Thursday, August 16, 2007

Columbia, S.C. — Screen Door to Hell

The joke goes that the only thing between South Carolina and Hell is a screen door. After getting blasted with ten straight days of triple-digit temperatures, I’m not even sure the screen door is still there. In case you’re wondering, 107 degrees is hot, damn hot.

When it’s that hot, common sense tells us to slow down. However, since most of the modern world is not based in any way on common sense, people continue to march around in the hottest part of the day. I’m right there with them; the bills still have to be paid and someone needs to sit in my cubicle.

I envy people who live in countries where they just stop all activity during the hottest part of the day. It makes perfect sense to get up early, get things done when it’s cooler and then find a comfortable spot to ride out the heat. When the sun starts going down, everyone picks up where they left off and works (or not) and enjoys the cooler evening air long into the night.

I’m working on my plan to adopt the “siesta” lifestyle. I’ll keep you posted.

While I have been enjoying some wine (I’m way behind on posts), this part of the summer is when I do most of my beer drinking. I enjoy beer year-round, of course, and I use beer quite a bit in my cooking, so I always have some around. There are almost always a couple Newcastles hiding in my fridge.

When I get home from work, there is nothing quite as fine as heading out to my shady back yard, kicking back in my favorite yard chair and enjoying a cold beer while the dogs play. As long as you stay in the shade, dress appropriately and keep a cold beverage handy, the heat actually feels nice. It feels like August in the Deep South.

If a beer isn’t your thing — a glass of well-chilled Vinho Verde is another option to help you survive the heat. We’ve been enjoying Famega Vinho Verde 2006, a lively, crisp, effervescent, almost clear white wine with flavors of lemon, apple, peach and a hint of honeysuckle. It’s in the single digits in alcohol content, so a glass or two won’t send you over the edge.

Hot summers are a part of living in South Carolina, just as much as pork barbecue and bad driving. There is something almost masochistically appealing about the sweltering days of late summer here. I revel in them, and yet long for the cool days of fall at the same time.

Thanks to my loyal readers who are checking back for new posts. My rapidly growing puppy is still taking all of my energy, but he’s becoming less labor intensive by the day. I’ll be posting more new material before long.

Look for posts on South Carolina’s exciting new beer selections (thanks to the revision of some antiquated alcohol laws) and a rant about how much pinot grigio people drink when there are so many other great Italian white wines.

Until then, salud.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Taste of Summer

Here’s a recipe that captures the essence of fresh summer produce. And, it’s just about as easy as putting water to boil.

Put a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil.

While you’re waiting for the water to boil, rough chop ½ medium red onion and ½ sweet bell pepper. In a blender or food processor, pulse onion, pepper and a generous handful of cherry or grape tomatoes along with a splash of good olive oil until fluid, but still chunky.

Prick three or four medium tomatoes with a fork in several places and drop in boiling water for 45 seconds or so. Remove and run under cold water. Peel, core and rough-chop tomatoes. Combine pureed veggies and chopped tomatoes.

Cook 1 lb. dry pasta (I like bowtie or penne for this dish). Toss hot, drained pasta with veggie mix. Add a generous amount of chopped fresh basil or the herb(s) of your choosing, more olive oil, if desired, and salt and pepper to taste.

I like to serve this over some greens with grated parmesan and a sprinkle of really great vinegar on top. You can dress it up in any number of ways.

This evening, I served this dish with Omaka Springs Estates Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2004. It’s a wonderful New Zealand SB with flavors of grapefruit, pineapple and bell pepper, framed with zingy acidity – a perfect match for the fresh flavors of the pasta.

If that ain't summer, I don't know what is.