Monday, we went swimming, because the pool was still open, and the weather warm, and the five of us able, all together, to go. It felt exactly like what it was, summer, balmy, the pool the place to be. Except there, rustling around on the ground, was this litter of crispity toast-colored leaves.
No inferences, here. I'm just saying. *Crunch* is a mighty fine bass note to Splash.
Tuesday, our third week already, we dashed out to school like we had it down. And we did. Save our shorts and t-shirts habit, which proved a little deficient for a sub-sixty morning.
We skibbered home and changed into jeans and sweatshirts and whisked up our first hot chocolate starter. Then, we turned off the AC. Never miss an opportunity.
On my To-Do list for the week is zucchini soup and granola and blackberry crepes. On my Soon... list for the month is Tomato Sauce Extravaganza and Pick Apples by the Bushel. A September line-up, if ever I saw one.
On my counter sit two two-pound zucchini. Two pound, twelve ounce zucchini, to be precise. Two of them. Thus the above.
The bees are back, buzzy and thick, and I am back, following suit. Wiping down drawers. Cleaning out cupboards. Imitating, without really even trying, a chicken recently relieved of her head. Those stacks on the stairs were just the beginning. Those To-Dos look less like a list than like something Homer cooked up to make his Mama proud. (Exhale, Silly.)
After weeks of watching red sprout up everywhere, and O's, and rampant talk of Nachos, it finally dawned on me last Saturday that there's this thing called football...
(Football's not my sport. Farkle is. All the thrill, strategy, throwing, nail-biting, sans the concussions. Sign me up.)
Today, there were geese overhead. Three V's, one after another after another. And the realization, getting dressed, I would need a light sweater. And socks! I hadn't seen my sock drawer in months. I nearly wept. And dove in, giddy.
Summer it is, but this other thing, also, this inkling of what lies ahead, and I love it. When I felt Monday the papery crunch of leaf litter on my bare, chlorine-puckered feet, I actually thought, I love summer. I. Me! And maybe I do, this dwindling tail, these final crumbs, when it's more rearview mirror than main event. When one foot's in fall and the other in summer and I can be in both, together. When there are still helenium, and tomatoes, but different, both, from their last week's selves. The surrounding aster's gone all gold, overnight, conspiring toward a color scheme suspiciously October-esque. The tomatoes, still strong, ridiculous, really, but growing on vines caramelizing before my eyes.
Maybe I love summer in its dotage. It's a start, and I'll take it.
I'll also take this—these, really, but before the salmon, let's talk salsa. This salsa isn't about tomatoes, but about all summer's end holds dear. There are fresh peaches, tender and sweet, and red pepper, all crimson and crunch. There is juicy crisp corn, straight off the cob, the sort that still squeaks when you peel back the silk. A bunch of cilantro—literally, a bunch—roughly chopped, tender stems, too. Minced sweet onion, for a little brass, de-fanged first in the juice of three (!) limes. Large ones, preferably. Plump, too. That's a lot of lime. For a lot of salsa.
Because see, this isn't some dainty salsa, dribbled in teaspoons or dipped into, timid. This is a greedy hand-over-fist salsa, a heap-it-up-high, pile-it-on salsa. I recently read Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall toss around the phrase salad-salsa. This is that. Salad. Salsa. The better part of both, together.
As with any good salsa, I subscribe to the school that says Just Add Chips and Call It Dinner. BYOB. I also subscribe to a fierce and abiding love of salmon, especially easy exquisite salmon, most especially in good company.
Do you know slow-roasted salmon? It is an acquaintance so very worth making. Here is exactly and all that you do: Tuck a well-salted side of salmon in a low, low oven for an unattended fifteen-to-thirty. Plus or minus five, no sweat. It's deeply forgiving, this technique, thanks to that kind and gentle low heat. Now, I don't know about you, but kind, gentle and forgiving are traits this mother needs. Even in the kitchen. Especially in the kitchen. I love a sliver of good seared salmon, but dear fish on a fiery flame with a fifteen second sweet spot is not my idea of any of the above. Give me absent-minded, anyday. Assuming, of course, absent-minded yields excellent. This one does. Score two for gentle.
See, that low, slow heat works a wonder on salmon, whose fatty flesh yields and melts and bastes itself steadily, superbly from within. The flesh never seizes, as fish flesh can, when subjected to a sear's screaming heat. Indeed, it hardly changes at all, retaining its size and vivid color. (I offer the two photos above not for the sake of redundancy, but before and after.) More, and more importantly, it retains its clean, clear sweet flavor, its melty richness, its tender self.
Unseasoned, save salt and pepper, we eat this salmon every which way. We ate it last month alongside raita and South Indian green beans and cabbage and spuds. (We need to talk about both of those. Soon.) We have a small friend who likes to drizzle his with gorgeous dark Triple B maple syrup. Smart fellow. And come late summer, when everything edible's urgent and abundant and achingly good, we serve this salmon and salsa, side by side. And they're still both their big bad usual selves, but together, this other thing, also, rich buttery lush against sweet soft tart crunch. Much like September. Serve it forth.
Slow Roasted Salmon
adapted from Picnics, by Sara Deseran
Wild salmon (King, Coho, Sockeye) is a ferocious indulgence, and this preparation, clear and true, honors it better than any other I've met. That said, we slow-roast farmed salmon often, and to good effect. A center cut cooks most evenly; for a tapering fillet, simply tuck the tail-end under. As to how much salmon, your call: one pound or four, slow-roasting is eminently scalable. Just leave your fillet—whole or partial—intact, rather than cut into narrow portions, for those most succulent results.
Fillet of Salmon
Preheat oven to 250°. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. Place salmon on lined sheet, drizzle with a touch of olive oil (teaspoon or two per pound), and season well with freshly ground pepper and kosher salt (1 generous teaspoon salt per pound). If roasting a smaller (Coho, Sockeye) filet, with a tapered thin tail end, tuck a few inches of the end under, to roughly equal the thickness of the middle.
Roast until salmon is just cooked through, roughly 20 minutes per inch of thickness. Salmon will look almost exactly as it did when it went in, bright coral, with very little change in size or color. But you will know it is done and excellent when it's opaque just to the center, flakes easily with a fork, and small pearls of fat are visible on the surface. (See, also, before and after pictures, above.) Begin checking thinner Sockeye or Coho fillets at 15 minutes. A thick King center cut may take upwards of 30 minutes or more.
End of Summer Peach + Corn Salsa-Salad
Made as follows, this is pure late summer material, when peaches and corn are state-grown stuff. However, I make this same salad-salsa all year, swapping in pineapple or mango (in place of the corn and peaches), plus hothouse red peppers, and everything else the same. A bang-up table-brightener, come March.
1/2 medium sweet onion (Walla Walla, Vidalia)
3 large, plump limes (for 1/3-1/2 cup juice, to taste)
2 large, ripe peaches, cut into almond-sized chunks
2 ears' fresh, local corn
1 sweet red pepper
1 bunch cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
shy 1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper or cayenne (or 1 minced fresh hot pepper), to taste
Mince the 1/2 sweet onion, and place in a small bowl, along with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Juice the limes, and pour over the onion. Set aside.
Slice kernels from corn cob, crumble to separate, and place in a medium bowl. Core, slice and dice pepper, and add to bowl. Cut peaches into almond-sized chunks, and add. Roughly chop cilantro, including tender stems, and add. Add onion and lime juice mixture, along with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and aleppo or cayenne (or fresh chili, to taste), and gently, thoroughly, mix to combine. Taste, and adjust salt and/or chili to suit (it will likely need more of both), until you get twinkle and sparkle in every bite.