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.

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Grilled polenta with chard, black beans and pepito-sage-goat cheese sauce

Polenta with smoked gouda and sage

Polenta with smoked gouda and sage

This morning on the way to school, Isaac informed me that after tonight there will be two days to three weeks to Halloween. This boy loves Halloween, he really gets it. Not just the candy and costumes, but all of the darkness, too. He loves the skeletons and ghosts and ghouls. He’s going to be a devil captain (spoiler alert!) if anybody will give him nine dollars so he can buy the mask that Malcolm told him about which he’s never seen but is completely obsessed with. So, as devil-captain, he’s going to drive the boat that takes people to hell. Instead of “Land, ahoy!” He’s going to shout, “Hell, ahoy!” Not in school you’re not, I said. He knows. The other day he made an origami grim reaper first thing in the morning, and the whole way to school he said, “Death is upon us!” (just like it says in the origami book.) I have to admit, it’s a little disconcerting to hear my bright cheerful boy say things like this! (We’ve always said that his first album should be called “Little Mister Sunshine and His Dark Thoughts.”) But on our bike ride this morning everything slid into a different perspective. The spooky Halloween mist burned off to reveal all the birds doing their best Audobon poses in the raggedy glowing golden trees. The trees dying for the year and they’re more beautiful than ever, more fragrant than ever, and the birds are in tizzy getting themselves ready for winter. Halloween marks the real death of summer, the end of the harvest, a time of darkness and cold. But this is also a time when the spirits of the dead come back to visit us, when it’s easier for them to make their presence known. This is uncanny, in the sense that we can’t know it or understand it, but it’s not necessarily frightening. It’s all part of the cycle of death and rebirth, light and darkness–Isaac’s bright delight in the darkness of the day, the goblin-glow of jack-o-lanterns, the walnut trees dropping their seeds with gentle thumps in the dusty towpath, where they’ll split and rot and shed their sharp-sweet green fragrance, and someday grow again. Everything will come back in the spring, and Isaac will love that time, too.

Polenta, chard, black beans and pepito sauce

Polenta, chard, black beans and pepito sauce

I made polenta! Although it’s a well-known vegetarian staple, I don’t make polenta very often. I added some smoked gouda, smoked paprika, and sage, and then I put it under the broiler until it was smoky and crispy. It wasn’t grilled ON a grill, it was grilled under a grill, in the oven. Although you could try grilling it the regular way if you like. So I cut it in wedges, broiled it till crispy, and then topped it with chard sauteed with red peppers and black beans, a pumpkinseed-goat cheese sauce and some more smoked gouda. Fancy. A nice combination of earthy, smoky, sweet and tart.
Pepito goat cheese sauce

Pepito goat cheese sauce

Here’s Mikey Dread’s Pre-dawn Dub. It’s spooky!
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