A Day in the Life of the Summer Kitchen


I woke up yesterday in an apartment that felt like a 100-degree oven.  At 9 AM it was sunny and humid outside, already climbing past 85 degrees; nothing out of the ordinary for late June in New York.  But today, it was warmer than usual.  Sure enough, the oven set to 475 degrees.  On the counter was a deflated ball of dough.  I scowled at the sight.  There has got to be a better way to feed ourselves this summer.

Despite the heat, I wanted breakfast tacos.  Since when have sensibilities outsmarted our appetites?  My stomach always wins.  So, I joined my bread-baking roommate in the heat.  Standing over the 475-degree oven, I achieved potato hash and scrambled eggs. By the time the potatoes were crispy, I looked like I had been running sprints all morning.

I was annoyed with myself; it was already hot in there and I made it hotter.  I resolved to cook off the heat for the rest of the week, commencing the summer kitchen challenge.

Running late but at least not on an empty stomach, I headed to midtown. That day, I worked at two CSA drop-off sites – one in Manhattan and the other in Brooklyn.  Many of our members were away on vacation and we had heaps of leftover radishes.  I must have looked like CSA St. Nick on my way home that night, riding the subway with one bag of radishes swung over my shoulder and the other cradled in my right arm, hands stained from the dirt-covered radishes.

At home, the kitchen had cooled off and I resolved to make something off the heat.  I chopped the leaves off of the radishes and hauled out the food processor to make radish-top pesto.  I boiled water for soba noodles, enduring just ten minutes of stovetop heat.  Minutes later, the summer-friendly dish was served.

After a week of radish pickling, pesto-ing, and crunching, and minimal stovetop cooking, I’ve learned a few tips for the surviving my summer kitchen: boil beans and noodles at night, keep lots of dips and pestos in the fridge, and refrigerator-pickle the CSA bounty before it starts to spoil.   I haven’t bought an air conditioner yet, but if our kitchen continues to moonlight as a bakery, I might have to.

Radish Top Pesto

2 bunches of radishes, leaves cut off, washed, and torn apart from stems
1/4 cup basil leaves (loosely packed)
1 clove of garlic or 1 garlic scape
2 Tablespoons sunflower seeds (or nuts)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil


1. Sort through the radish leaves, pulling off any long stems or wilted leaves.  Toss into a food processor.

2. Add basil, garlic, sunflower seeds, olive oil, and salt.

3. Blend in the food processor until smooth and consistent throughout.  Serve with noodles, toast, or use as a dip for carrots.


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