I used to think it silly how wild people went over peaches or ramps or morels—any highly seasonal crop that has a short window of availability. Something about the fervor rang false. Are they really that good? Any better than any other summer produce? It was all just a little too too. But now I think I get it. It’s not so much about the fruit or vegetable (or fungus) itself—though sometimes, I admit, it feels like I was put on this earth to eat thick salted slices of beefsteak tomatoes straight off the cutting board—but the passage of time. The solstice happened a couple days ago, and soon it will be July 4, then Labor Day. What better way to celebrate the season that always goes by too fast than by enjoying its most ephemeral of offerings? And perhaps you, like me, like a lot of people, have been looking these past weeks for a “small, good thing” to make your days a little less heavy. Here are two things.
Last year around this time, I made this green garlic butter from the always reliable Melissa Clark, and I made it again with this year’s farmers market haul. Why give up a good thing when you find it? It’s a bit addictive—the mild spice of the young garlic cutting through the creamy, salty butter. As I was preparing dinner for a friend, I ate about a half dozen toasts spread with the stuff, and when she arrived, I pointed to what little was left and said, “Eat that.”
Some fruit I like to leave alone. Peaches, pineapple—I rarely find them improved with meddling. Strawberries, on the other hand, can take what you give them. They hold up under scrutiny. And while certainly available throughout the year, strawberries that don’t come to you pale, watery, and unnaturally fattened have a much shorter life span. This summer’s batch I made into a loose jam for a semifreddo recipe from Alison Roman, whose lovely cookbook from last year, Dining In, I’ve been enjoying cooking from for the past few months. I like semifreddos because they provide some of the same pleasures of ice cream, save perhaps for the texture, without having to use an ice cream maker. Plus, it’s very satisfying to swirl the fruit or chocolate throughout the whipped cream mixture, making a dreamy design, before freezing it. Semifreddos usually yield one “loaf”’s worth of frozen dessert. With this recipe, it at first seemed like too much. But I’d eat a slice after dinner, then I gave some to a friend, until soon enough it was gone.