September 07, 2009

Summer and the Spit

Labour Day weekend is always tinged with sadness. When you’re saying goodbye to summer it takes some work not to feel a grief creeping toward you. The sun has swept southward in the sky and now comes fully in the window, bathing our sofa in rays during the morning – much to our old cat’s delight. Three trees in the Don Valley have decided to try on red. It’s still hot in the sun, but you need sleeves in the shade. We turn the lights on so much earlier.

Toronto got the Labour Day weekend of all Labour Day weekends weather wise. It was gorgeous. And we earned it.

We headed down to what’s called the Leslie St. spit this morning – as we’ve done many times over the summer. In its weekday life, dump trucks trundle down the paved road that heads off shore, to add to the re-bar and bricks and concrete and old granite that had a life and now are the foundation of new land.

Nature is working as partner in this. The trees have taken over, the marshes, the grasses all filling in what we don’t want to use anymore.

The spit, in its weekend and holiday life, becomes a park. Five kilometers from the entrance to the lighthouse at the end – five kilometers of growth…and cyclists and rollerbladers, runners and walkers.

The wind was coming off the lake today in powerful, cool gusts. The boats were conservative in their sails. The monarch butterflies hunkered down on all the purple flowers they could find, the thistles, the cornflowers. The golden rod was at its beautiful height and everywhere. The cormorants are so happy on the spit it’s one of the biggest nesting colonies in North America.

We’ve seen snakes and rodents and great blue herons hunting, and even a beaver in the inlet pond. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a beaver in the wild before…if he climbs out of his stick house and looks to the north he’d see the skyline of Canada’s largest city right there. But I don’t think he cares.

This year with the moderate temperatures and loads and loads of rain, everything looks lush and beautiful and at its prime of life. In a place that is a hopeful place.

And this weekend was definitely a summer looking for the weather Oscar.

It was a perfect end to summer - a 10-kilometre walk, on a perfect day, through a construction site that nature is cleaning up…So when it came to dinner I went up to the corner vegetable market to see what they had. I picked up local radishes, green beans, some lemons, some tomatoes, green onions and headed home. Oh, and salted cashews…to go with the bottle of wine I intended to open while preparing the summer daze dinner.

Steve marinated a piece of flank steak I had bought at Fresh from the Farm on Saturday. He consulted the Cook’s Illustrated marinating article, which had been marinating under the coffee table for a while. He poured molasses, soy sauce, garlic, water, olive oil, a dash of sesame oil and chives from the garden into a plastic bag, stabbed the meat liberally with a knife, then put the steak in the bag for a lovely bath. For an hour …90 mins max. Then he barbequed it on the grill.

Meanwhile, glass of wine in hand, and bowl of cashews on the table (I love cashews), I made a salad of the tomatoes. I chopped them into small chunks, added some chopped scallions, red pepper and lots of fresh basil from my pot outside – I doused it all in good olive oil (brought directly from Italy by my dear grace Naomi).

I roasted the red potatoes I had in fresh rosemary, crunchy salt, and black pepper. I sliced an onion and caramelized it in a skillet. Then I trimmed and steamed the green beans for only a minute or two and plunged them in ice water to hold their gorgeous green (and I stared into them - because the colour makes me think of what Ireland must look like). Once the potatoes were nicely roasted I pulled them out, threw them into the pan with the onions and added the beans, which I’d cut in half. Once it was all cooled down, I threw over a little balsamic vinegar and finished it off with a little more olive oil.

The radishes were large. And that has meant only one thing to me lately – crunch and no taste. No peppery shake of the head, no holding my forehead as the radish does its thing. Just crunch. So I decided to make a Vietnamese dressing for them. I sliced the radishes thinly, and poured over them a dressing I made with fish sauce, cider vinegar, lemon (should be lime, but the lemons were cheap), garlic, sugar, and shredded carrot. And I let them bathe together while everything else was cooking…They were fantastic.

It was our Summer Daze dinner. And while September moves us on toward autumn, and I love September more than any other month, this Labour Day weekend will be in the books as a great beauty, bringing summer to its full height. The summer of 09 went out leaving them wanting more…

*Pic is from here and here's more on the Leslie Street spit - if you need it!

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