Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Summer, Interrupted

Time is an illusion.
Time is a cheater and a fool.
Time is a jester.

When I looked at the calendar last time, it was July 31. Heat was pounding at the sidewalks, hard and unyielding. Early in the morning, when the streets were still wrapped in the fringes of the night breeze, I went to the market and bought a handful of herbs.

Basil, mint, geranium.

Herbs have their way of tricking the heat into oblivion.

Their collective scent -- the scent of long forgotten woods, the scent of a walk on a dewy forest floor blanketed in moss, the scent of an idle summer at the marshlands, cloyingly sweet, yet still fresh -- has followed me on our travels. Geraniums on our balcony in Belgrade -- deep, drunken red, like a marriage of pigeon's blood and wild poppies. Dad still grows geraniums, because they were Mira's favorite. And Dad is definitely not a plant person. Geraniums on the veranda of a little store in Antiparos, where we used to shop for hammam towels and lace, yet the store is now half its original size and the lace is gone. The bushes of holy basil at the entrance to Panagia Ekatontapiliani, The Church of 100 Doors, where we lit candles for the dead. And the living. The sprinkles of mint in our lemonade and on the cold watermelon slices at the beach.

Another look at the calendar and September is already marching in. Taking over. Summers usually arrive waltzing, flirty with promises and expectations, and then depart in a mildly disappointing way. That's what summers do. This particular one was not kind to us. Regardless, I hate to see it go. I want to hold on to it, bottle it up, keep it forever.

And this is the only way I know how.

Kohlrabi Slaw with Basil Lime Vinaigrette

* 1 lb kohlrabi, peeled and julienned into 1/4-inch strips
* 1/2 lb carrots, peeled and julienned into 1/4-inch strips
* 1/2 lb cabbage, shredded
* 1 small red or orange pepper, julienned into 1/4-inch strips
* 3 - 4 tbsp cup lime juice (or up to taste)
* 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
* 1 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
* 1 tsp brown sugar
* 1 heaping tbsp minced basil
* 1/2 tsp minced mint
* 1/2 tsp lime zest, grated on a microplane
* salt and freshly ground pepper 

* 1 cucumber, sliced thinly (for garnish)

In a large bowl mix the kohlrabi, carrots, cabbage, and red pepper.

Prepare the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, lime juice, rice vinegar, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. (Given that that acidity of the vinaigrette is a personal thing, adjust the quantities of lime juice and vinegar according to your liking.) Whisk until well blended and creamy. Add the basil, mint, and lime zest. Leave for about 15 minutes to infuse the
vinaigrette with herbs. Pour half of the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Mix well and leave for an hour or two for the flavors to combine. Taste and, if needed, add more vinaigrette. Place the slaw in individual bowls, and put some of the cucumber slices on top. Drizzle the cucumber with a drop or two of the vinaigrette, and serve. 

Geranium Mojito

* 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
* 2 tbsp geranium syrup (or up to taste)
* 1/4 cup white rum
* 1 tbsp club soda
* a couple of mint leaves and 2-3 lime slices

Place mint leaves and and lime into a glass. Add the geranium syrup, rum, and soda. Stir. Fill the glass almost to the top with ice. Stir, taste, and add more syrup if desired. Serve.

Geranium Syrup

* 2 cups water
* 2 cups sugar
* 1⁄2 cup geranium leaves lightly crushed (about a dozen or so small leaves or 6 large ones)


In a medium saucepan mix the water and sugar. Set the pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally. When the sugar has dissolved, add the geranium leaves. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the syrup is fragrant, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and leave to cool. Strain the syrup into a jar and let it cool. (The syrup will keep for about two weeks in the refrigerator.)