By Roberta Bailey
We have arrived at full summer. The days are long. The air is scented with hay and warm leaves. Bees buzz from flower to flower. Bumble bees roll inside squash blossoms. Tree swallows swoop and chortle, catching insects to bring back to their nests. Dragonflies gather and dance in the air, their wings crackling like parchment. Worms crawl in the shade beneath the mulch. Plant roots reach down through the soil to the mycorrhizal web.
Our bodies are tired from so much gardening or farming or swimming and play. The list of tasks is long. Chores get crossed off and new ones get added. Take a minute to sit and soak up the sun’s warmth. The garden is cranking out the vegetables. There is barely time to pick the berries, let alone make the jam. The freezer is filling up with spinach and peas, strawberries, rhubarb and beet greens.
It’s too hot to cook more than a few quick dishes on the stove. The grill is in near daily use. Bags of berries start to get thrown in the freezer for fall, and a time when the heat from making and canning jam will be more welcome.
I find that fritters and cakes in a pan are quick, easy additions to a summer meal. When my kids were young, we made flat breads and pan cakes regularly. They would create new versions of a veggie burger or clam cake and help cook them. One sweet summer, when we traded vegetables for crabmeat, we tried over a dozen versions of crab cakes. We ended up agreeing that simpler was better, as it allowed the delicate crab flavor to come through the most.
Perhaps that is the key to most of summer: Simpler is better. It is a delicate balance of the right ingredients. Here’s to summer and to taking many small moments to savor its bounty.
1 lb. carrots, grated
1/2 lb. potatoes, grated
1 to 2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. minced cilantro or parsley (optional)
2 eggs, whisked
1/2 to 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger root
1/3 c. flour
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil plus oil for pan
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Mix the grated carrot and potato with the eggs and fresh ginger. Add cilantro or parsley if desired. Add the flour, 2 Tbsp. oil, salt and pepper.
Heat a heavy skillet, adding oil to coat the bottom. Spoon about 1/4 c. batter per cake into the pan. Flatten to 1/4- to 1/3-inch thick. Cook slowly over medium heat until browned on both sides, but not so hot that they scorch before the center is cooked.
Simple Summer Crab or Clam Cakes
8 oz. crab meat or minced clams
2 Tbsp. dried bread crumbs or cracker crumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. minced chives or parsley (optional)
Oil for pan
Mix all ingredients together. Heat a heavy skillet. Coat bottom with oil. Spoon batter into the hot pan, about 1/4 cup per cake. Spread to 1/4-inch thick. Cook slowly on each side. Serve hot. Makes 4 to 5 cakes.
(or any grated vegetables)
2 c. grated zucchini
1/2 c. finely chopped scallions
1/2 c. dry bread crumbs or 3/4 c. flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 to 1 tsp. minced fresh basil or other herb (celery leaf, savory, thyme, cilantro or mint)
1/4 tsp. salt and pepper
oil for pan
Drain zucchini in a colander, squeezing to remove excess liquid. In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Heat a large skillet, adding oil to coat the bottom. Spoon about 1/2 to 2/3 cup of batter per burger. Spread to about 1/3-inch thick. Cook slowly, browning on each side. Makes 4 to 6 burgers.
Nutty Summer Cakes
1 egg, separated
1/3 c. honey
1/4 tsp. vanilla or almond extract (optional)
3 Tbsp. whole wheat pastry or white flour
Dash of salt
1/2 c. sunflower seeds, ground to meal
1/4 c. chopped nuts or more sunflower seeds
Oil for pan
Beat egg yolk until thick. Blend in honey and extract. Add in flour, salt, nuts and sunflower meal. Beat egg white until stiff. Fold into the mixture.
Heat a skillet and coat bottom with oil. Spoon 1/4 c. batter for each cake. Spread thinly. Cook, browning on each side.
These cakes can also be baked in an oiled square pan for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 F. Makes 8 to 9 cakes.