Having just seen Food, Inc. I am tempted to give up food altogether, or maybe grow my own food. And in a way, I try. I have a tiny collection of herbs growing in my balcony pots up here on the third floor, a kind of garden in the sky.
I have chives, dill, basil, lemon basil, oregano, mint, and parsley all within reach of my scissors. And two tomato plants. It’s a modest group but as many adventurous cooks know just a little fresh seasoning goes a long, long way in making a simple dish sing with interesting flavors. Last summer, I interviewed award-winning San Diego chef Carl Schroeder who declared that July was “absolutely his favorite month” because of the array of fresh ingredients available (Carl’s restaurant Market is devoted to using seasonal, local produce).
The other night, I sautéed chicken tenders (this is before I saw “Food, Inc.”) over medium heat in some good-quality olive oil with chopped garlic. I steamed thinly sliced, salted summer squash with fresh oregano and enjoyed it all with a serving of brown rice seasoned with chives. It was relatively fast and easy to prepare, and the flavors shone through nicely.
I also filled my water glass with mint ice cubes, which is a revelation to me this summer. I never know what to do with the abundance of mint each year, other than garnishing a glass of lemonade or salad. Hardly enough to make use of the harvest. But a number of food blogs like this one suggest laying one leaf in each section of an ice cube tray, filling it with water, and freezing it. Voila! A handy supply of minted ice cubes are now on hand whenever I want them. (You can also use this approach to freeze other leftover or abundant herbs.)
And that’s not a bad idea as we head into the dog days of August.
Cooking tip: To find good quality olive oil, read the label on the bottle. Try to find one that uses olives from only one country.