Learning to cook.

My husband is an amazing cook. Countless times I’ve been asked where he studied. Countless times I tried to explain that he hadn’t. Then one time I remembered a line from Goodwill Hunting about how Mozart could just play. I appropriated the explanation. “You know how some people never took lessons but can just play music? He’s like that with cooking. He just does.”

These past months, our schedule is such that four nights a week he is gone to class during the time to cook and eat dinner if we’re to hit bedtime on schedule. So he’s been prepping what can be prepped, texting me instructions, and coming home in time to hopefully sneak a few bites before “splash splash” and “pjs” and “nilk.”

This means that inadvertently, I’ve been learning how to cook.

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Let’s back up a little…

I’ve always baked. I remember my brother and I kicking our parents out of the kitchen to make cookies by ourselves. I wasn’t yet four, he wasn’t yet six.

Cooking…never my strong suit. Overdone or raw, too much or too little, and without fail: underseasoned not seasoned.

When we first moved in together I was 18 and he was 19. It was our first night in the apartment and we’d just gotten home with dinner fixin’s. I went in the kitchen to start making whatever it was (probably rice and beans, we were painfully poor) and he came in the kitchen to ask, “what do you think you’re doing?”

“Making dinner.”

“Get out of my kitchen, silly,” he teased.

I obliged. I think I made dinner three times our first year together.

In the many years since then, I’ve acquired a few pony tricks. I can make chicken soup without a recipe. I can make a chicken/rosemary/bacon thing in the oven. I can usually manage to steam vegetables appropriately (and remember to salt them!) without them turning to mush. But that’s honestly about it.

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So fast forward back to now, and I’ve learned a lot in the recent weeks. I now know you don’t sear scallops in butter because the lactose makes them stick to the pan. And the (steel) pan needs to be heated empty, oil added, heated, and then scallops (that have been patted dry – and seasoned!) I know many things I didn’t.

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Tonight was the night I applied my lesson about scallops. It was also the night I didn’t overcook the squash (“turn it off when some are looking cooked and some still look raw.”) I did want some greens, and without his guidance ahead of time my intended serving for four ended up quite under-sized (but seasoned!)

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Putting up harvests, eating our colors, and late fireworks.

I’m going tomato-picking again tomorrow! Last harvest was a few days ago. Any guesses how many pounds we’re up to?

These went to DH’s mother, the freezer, a giant batch of pico, and some grilled peppers.

I learned on a Victory Garden episode a few years back about dehydrating unusual things. One of those things was zucchini. The idea being you can dehydrate zucchini, carrots, and other things in season, store them in the pantry, and then when the winter doldrums set in and you’re needing to make soup – voila! You have some summer sunshine in your soup.

I have yet to make the soup, but am starting on the dehydration experiments. My first batch was actually dried last year, and is still in tact – dry and happy.

It’s a handy way to store some of that summer squash excess a few of you in cooler climates may be in the throws of. I cut these about 1/8″ thick, laid them on a cooling rack (like for cookies) and left them in a rarely-used cupboard, forgotten. Last week, we had a few too many squash in the fridge about to turn. I took out the mandoline, set it on the “paper thin” setting, and went to town. 24 hours in our turned-off gas stove later and…

I’m not sure how these will reconstitute in a soup. They’re nearly translucent, and I’m thinking they may simply mush when they hit the soup this winter. Only time will tell.

What about what we’re eating now? We’ve been playing more with the mandoline and making fries! We’ve made beet fries from some Chioggas, which also just came in the mail in the form of seeds to sow soon! I didn’t grow any of the tubers in the pan below, but perhaps someday.

Here we have some organic sweet potatos – orange and white, and some blue potatoes as well. Can you just picture that same pan with some Chioggas in it?

And, after all the worry over how the summer would be this year after last year’s insane heat and drought, we’re having a nice (and surprising!) July. The thunderstorms that passed over our heads week after week last year without letting loose a single drop (only to unleash on the midwest and cause horrendous floods) are unzipping their buckets of water almost every other day these days.

For being drought tolerant, this spongy-leafed sprawler sure puts on a show with regular watering.

These are blooming just outside our garage door. The very same door we propped a ladder against to climb on the roof and watch the fireworks two weeks ago for Independence Day. A little delayed reflection of the explosions in the sky.