Time exists in different dimensions when we travel. At least I feel that way. We’ve been home now for several days, but my mind remains in Lisbon. The hours we spent climbing the city’s steep hills, touring the Castle of São Jorge and eating copious plates of cod—those hours seemed to stretch into weeks in my mind. But the days since? Unpacking bags, washing clothes? Dusting shelves, pulling weeds? They don’t stick as long in memory. The days pass more swiftly when I’m at home. I think that’s because on the road, I am learning something new every minute. I am hearing unfamiliar languages and tasting flavors new to my mouth. The brain works overtime, and the hours seem to expand.
Don’t get me wrong. I am happy to be home, happy to sit beneath our giant mulberry as hummingbirds dive-bomb my head. It’s good to cook again, and to sleep in our own bed. It’s good to be near family and friends.
We missed a tough summer here, with no rain in June and temperatures regularly exceeding 100. Our pump failed. It clogged with gravel and stopped pulling water from the well. Our plants began to wither, just as vegetation has everywhere across America in this hottest of all summers in history. It’s thanks to the diligent efforts of our dear friend Farmer Jon that our yard survived—and some of it even thrived.
We returned home to a peach tree bowing to the ground, so overloaded with fruit, two of its branches had snapped in half. One by one, we culled peaches from each burdened arm, and the tree started to lift again. We filled two full baskets of unripe peaches, which we now have scattered about the kitchen in brown bags and on bamboo trays. I’ve read they might ripen. A few already have—not overly juicy, but sweet and tender enough. I think I’ll try drying some in the sun. Has this ever happened to you? Do you know what to do with a few hundred yellow-green peaches?
We have green grapes, too—the kind that pop in the mouth and burst with sweetness. And we have nectarines still clinging to the little dwarf tree, not quite ready to pick.
Yes, it’s good to be home. After three months of buses, boats, trains, taxis, hotel beds and restaurant meals, I wanted my birthday dinner this week at home: gluten-free pizzas with mix-and-match toppings. Jerry made three gluten-free crusts and we smothered each one in an abundance of olive oil, pesto, onions, olives, sautéed shallots, toasted garlic, cherry tomatoes, smoked salmon, red pepper, mozzarella, blue cheese and/or Parmesan.
I won’t give you the crust recipe (let’s just say it was an experiment; a little burnt on one side, a little too fluffy on the other—but much appreciated, nonetheless). I will, however, tell you how to make the pesto, because that was a simple, delicious concoction that should take its place on every refrigerator shelf. Use it on pasta, turn it into a salad dressing. Eat it with a spoon:
Simple Spinach Pesto
1 bunch spinach, cleaned and blanched
several garlic cloves, sliced and sautéed in grapeseed oil
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1 handful fresh sweet basil
1 handful fresh parsley
a few good glugs of olive oil
juice of 1 small Meyer lemon
salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and purée. Most pesto recipes call for cheese, but I left it out considering we had heaps of cheese to pile onto the pizza. Still, this pesto stands alone just fine. Better than fine. It’s a summertime delight.
That night, we dusted off the front-porch table, lit a row of candles and ate on the west side of our house. We watched lightning electrify the sky as the thunderstorm slowly tapered to a sprinkle that lasted a few, long hours.