The Greatest Hardship

A while back, I was watching a clip of an interview from the 70’s with Aretha Franklin. The interviewer - someone iconic, though I can’t remember who now - asked what her greatest hardship in life was. She stopped for a moment, thinking, before a haunting look of exasperation came over her. “Deciding what to make for dinner EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. I mean, evvvvery night. It’s maddening.” This is not a direct quote but the sentiment / message is identical. It’s clear the interviewer was not expecting her answer. He must not have carried this particular load.

Honestly, I have rarely felt so seen.

Being the more flexible, usually-home parent in my partnership, it’s generally my thing to figure out what to make for dinner. I really don’t mind the making, as cooking can be lovely. But I HATE trying to figure out what to make everyday. It does feel like a curse, Aretha Franklin. I wholly agree.

Assuming that she & I aren’t the only ones struggling within the never ending cycle of what-to-make-for-dinner, I’ve rounded up some suggestions for you, Dear Reader, on what to make from local, in-season Napa produce. Maybe it will save you - even if just once - from having to decide what to cook for yourself or your family or whatever lovely creatures sit around your table most evenings.

Here are some locally grown, in-season ingredients and a few corresponding recipes (including a few desserts!) to get the ideas flowing. You’re welcome.

Asparagus - asparagus soup, asparagus with scallops

There are other ways to eat asparagus besides plain, cooked, with salt. Let’s break free.

Blackberries, Blueberries, Cherries, Peaches - PIE!

For a reason I’ve never been able to ascertain, everyone thinks you’re a hero when you bake a pie. It’s one of the easiest desserts to make on the planet, even when you make your own crust. I don’t get it, but it does present an easy opportunity to be a hero.

Corn - BBQed and covered in spicy truffle mayo

Have you ever had spicy truffle mayo? It’s insane.

Cucumbers - summer salad with homemade croutons

I adore summer salad. Even when it’s been sitting in the fridge for a few days and the homemade croutons are wholly soggy. It’s that good.

Eggplant - eggplant parmesan, Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce

Eggplant parmesan is one of my favorite foods. It always feels special to me, making any evening feel like a birthday dinner.

Green beans - tempura green beans, Buddha bowl

Sorry for stating the obvious, but Buddha bowls are quite possibly the best summer dinner in the books. The variations are infinite so you can use this idea over and over again, tailoring it to your needs and tastes.

Peas - risotto & peas

Radish - Cucumber radish salad

Thinly sliced incarnations of freshness.

Strawberries - fresh summer salad, strawberries with homemade cream

Homemade cream is one of my favorite things. As a topping on ripe, fresh strawberries, this is the perfect example of simplicity as perfection.

Once, my wildly well-behaved dog - she is this way by nature, we trained her almost not at all - went totally off-brand and consumed an entire bowl of whipped cream I had just whipped by hand an hour prior to the book club I was hosting in the room over. And she HATES being bad. That’s how good homemade whipped cream is. It was basically her one exception in life for being naughty. I would have been proud of her if my wrists weren’t still cramping from all that whipping.

(I also think it’s better done by hand, but I can’t put my finger on why.)

Swiss chard - swiss chard omelette

I love breakfast for dinner.

Tomato - fried tomatoes, tuna melts, cold sandwiches with the works

Build-your-own-sandwich is a lifesaver dinner idea. It’s SO satisfying, and also easy to make and clean up.

A short list, but I hope it gets your culinary imagination working. Food really is a joy, especially in the warm months when so much goodness is in season. In the summer I eat more, I eat healthier, and I eat happier. I just wish I didn’t have to figure out what to make…


Photo by Yuval Zukerman on Unsplash