The picture above is of one small corner in our kitchen amid the wonderfully floury mess of pizza night. Note that none of the lines in the photo appear to be plumb. That is because we live in a very old former rectory, and nothing in this house is plumb! I like to think that it adds character. :) Included in the shot are a couple of random peaches awaiting their role in another meal, a bowl of cherry tomatoes, one of my Nigella cookbooks, my beloved mixer, and the "Frozen Foods" sign from my father's old grocery store. When I was a girl, my father managed a downtown supermarket (remember those?), and this is one of the signs that marked the aisles. An employee saved the signs after they'd been taken down and replaced during a store renovation. A few years after my father passed away, that same employee gave the signs to my mother, who shared them with us kids. I have cherished my "Frozen Foods" sign ever since. It reminds me of some very happy times at my dad's store; it also reminds me of the days when small, local grocery stores were the norm rather than the exception.
Central to my childhood--and to my life ever since--were home-cooked meals. Both of my parents were wonderful cooks. We ate good, healthy meals around the dining table together nearly every night of the week. Mr. Magpie's mom is also a wonderful cook, and they also ate from-scratch meals around the table as a family. Mr. Magpie and I don't have kids, but we love to cook, and we still sit down to our meals together. When people talk about the challenges of married life, I often think that if more couples cooked meals together there would be more happy marriages. Cooking is relaxing and sensual. Working with all those gorgeous colors, textures, tastes, and aromas is like giving yourself--and your partner--a beautiful gift.
I used to cook professionally, and my tendency is to be very bossy in the kitchen, but there is one thing that I leave entirely in the very capable hands of my husband: pizza. The man makes gorgeous, crispy, flavorful, thin-crust pizza. That's a shot of one of his pies above. He makes his own dough and his own sauce. This sauce is a simple one with a little garlic, some fresh herbs, olive oil, San Marzano tomatoes, a pinch of turbinado sugar to cut the acid, and salt & pepper. The toppings are olives, vidalia onions, and red peppers, topped with mozzarella and parmigiano reggiano.
My contribution to the meal that night was a salad--but not just any salad. This one comes from Nigella Lawson's Endless Summer, and it's a watermelon salad with feta, black olives, and lime-marinated red onions. It is my current favorite. If you try it, I have a feeling it will be yours, too. You can find the recipe here. Oh, and it calls for mint, and I used orange mint from my porch herb garden. Heavenly.
We've been cooking up a storm around here lately, so I'll be sharing more summertime suppers with you soon!