late summer supper

ground cherries

fresh goat cheese with olive oil, herbs, lemon zest

*

sliced tomatoes with wild arugula

pesto eggs

lemon squash stewed with tomatoes, olives, oregano

green beans, kale, and potatoes with creamy walnut-garlic-thyme dressing

*

strawberry-rose jam tart with almond meal crust, served with fresh goat cheese

ginger tea

Someone once told me that “packing takes the time allotted,” and it’s absolutely true: if start planning two weeks before your trip, preparations can easily consume that fortnight. On the other hand, I’ve set the alarm just a little bit early on the morning of departure and still managed to somehow throw a few things together and make the plane.

On Sunday I started dinner quite early — it was to be a hot day, so I planned a dinner of cool things that could be cooked in advance, giving the kitchen plenty of time to return to a comfortable temperature. I started with the baking: punched down the bread dough I had put together the night before, then made the pastry for the jam tart. After I put it in the fridge to chill, I walked out to the garden to do some grocery shopping.

I was able to congratulate myself on the awesomeness of my life for about half an hour before things started to go wrong. The first jam tart burned. The purple potatoes turned gray and mealy when boiled. The blender went on strike after I filled it with basil, oil, garlic, almonds. I did find another route to the one experimental preparation on my menu — a dish in the shape of deviled eggs, but flavored by mashing the yolks with pesto — only to find that yellow yolks + green basil = unappetizing gray-green paste.

A head start saves no time in packing, and the same is apparently true in the kitchen: this simple summer supper was going to consume my day. I went back to the potato pile for something waxier. I thawed the pesto I had put away a few weeks earlier. When it turned the yolks gray, I tucked basil sprigs and nasturtiums between the eggs and made bright-green basil oil to drizzle over before serving. I started again with a new jam tart. In the spaces between I blanched some beans, shaped some bread, picked and cleaned the various herbs I’d need to finish each dish.

The squash — the last thing on my prep list — was the only thing that proceeded according to plan. (Melt and brown finely sliced onions. While the onions are cooking, peel and core tomatoes. Remove onions from pan. Add squash in batches to brown, then return onions to pan with tomatoes, pitted olives, a few smashed cloves of garlic, and a pile of oregano. Stir occasionally and swoon.)

I had started cooking early, but by the time I was done prepping and cleaning and putting things away, the day was almost gone.

And then the electricity went out. Which, in a house supplied by a well, means no water. It thought about calling my guests, but the phone was out too. So they came, and we sat, and candlelight was enough to find our forks and converse by.  No one could appreciate the many colors of tomatoes in the pretty green serving bowl — but then, no one noticed the gray eggs, either.

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