August 05, 2006

S is Summer!

Summer takes a breather and the killer heat finally retreats into a damn good imitation of fall this misty morning—overcast skies and sweatshirt cool. Across the canal, abundant blackberries overgrowing the bank are whispering, ‘Harvest me. Harvest me.’ A mother duck stops her teenage brood to pluck mures dangling over the milky green water. Mmm... Duck breasts with blackberry vinegar?

It’s but the first week of August. Summer vacationers have jammed the French roads and the littoral is littered with sand-crusted European bodies. David L tells us “Paris is closing” but Southwest France is just opening her fat food basket and while neglected chores stretch across the barge, from emails to dirty bilges, I have an idea. On this quiet Saturday morning in August, I settle for a little ‘garden archaeology’- a much-missed tour of the overgrown potager, abandoned for a month of travel on the Julia Hoyt, before my morning chores rein me in. I pout at the keyboard, then bolt and shout to no one at all, “I’ll be back!”

Thirty minutes later. Even the abandoned garden yields a full basket of food: several kilos of tomatoes, a few hot peppers, three over-large courgettes, a handful of cherry tomatoes, one bitter lettuce, some stray leeks and all the herbs I need to make a summer soup- savory, mint, thyme, chives, lemon verbena.

In my absence, a volunteer morning glory knitted the raspberry canes together next to the guinguette/garden shed. They yield a flower pot full to the brim of red thimbles punctuated by a handful of cultivated blackberries. Once again the squirrels and friends have scored the lion share of the noisettes from the hedgerow but I think there is enough to stir into the found berry jam. Enough to make two pots; one to greedily eat now and one to save until the winter blues.

The green gage plums or prunes reine-claude are still crunchy sour, so those that fell at my feet (at my insistence) will get pickled- a sort of green plum chutney for a pork roast fest. The slightly stunted eggplants and the rest of the tomatoes will roast until thick and sweet; I’ll jar them all and save them for the winter cooking classes when I need to recall summer inspiration. I am at my best writing menus when I have a handy palate of textures and colors to pluck from. Camont becomes a quirky edible paint box for my French Kitchen Arts.

Summer Lunch:

French Potager Gazpacho- a Summer Soup
Pork Shoulder Roast served with Green Plum Chutney
Confited Tomato and Eggplant Tartines
August Harvest Tarte
with raspberry, blackberry and hazelnut jam and pears.

and for breakfast tomorrow...

JC's Blackberry Scones: TIM CLINCH