you some, and if you don’t live where they distribute it, well…move.
I roasted a chicken yesterday morning and made enchiladas last night. Used salsa verde ‘sted of chopped green chiles, and it was a tad too hot. Oh, well. Tonight, I have the aforementioned Boston butt, about 5 pounds’ worth, on the gas grill, where it has been reposing for the past four hours. It will stay there about three more before it comes in to be pulled. I had it at about 200F for a while, then bumped it up to about 250, and now I have it at about 300. It got a nice spice rub, and now I’ve coated the “up” side with barbecue sauce; will coat the other side when I turn it in a couple hours. It ought to be luscious. We’ll have it with the tomato salad, corn, baked beans, slaw, and maybe, if I get ambitious, potato salad.
I’ve made some other delectable salad-ish things of late, including the caprese pictured above to go with sous vide pork loin the other night. We’ll detail that one later. It was magnificent.
For now, I have Boston butt to tend, potato salad to make, and other drinks to try. You and y’mama ‘n ‘em stay cool, and eat lots of vegetables.