Cool tacos for a hot day

Black bean, pepper and avocado

Black bean, pepper and avocado

SUMMER JOURNAL

I haven’t had much time to write lately. It’s strange how summer days can fill up with delightful clusters of nothing-too-important but something you wouldn’t miss. Of course I’ve been thinking of writing, and I’ve saved up a million small summery ideas, and I’m going to share them with you now, summer-journal style. This morning I saw the baby eagle fly! As you’ll no doubt recall, his nest is at the top of a giant metal tower. He’s a hulking baby, nearly as big as his parents. For weeks now He’ll stand in his nest, testing his wings. This morning he stretched them out, and then he flapped them, and he flew! Only a few feet, he landed again in his nest. It was so beautiful my eyes filled with tears and I was trying not to foolishly cry outright in front of two men who had stopped in their bike ride to discuss features that all raptors wings have in common. I had told them minutes before that this was a bald eagle, they thought it was “some sort of hawk.” One of them was wearing a shirt for the Eagle Diner, and it had a nicely drawn picture of an eagle as its logo.

I’ve been having a hard time staying away from the local ice cream parlor. One day, after an especially hard day of work, Malcolm and I walked down. I waited outside with Clio and Malcolm went in. I told him I didn’t want any ice cream, and I almost believed myself. Luckily he didn’t and he walked out with the exact ice cream cone I would have ordered myself. We walked home in the warmsummerevening air, and when he got to the last half inch of his cone he gave it to me, as he always does, because he knows it’s my favorite part. It’s the part that makes you want more ice cream. And I always eat it, even though he has summer boy hands, which have handled frogs and toads and plenty of dirt, and probably haven’t been washed all day.

I love fireflies. I love their gentleness and their seeming modesty in the face of their own beauty. I love their seeming patience in the face of human hands reaching out to give them a place to land, over and over again. The other night we sat out in the yard and watched them fly all around us and I saw one lying in the grass, glowing. David says this is a thing they do. Some of them sit in the grass and glow, and some of them fly around looking for their glowing friends in the grass. Maybe I’d seen it before, but at that moment I thought I was seeing it for the first time and it struck me as a wonderful thing to be forty-five and see a firefly glowing in the grass for the first time. We imagined a scenario in which fireflies somehow bite you the way mosquitoes do, although of course it would be much gentler and completely painless. We imagined that instead of swelling and itching, the place where they bit you would glow. And then we thought that people would probably devise a way to get fireflies to bite them in patterns all along their skin, to make a glowing tattoo.

I love the fact that Malcolm will jump into any body of water we encounter, fully clothed, and instantly submerge himself. But Isaac, even for a water gun fight, likes to have a swim shirt and swim shoes and swim suit and goggles. I love that they’re different that way. We’ve been creeking a few times now, of course, because that’s what summer is all about. Malcolm’s in the middle of the creek in a moment, but Isaac hangs by the edge looking for frogs and toads. The other day he asked David, “What’s the biggest toad you’ve never caught?” Which I think is a beautiful question.

Red beans, olives and tomatoes

Red beans, olives and tomatoes

We’ve had a couple of blisteringly hot days, the kind when you don’t want to cook at all, and inspired by my new Ordinary friend Tom, I made these cool tacos. Tom makes his into quesadillas, which are vegan because he uses hummus instead of cheese to hold the quesadillas together. I think this is genius! It was too hot even to turn the stove top on, so we made them into soft tacos instead. I warmed the tortillas in the toaster and I made some rice for the boys, but other than that no heat was required to make these tacos. We’ve had them several times now. Once with black beans, peppers (hot and sweet) and avocado, once with red beans, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, olives, and lots of herbs. You can make them vegan without cheese, or add feta or cheddar or goat or any cheese you like. I made a lemony herb hummus to go with them,
lemony herb hummus

lemony herb hummus

smoky pumpinseed sauce

smoky pumpinseed sauce


as well as a smoky toasted pumpkinseed sauce. All vegan if you leave the cheese out!

Here’s Jimmy Smith with Summertime.

THE TACO FILLING (add any or all of the following)

1 can beans, rinsed and drained (black, red, white, chickpea…whatever you like!)
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
red or yellow bell peppers, seeded and diced
handful of olives, green or black, pitted and chopped
2 teaspoons capers
1/2 a cucumber, peeled and diced
chopped fresh mozzarella, or feta, or grated cheddar or gouda or crumbled goat cheese
Handful of fresh herbs…chives, basil, cilantro, thyme, oregano
handful of pine nuts
dash of olive oil
squeeze of lemon or lime or drop of balsamic

Combine everything in a large bowl. Stir and season well with salt and pepper.

PUMPKINSEED ALMOND SAUCE

1/2 cup pumpkinseeds, lightly toasted
1/2 cup almonds, lightly toasted (You can toast them both together in a dry pan, but keep an eye on them.)
1 clove garlic roasted (or toasted in the toaster oven)
3 or 4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 t fresh rosemary
1 t smoked paprika
1 t balsamic or lemon juice
2 T olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine the pumpkinseeds, almonds and garlic in a food processor. Process until coarse and crumbly. Add the herbs and lemon juice and process again. With the machine running, add the oil in a thin stream. Add just enough water to make a smooth sauce as thick as you like. Mine was the constancy of heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper.

LEMONY HERB HUMMUS

1 can chickpeas rinsed and drained
1 clove garlic, roasted or toasted
handful of fresh herbs. I use everything in the garden! Sage, rosemary, cilantro, thyme, oregano, tarragon, basil. But use whatever you like.
juice of half a lemon
2 T olive oil
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper

Combine everything in a food processor and process until puréed and combined. Add enough water to make it thick and smooth. Season well with salt and pepper.

TO SERVE

Warm up some flour tortillas. I like to set out bowls of everything and let people combine what they like. I’ll have some basmati rice, some grated sharp cheddar, some arugula or lettuce, some cholula sauce on the side.

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