I’ve spent the past week being an ant. Which is to say that I’ve been storing up the food and flavors of summer in the hopes that they will help get me through the dark, rainy winter months.
You remember that fable, don’t you? It is one of Aesop’s. In it a resourceful ant spends the waning days of summer storing up food for the winter while an irresponsible grasshopper fritters the days away having fun and playing his…legs (pfft! the nerve) When winter comes, the ant’s home is warm, cozy, and full of food and friends, while the grasshopper is hungry and cold and has nowhere to go.
You can probably tell from this rich description that I have a very specific vision of the fable in my head. The Grasshopper and the Ants, Walt Disney’s version of the fable, was a beloved cartoon that I watched more times than I can count.
I learned from Wikipedia (where most things are learned nowadays) that the fable has been politicized throughout history and that Disney’s adaptation of it has a – unmistakable, now that I think about it – Roosevelt/New Deal angle to it. I always identified more with the responsible ant than the carefree grasshopper anyway, making me the perfect audience for Walt Disney’s political agenda!
Annnywho, now that we’ve had that little digression, let me tell you what I’ve been up to lately – besides spending too much time on Wikipedia.
Two weekends ago I took a class at The Pantry from Willi Galloway. It was about growing your own herbs and using them in the kitchen. The class was so inspiring! I immediately went out and bought her book and started planning my garden for next year.
During class we made her recipe for Rosemary Lemon Salt. I’ve been sprinkling it on nearly everything I’ve cooked since. It is so delicious that I took my scissors to my own overgrown rosemary bush (which I learned I should have been pruning several times a year!) and dedicated a large bunch to the same salty-lemony-delicious fate.
And then this past weekend I bought a big bag of humble Roma tomatoes at the farmers market and roasted them in a low oven for several hours ala this recipe from Orangette. The slow roasting concentrates the flavors of these fleshy, oft-overlooked tomatoes into something that can only be described as magic. Summer magic.
Half of those went into the fridge for immediate consumption, and the other half I wrapped individually in plastic and put in the freezer. It’s enough to make me almost wish for the dark, cold, drizzly night in January when I will pull a few of these babies out to toss into a soup or warm pasta dish. Almost.
Last but not least, inspired by this fascinating blog post on using peach pits, I made a peach and basil infused simple syrup. What says summer more than peaches and basil?!
I plan on drizzling this fragrant, light syrup into plain seltzer water or adding it to iced tea any time I need to feel like I’m sitting on the patio with the sun in my face. Here’s to summer…and being an ant!
Basil Peach Vanilla Simple Syrup
Inspired by BraveTart and Willi Galloway
Makes ~3 cups
True to its name, this syrup really couldn’t be easier. The only thing it requires is time. I let mine steep for about 24 hours, but you could have a perfectly yummy syrup in as little as 4-6 hours. It all depends on how strong you want it to be. This same formula could also be used for any number of delicious combinations!
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup basil leaves
- 4-6 peach pits
- 1/2 vanilla bean
In a saucepan, stir together the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
Crush and tear the basil leaves with your fingers to release their oils, and then stir them into the hot liquid. Add the peach pits and vanilla bean.
Cover and set aside to cool. If you are going to let it steep overnight, put it in the fridge. Once done steeping, strain with a fine mesh sieve.
Rosemary Lemon Salt
From Willi Galloway
Makes 1 cup
This salt is addictive. Willi said it is delicious over popcorn, which I can’t wait to try. I’ve been using it to season almost every dish I’ve made in the past 10 days. It adds a bright kick to pasta, rice, roasted veggies, fish, you name it! As with the syrup above, this formula could be used for any number of herb combinations.
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1 1/2 cups rosemary
- 1/2 cup thyme (preferably lemon)
- 1 tsp lemon zest
Place the garlic and 2 tablespoons of the salt into a food processor. Pulse until the garlic is roughly chopped. Add in the rosemary and thyme and continue pulsing until the herbs are finely chopped and the mixture looks like sand.
In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the herb mixture with the remaining salt. Then spread it out onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and set aside, loosely covered with a clean cotton towel or paper towel, to dry for a few days to a week (until the herbs are completely dry).
Store in a cool, dry place (like your spice cabinet).