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Volume 37 Issue 20, - Sept. 6 - 12, 2007 now in our 37th season

It's Still Summer

by Maryjane Mojer

When I graduated from high school, I was full of disappointment. I had waited so long for the day and, along with my classmates, started the countdown months before. We made hair appointments, shopped for just the right shoes to wear with our graduation gowns and just the right dresses to wear underneath.  Finally, the day arrived. (June 6th, 1978. I believe that was the year Thirty Acres temporarily became The Club Venus. They bought a blender and hung a disco ball. You can take the dive out of the bar, but…well, you know.)

So, here we were, full of hope and promise, singing We’ve Only Just Begun, hearing the class prophecy and shedding tears, the final strains of Pomp and Circumstance still echoing as we made our final reception line. As we unpinned our corsages, it started to settle in. Now what? This was “it.” This was what we had worked so hard for and it was over.  It took a while for me to realize that this was, in fact, just the beginning. The day was just that; a day.

As this summer comes to its inevitable close, I’ve had a few pangs of disappointment.  I had waited, so it seemed, so long throughout the cold winter and spring.  I made hair appointments, shopped for just the right shoes, just the right dresses. Then, it was here…and gone. It went so quickly, I worked so much; we didn’t have enough time for dinners, swimming, and so on. 

Ahhhh…wait, what’s this?  It’s actually still here.  Yes, we still have a bit left.  And, from where I’m sitting, the best bit.  The days are still gorgeous, the nights great for walks and sleeping. It’s still warm enough to dine on the deck, most everyone is still here and I can maneuver through the grocery store in my usual leisurely fashion. I actually have time, now, to shop instead of to just plain buy. Kind of nice.

I’m also, by this point in time, quite tired of tomatoes and mozzarella, grilled zucchini, pasta primavera and the usual summery fare.  Don’t get me wrong; by next May I’ll be craving them and will look forward to the first tomatoes and fresh basil.  By now, however, my appetite is turning towards the more savory, full flavors of Indian Summer.

Just because the island is empty, (or emptier) it doesn’t mean the fields are barren or the shelves unstocked.  This is the time of year when we really reap what was sown. Also, the cooler nights allow a sweeter, slower ripeness to any tomatoes, eggplant, or squash still on the vine.  Now’s the time to simmer, stew and relax.  Call your friends that you haven’t seen since Daffodil weekend and share a meal with them.

A potluck is just the thing.  It may still be a bit early after the madness to host a full fledged dinner party.  With a potluck, everyone gets to share in the work and in the spoils.  If you’re the sort who is organized enough (I’m not) and concerned enough (I’m not) you can set a theme, send out invitations, dole out instructions regarding who brings what to ensure balance and order. For my table, when it comes to this, balance and order are severely overrated. Remember, we’re coming of the season where just about every minute of every day is ordered and accounted for and scheduled.  A surprise, last minute, hey, what are you up to tomorrow night kind of invite may be in order right about now.

If you can provide the place, the plates, the napkins and, perhaps, the beverages, your guests can do the rest.  An “anything goes” menu gives those of us who have had a regimented kind of summer a chance to play, and to enjoy the process.  I love to cook.  I thoroughly enjoy putting food on the table for my family.  But, by the end of last week, I was tapped.  No more chicken, no more tomatoes and mozzarella, no more grilled anything, thank you.

I’m craving something a bit more involved and a bit more savory.  The ratatouille is still a winner. (I don’t lose my love for summer fare all at once. It’s more in bits and pieces.)

Eggplant is gorgeous and plump and scrumptious right now.  There are many varieties from the blue black orbs to the elegant, pristine, white and the variegated purples.  This is a vegetable that makes the transition from Summer to Fall quite wonderful.

Spicy Eggplant

3 eggplants, peeled and cubed
6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons of fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 cup honey
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Gently heat a two tablespoons olive oil in a heavy bottomed sauté pan. Add garlic, and cook until slightly translucent. Be careful not to burn garlic. It will become bitter.

Add eggplant to garlic, and continue to cook until eggplant starts to brown. Keep stirring and tossing the eggplant around. Remember, eggplant is like a big purple (or white, or variegated) sponge. It will absorb any liquid in the pan. Mix the honey with the lemon juice, and whisk in all of the spices. Pour this over the Eggplant and garlic mixture, and stir to coat, reducing heat to low. Continue to cook, continue to stir until eggplant is soft and yielding. If you enjoy your Eggplant with a little more tooth to it, stop now.  I’m a soft and mushy Eggplant kinda gal, especially this time of year.

Serve this with fresh pita bread, yogurt cheese and an assortment of, well, just about anything.  This is the kind of dish that is at ease with cold chicken, or Asian slaw.  It’s wonderful warm, or cold, over rice or just on a spoon.

Yogurt cheese

I’m sure there are many, many different recipes for this simple and yummy condiment.  This works for me.

Line a colander or strainer with three or four layers of cheese cloth.

Tip a quart of plain, full fat yogurt into the colander.  Fold the layers of cheese cloth over the top, and place a plate on top to lightly weight it down. Place the colander into a pan that it just fits in, so that it’s not sitting in the liquid that it’s going to lose.

Let this sit overnight, or longer if you have the time.  Remove from the cheese cloth and store in an airtight bowl.  This can keep for up to two weeks. It blends really well with fresh herbs or any other seasonings.

Now, take a deep breath….enjoy the summer!

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