We spent the holiday in Sonoma, soaking up sun in the pool of the house our friends rented to escape summer in San Francisco. What a great idea - while July third and morning of the fourth were warm and sunny here in the city, we returned to a chill wind and fog billowing down the street on the fifth. Yikes. I love our city, but really, the summer is just absurd. That said, we harvested our best strawberry yet from the garden on friday - nearly as big as a toddler's fist, it was candy sweet and red all the way through, unlike most store bought strawberries that are white and tasty as a sponge on the inside.
Also in our "summer" garden, the new arugula is growing in and sunflowers are taking to their warm spot against the fence. We harvested plums last week - the yellow wild ones that are each about the size of a walnut. They are almost cloyingly sweet and great in cake. The favas are about done, the peas, as usual, have mildew. The giant pot holding sweet peas on the deck broke when the door banged it in the wind, and since then the flowers, un-watered, have wilted. I keep promising my son I'll replant them soon, but I fear they are doomed because of my lack of focus. The bean shoots are twining up the stakes of their teepees, asparagus stalks have grown tall and weedy and my seedlings are growing up and out of the cold frame. Maybe tomorrow I can get them in the ground, after we spend the day in the East Bay, escaping the fog.
On the way home from our trip I asked both my children about their favorite part of our weekend. We'd gathered with Sonoma's own on the town square to watch their parade Sunday morning and then reconvened that night for fireworks on a giant field of hay. We'd visited Sonoma's Traintown, discovered my daughter's love of ceviche at Maya on the town square and spent hours and hours in the backyard swimming pool, the two of them and their pals shrieking with delight as they jumped like cannonballs into the water and paddled endlessly in their La Petite Baleen tubes. After deliberating for quite a while, one busily picking his nose and the other staring vacantly out the window of the car, they replied.
"DragonWagon," said my three year old son, meaning the rickety tin roller coaster for kids he'd ridden at Traintown, similar to the rickety tin roller coaster for kids he'd ridden a few weeks back at the Giant's County Fair. I see on the web that we can even purchase our own used Dragon Wagon for the backyard, at only $75,000.00. Maybe next year, for his birthday.
And my daughter, who has recently turned a mature five years old, told me "candy. I liked eating candy". So there you go. The highlights of a trip filled with friends, quality family entertainment, summer activities and discussion about the birth of our nation are candy and a crappy roller coaster. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised.
Tonight for dinner, in an attempt to get away from hot dogs and potato chips, we had sausage and fried potatoes. With a little side of sauteed kale and green beans, to round things out. A quick meal, probably not terribly healthy, but something to put on the table.
Hash Browns: (adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything)
four medium potatoes
salt and pepper
The secret to these is that if you fry them up right and serve them immediately, they are delicious. If not, they are terrible. So, set the table, pour the milk and wine, serve the sausage and greens and call your family as soon as you've put the first ones on the griddle. If yours are anything like my family, they should take about ten minutes to assemble, and by then you will have some crispy hash browns ready to serve.
For starters, grate the potatoes in a Cuisineart, with the grating disk. If you don't have one, use a grater with the largest holes you can find. Toss the potatoes with about a half teaspoon of salt and an equal amount of pepper. In a very large flat bottom pan, or on a stovetop griddle, pour two teaspoons of olive oil and heat it over medium low heat until it shimmers. Drop smallish handfuls of potatoes onto the pan, smush them gently with a spatula, and turn the heat down a bit so that you only hear a little bit of sizzle. The potato shreds should slowly turn golden brown, if things happen faster and they start to smoke or turn black, turn the heat down.
Keep checking the underside of the potatoes until they are crispy and golden brown, probably seven minutes or so, then flip them with a spatula and brown the other side. It will take a bit less time than the first side. Sprinkle a little more salt on top, then serve them when the bottom matches the top. Eat them right away - cold, greasy potatoes are not very good.
Sauteed Greens with Garlic and Chili:
The best greens for this are what our CSA calls "stir-fry mix". It is usually made up of small leaves of the heartier greens, like kale and collards.
Fill a salad spinner with water, then go through the greens, pulling the leaves from their stems and putting them in the spinner. Discard the stems and any yellow or excessively wilted leaves. Swish them in the water, dump it and refill, swish again, then dump it and spin dry the greens.
Peel and thinly slice a large clove of garlic. When that is done, heat about a Tablespoon of olive oil in a pot large enough to hold your greens. Toss in the garlic and stir it up, turning the heat down to low when the garlic starts to sizzle. When the garlic is turning a tiny bit golden (you don't want it to be brown or black), toss in the greens and stir them around. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of chili flakes (for a standard bunch of greens), then let the greens sit until wilted, stirring occasionally. When they are cooked to your liking, turn the pot off.
If you have other veggies around that you'd like to eat up, like green beans, steam them for a few minutes and serve them with the greens.