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Cool Hand Lark (Get it???)

When it’s so hot that you can’t bear sleeping upstairs in your bedroom, the last thing you want to do is heat up the kitchen. And yet, that’s exactly what I did. But it was worth it.

IMG_20180704_093827For three days now, it’s been in the Nineties up in the Berkshires. Hotter up here than in Manhattan, apparently, which is downright odd.

So, yeah, we slept in the living room, I took Remy on a hike that was as close to nature’s version of a water park as I could find, and I’m doing laundry all day just so I can spend more time in the cold and damp basement. I’d considered sleeping down there if it wasn’t so creepy.

B’s been recovering from a little shoulder surgery, so, however minor it is, he’s taking it easy, settled on the sofa in the moderately cool living room and binge-watching Babylon Berlin.  As I do that aforementioned laundry, thoughts, of course, lead to dinner.

Unlike Bertrand, who arrived last night, I’ve been up here all week and, with the exception of the hours in which I’m sleeping, food has usually been in my mouth. Every day, I think, Ok, TODAY we’re going to eat minimally and healthy, and then a text pops up saying, “Dinner at Prairie Whale?” or “Taco Tuesdays?” or “We’re making burgers! Bring your bathing suit!”

Even though today is July fourth, we’ve got no dinner plans, so we agree not only on healthy and light, but also early.  That said, despite the crazy heat in a house that doesn’t have even one air conditioner (that status may soon change), some things needed to be cooked. The eggplant went in the oven and the potatoes went into the boiling water.

Cucumbers. I’ve never been much of a fan, but oppressive heat tends to steer one toward the best options, and grating that cucumber for the eggplant dip instilled a newfound appreciation for both its cooling properties and its wonderful aroma.

Remy and I then headed out to the garden beds and clipped a ton of mint and oregano, some lemon thyme, cilantro and what little dill we had. Where was the tarragon? Had we not planted tarragon? Oh, man. Is it too late to plant tarragon?IMG_20180704_171908

And so, for a very tarragon-heavy potato salad, I went without tarragon. And I threw some of that into a pan of water. When does mint syrup not come in handy?IMG_20180704_192254

The herbs and cucumber went into a cool yogurt sauce for the grilled eggplant while the potato salad was coated with a whipped lemon dressing. Bertrand had his dinner by 5pm. Was this a sign of us getting old?

A text popped up at 5:30. “You home? Emily and the kids are coming for burgers!” So much for a day of healthy eating.

I looked over at my husband and asked what episode he was on (“Nine, I think?”). I found the lightest dress I could find—a completely wrinkled Mexican smock—and threw it over my head, put Remy on a leash and walked to Amy’s house around the corner.

I arrived to not only Emily and the kids, but Emily’s husband Jeremy, Emily’s dad Tim and Amy’s friend Seamus. I ran back home and grabbed a bottle of rose. As we sat on her porch bitching about Trump, discussing the wonders of the Joule sous vide and watching the twins play on the grass, I felt so grateful for the invite, the steak, the grilled red onions and the strawberry shortcake.

Back home on the porch, listening to fireworks in the distance and watching Remy’s dark shadow as she sits on high alert making sure our yard is safe, Instagram is loaded with classic Summer shots of picnics, swimming and fireworks. It hits me that within weeks, the posts will read,  “Feels very Fall tonite” or “Last bonfire of the season” and “Bye-bye Summer.”  I’m not ready for “Bye Bye Summer” quite yet.

I head upstairs to our bedroom (where Bertrand is on episode 11), turn on the fan and let the fireworks lull me to sleep.

Grilled Eggplant with Cucumber Yogurt Dip IMG_20180704_180303

  • 4 baby eggplants, sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (or the thickest you can find)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 10 mint leaves, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on open side of eggplant. Pour a thin coat of olive oil on roasting pan, then place eggplant, open side down in pan and cook for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, grate cucumber roughly into a colander or strainer resting over a bowl. Sprinkle a little salt over it and let sit for a half hour. When ready, squeeze all juice from the cucumber mash with your hands, then mix with the yogurt, 1 T olive oil, garlic and mint. When eggplant is ready, place on plates and use cucumber mixture as topping or dip.

Tarragon-absent Potato Salad

  • 1 lb new potatoes
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • the juice of 3 lemons, plus zest
  • 1 t Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs—thyme, oregano, mint, chives, basil and, well, tarragon if you have any. Can I borrow some?
  • Sea salt

Fill large Dutch oven with water, leaving two inches at top to spare. Bring to boil, add potatoes. Cook for 12-15 minutes. Remove from boiling water into colander, then rinse immediately with cold water. Combine lemon juice, mustard and olive oil in small bowl and whisk until somewhat frothy. Pour evenly over potatoes. Stir in the herbs, and a touch of salt to taste. Finish off with a hearty sprinkling of lemon zest.

IMG_20180704_171908

 

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Jane was executive beauty director at W Magazine for 16 years. When she is not writing beauty articles, she's likely either hiking with her husband and dog, Remy, or in her kitchen, frauding (new verb) her way around a fancy recipe, a home decoration or a highbrow dinner party conversation of which she knows nothing about. In other words, she nods a lot and googles a lot later.

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