There’s a vine that grows outside our front door and along the back fence of our garden. It’s called wild clematis, or devil’s darning needles or old man’s beard. It has beautiful little white flowers, and the most intoxicating fragrance, not too sharp or too sweet, indescribable. Like honeysuckle, it blooms at the beginning and the end of summer, and like honeysuckle, it always comes as a sweetly melancholy reminder of summer’s passing. How fast these lazy days go! You can feel it…you can feel the hours drift away. Yesterday I took a blanket out for Clio, who likes to lie in the sun, but the sunlight moves so quickly these days that I couldn’t keep up. It races across the yard. We’ve had a ridiculous spate of perfect weather, the kind that almost hurts when you step outside, because you know it can’t last, and you feel as though you need to savor every moment of it, you don’t want to spend a second in the house. You want to feel the way the chill leaves the air in the morning and the day warms up but the shadows are so perfect, this time of year, that wherever you walk you move comfortably through sunlight and shadow in equal turns. The very air feels good, you walk out into it as you jump into water of the perfect temperature, it feels good on your skin, it feels good to move through it. This time of year, this kind of weather, you think about all of the summers of your life; when you were little and school started soon, when you’re older and you still have that strange feeling of transition, though you haven’t had a first-day-of-school in years. You think about all of the summers to come. I recently discovered the Portuguese word “saudade,” which is a beautiful thing. A sweet sort of nostalgia, missing something but glad that you knew it, and hoping to know it again some day.
“The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.”
As the poets of wikipedia say, “one feels an interior satisfaction because it is impossible to find something, but one never stops thinking that one is searching for it.”
And doesn’t that sound like late August? Doesn’t that sound like the light shifting fast, and the days dawning cold, and the wild clematis blooming outside your door?
Summer means summer squash! We got three lovely little summer squash from the farm. I decided to make empanadas with them. I combined them with white beans, spinach, cherry tomatoes, small hot peppers, some herbs from the garden and sharp cheddar. They were a nice combination of crispy and tender. Very light, for an empanada. We ate them with a fresh tomato sauce, but you could make it all simpler still by chopping some summer-ripe tomatoes and having that alongside.
Here’s Saudade, by Cesaria Evoria.
1 stick (8 T) unsalted butter, frozen
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 t salt
about 1/2 cup cornmeal (for rolling it out)
Add the salt and pepper to the flour. Grate the butter into the flour mixture. Mix it together with a fork until you have a coarse and crumbly consistency. Add just enough ice water to bring it together into a ball. Knead briefly, flatten slightly, wrap in foil and chill in the fridge for at least one-half hour.
3 small yellow squash (or 2 medium, or 1 really large) (You could use zucchini if you prefer)
2 T butter or olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T golden raisins, minced
2 t fresh oregano
3 or 4 fresh sage leaves, minced
splash of white wine
1 can small white beans, rinsed and drained
2 small hot peppers, minced
2 or 3 oz sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small chunks
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 cups baby spinach, washed and roughly chopped
small handful fresh basil
2 t fresh chives, chopped
1 egg, beaten
salt and freshly ground pepper
Grate the squash. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the butter or olive oil. Add the garlic, raisins, oregano and sage, stir and fry until the garlic starts to brown. Cook, stirring frequently, until the squash is juicy, and then until the pan starts to dry out. Add a splash of wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Add the beans, and stir till they’re coated with herbs and all. Cook until the pan is quite dry. Tip into a big bowl.
In a food processor, combine the cheese, peppers, cherry tomatoes, basil, spinach, chives and pine nuts. Process until everything is chopped quite finely, but not puréed. Add to the zucchini mixture. Stir to combine, and add all of the egg except for about 1 Tablespoon.
Preheat the oven to 425 and lightly butter a large baking sheet. Spread a little cornmeal on your counter or table. Break off a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll it into a circle about 1/8th inch thick. Put a large spoonful of filling off-center on the circle. Roll the dough over to make a half moon. Crimp the edges with a fork to seal them. Brush the top with egg. Repeat until all the dough and filling are gone.
Bake for about 20 minutes, till the crust is crispy and golden. Serve with a tomato sauce, or some fresh salsa made with tomatoes and whatever else you like.