[Apricots from Lisa, June 2009.]

This morning, my apartment, 6:30 a.m.

I meant to bake last night — a vanilla pound cake filled with thinly-sliced plums and an apricot-upside down cake, both from “The Art and Soul of Baking” — but it was a long day and when I actually had time to do so last night I just couldn’t. You know how that happens? Even the best of intentions fall by the wayside in the face of tucking oneself into delicious and comfortable bed — so I gave in and promised I’d wake up early.

And I did.

As I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes I turned on the oven and consulted the cookbook — the butter (so much of it!) was soft and pliant because I’d remembered to leave it out overnight (both in preparation as as a little spurring-along — if the butter was ready I’d really have to get up and use it, no excuses). I whirled it with sugar and eggs to the irritation of my neighbor (really, though, it was only for a few minutes), sifted flour and baking powder, measured out vanilla. I sliced the fruit given me by a generous friend and arranged them not-so-neatly. My apartment filled up with the scent of baking: melted butter, sweet plums, cornmeal. I drank my tea and wished the fog away. Friday.

An hour later, another scene which will live only in imagination because it could not be photographed:

Me, on the Geary bus desperately in need of coffee and running late, lugging still steaming-hot baked goods in to my office. (I have to wonder what what the other commuters thought of my battered paper bag that smelled like it’d just come from a bakery.) Luckily all — including myself — arrived relatively unscathed.

[Pesto made from the market, June 2009.]

Last night, my apartment, around 8 p.m.

Summer, I think, means pesto. Oh sure it also means heirloom tomatoes and stone fruit, blueberries small and sweet, crisp lettuce and tiny cucumbers. It means rumors of a heat wave descending on the Bay Area and wistful thoughts of vacation and soft-serve ice cream and more baseball games.

Still, summer is pesto, at least to me. It’s mostly basil pesto, though of course there are so many other options including but not limited to swapping radicchio for the greens to create sharp and spicy spread for toast or using walnuts instead of pine nuts. But that classic paste of garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, a bit of salt and lemon juice (which I’ve just learned is crucial), parmesan, and basil somehow sums up an entire season’s-worth of meals.

At the Saturday market I had picked up two bunches of basil and so made pesto earlier this week — perfect fare for dinner with an old friend last night. While he very properly poured the wine (showing me the label with a flourish), I put together a small salad (just some greens, chopped cucumber, curls of carrots, half of an avocado, roasted beets for me) and boiled water for spaghetti (I like spaghetti for pesto best; angel hair will do in a pinch). I tossed the pesto with the pasta slippery and perfect, and we ate and talked and sipped wine and it was simply marvelous.

[Dinner, May 2009.]

In the car, somewhere near Sonoma, a few weeks ago.

Look at these green beans! I said to the friend crammed next to me in the back seat after an afternoon of wine tasting and sun. I showed her the image on my camera, because I do things like that. Aren’t they so … sexy?

Now, I don’t know if that was exactly the right word to describe them but man did they clean up nice for their close-up. The taste lived up to the expectation, too (bright, snapping, clean). I know I’ve mentioned this before, but my guy at my market has seriously some of the most beautiful and perfect produce going and I await Saturday mornings with even more eagerness because of him.

So do this: buy a bunch of the prettiest, greenest French green beans at the farmers’ market. Trim the ends (note: this is not absolutely necessary but even though it’s a bit more work I find I prefer to remove them) and melt a tablespoon of butter in a frying pan. Toss in the beans and a sprinkling of sea salt and cook quickly — you want them to cook, of course, but you want to retain their integrity (i.e. not get too soft). I ate my helping greedily along with a baked potato and wished for more.

I don’t usually cook with too much butter — baking, yes, almost always though there are exceptions — but in my regular meals I go first for the olive oil or vegetable broth. For some, reason — maybe because it was chilly? — I just really felt like these little guys needed something to smarten them up and thus doused them in Clover salted butter, melted until almost brown and foaming.

Oh, it was so right.

Later I wrote my friend, It’s OK that I’m sauteing some skinny, spindly green beans *in butter* as part of my dinner because I ran so much yesterday, right? Right?! Oh sigh. But I really think they are too perfect to not be treated to some butter and sea salt.

and received as a reply: You’ll probably kill me for asking (so I’ll whisper it): (what is wrong with cooking green beans in butter again? I forgot.)

Well, rather. Silly me. (I knew it too, but a bit of validation is never under appreciated. However — after I work my way through those previously mentioned cakes I think I’ll be logging a few extra miles in the park next week.) I have a feeling I’ll be eating these green beans, along with big plates of pesto and slices of sweet heirloom tomatoes, all summer long.

It’s only right, really.

Join the Conversation

  1. Oh Nicole — Don’t give up on oysters!

  2. This is great! I was looking for something to do with green beans and now I what it is. I enjoyed your post too. I felt like I was really there with you.

    Check me out here

  3. I feel you dear…summer is certainly pesto (I make a vegan version). I tend to make a whole lot at once and freeze it. That way when my summer days are lost to long bike rides, kayak trips or (ahem) excessive drinking- I know I have a quick, lovely meal to come home to.


  4. I agree that pesto is definitely a summer food. The other day I made my first attempt at homemade pasta with fresh pesto sauce and it did not disappoint. Next time I’ll have to add lemon like you suggest!

  5. I miss living close to a decent Farmer’s Market, if you call Reading Terminal Market in Philly decent. I’m sure the East Coast Farmer’s Markets have nothing on the left coast! However, our very own garden right now is promising a bumper crop of green beans. Perhaps a little sturdier than French beans, but hey, they still deserve a generous dab of butter, no?

    Anyway, I found you on TasteSpotting and am writing to say that if you have any photos that aren’t accepted there, I’d love to publish them. Visit my new site (below), it’s a lot of fun! I hope you will consider it.


  6. Hi! I promise I’m not a stalker, but this was such a great post! So well written. I had fun writing a blog about CN today; turns out a few of my readers already love you!

    take care


  7. love the apricot photograph.

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