I’ve been waiting for it to start feeling like summer might come. We’ve had a cold spring, with disappointing weather, but the past few days have been warmer. They’ve sparked some hope in me. We might actually get some summertime yet.
Since the weather isn’t really co-operating with my seasonal yearnings I’m making summer in my mind, and nothing says summer to me quite like the smell of food cooking on a wood fire or a charcoal grill. That smell and the flavour of the food itself evoke a thousand warm weather memories. If I can’t have the temperatures, I can at least have the flavours.
Last night we had our first picnic of the season. We packed up our little hibachi (which itself brings back memories of sun baked summer days back in the 70’s) and headed for Transfer Beach Park in Ladysmith. We fired up our charcoal and cooked prawns on skewers. We baked potatoes in the coals. It was fabulous.
I marinated our prawns in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and oregano for just a few minutes before cooking them. (I pre-mixed the marinade and packed it in a Ziploc bag, which I kept in the cooler with the prawns. If I’d put them in the marinade before leaving home, the acid in the lemon juice would have cooked the prawns before I ever got them on the grill.) I visited a friend’s garden on the way to the beach and snagged a few twigs of rosemary. Stripped of their leaves, the twigs became the skewers for our prawns and lent them a wonderful flavour. The smoke from the charcoal together with sweet prawns, the rosemary, and the flavours of the marinade resulted in something really amazing; the kind of dish that makes you close your eyes to better savour every bite.
We’d bought just over a pound of prawns and, even though they were very good, we ended up with some left over. I packed them back into my cooler and brought them home, thinking I’d use them in some way for another meal.
Tonight I was looking for comfort food but was still in that summer meal frame of mind so I decided to make a macaroni salad. I cooked and cooled some whole wheat macaroni, put it in a bowl and added the left over prawns, chopped celery, thinly sliced radishes, green onions, and fresh peas. I could’ve gone with a vinaigrette to carry forward the Mediterranean seasonings I’d used when cooking the prawns, but that didn’t seem comfort-foody enough for me. Instead, I made mayonnaise and—just as countless 50’s housewives had done back in the day—I folded it into the salad to bind the ingredients together. It was crazy good. Even my meat and potatoes guy didn’t complain about getting a plate full of cold pasta. I’m so glad I made it.
Why remark on these two meals? Well, they did help make summer in my mind. I used some fabulous local ingredients to make them. They illustrate how one protein can be used to make two completely different meals. Most importantly, though, they both made me smile. Food that good is worth celebrating.