6:06 PM. The edge of a soccer field in south Seattle. I am seated on a cold aluminum bleacher with my laptop on my lap behind a tiny portable goal. A bunch of third grade soccer players are hurling the ball towards the goal. They often miss the goal or kick the ball with enough force to send the flimsy structure flying backwards. Right towards me and my laptop. I would move somewhere else, but there isn’t anywhere else. Their coach is yelling at them like a very annoying barking dog. How can they stand it?! How do I stand it? Now the sun has gone behind a tree. I should have brought a coat. I have an hour to kill and by the time practice is over, it will be nearly dark. Tap….tap tap.
Soccer practice has taken over dinnertime and I am bitter. Can you tell?
It’s frustrating because in September the market is full of plump tomatoes, chilies, peppers, zucchini – all the harvest vegetables. I want to be planning for grilled salads, ratatouille, vegetable couscous. These bright delicately hazy days are perfect for the few last dinners outside before the Seattle fall weather hits, bringing wet grey days and early nights. Since school started the weather has been dreamy. Our tomatoes may even actually ripen on the vine this year! (a first!) Now is the time to sit at the dinner table with a bowl of Pappa al Pomodoro and a glass of wine! Sadly, because of soccer practice, I never get to cook anything fun right now. We have been dining on refried bean quesadillas, peas, pasta, ham and cream and Marcella Hazan’s tomato butter sauce – which is very very good but I am afraid I’m tired of it. The days are so beautiful I want to be outside in the morning when I could (should?!) be coming up with something better for dinner.
Here’s what I’ve been doing instead and I recommend it highly. After Leo hops on the bus I head home to a very quiet house and I take my breakfast in the garden. Since dinner is a bust, I make an excellent breakfast. Does anyone eat zucchini for breakfast? I never would – unless of course it was in some kind of cake. In the market there are still local peaches, nectarines, plump, ripe plums. I bought far too many plums last week. In the kitchen, I passed by them guiltily, clustered in the blue bowl on the table. They are not ideal lunchbox fruits – they get squashed too easily. Then I remembered something. Something about some plums, a vanilla bean and a handful of raspberries – a recipe I liked from a few years ago. A quick simmer and it’s done. In the recipe, it is recommended that you serve the compote with ginger cake or ice cream and I am sure that would be lovely – the ginger cake from this book is exemplary. I like it swirled into yogurt though, with toasted walnuts on top.
Sitting on the bleachers at the edge of the soccer field, I am thinking about breakfast tomorrow morning in the garden. There are still lots of flowers blooming there, coneflowers, sweet peas, coreopsis, sweet alyssum. The sling chair sits right in the middle of them. I hope this weather holds. What is it that they say? Red skies at night, sailors delight? The top edge of Beacon Hill is a brilliant red so maybe tomorrow will be sunny again.
Plum Raspberry Compote
as I remember the recipe from David Leibowitz’ Room For Dessert – a wonderful book
- 7 or 8 ripe red plums
- 1/2 pint of raspberries
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1 c. water
- pinch sea salt
- Halve the plums and cut each half into four slices
- Put the the water and the sugar into a medium sauce pan. With the tip of a small knife, scrape the tiny sticky black seeds from the inside of the vanilla bean into the water and toss in the hull too. Set the heat to medium high and cook until the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Add the plums and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and add the raspberries and a tiny pinch of salt. Stir.
- Allow to rest at least 10 minutes if not overnight before spooning over something. Like yogurt.