Apparently I’ve been enjoying my summer so much I’ve forgotten to update the blog recently. Maybe saying I’m “enjoying” summer is an understatement. I have actually been LOVING everything about this summer. Since I come from the land of hot and humid summer weather, I feel odd saying that, but bearable summer weather is one of many great things California has to offer (especially if you cheat like me and go to the mountains). I spent most of July in Mammoth doing field work, and even though I’m always reluctant to want to go, once I’m there I am reminded of just how lucky I am to get to work there. The weather is perfect, there’s climbing nearby, and I get to stare at the amazing Sierras every day.

I also spent the last week of July at a lake cabin in Minnesota, celebrating my mom’s 60th birthday with my parents and all my mom’s siblings. Since my sister couldn’t make it, I was the only one there under age 58, but I had a blast. We did crosswords, swam, and ate delicious evening meals, which were always followed by hours of talking at the dinner table when we were done eating. I think the dinner table lingering would have killed me even 5 years ago, but I guess I’m a real grown up now because it was actually enjoyable to sit and chat.

Aside from the traveling to pretty places and visiting family, I’ve been especially happy while I’m at home in Davis and I think it’s due in large part to the garden. There’s just something about harvesting fruits from plants that I nurtured from seedlings that makes me giddy. I have a permanent grin on my face while I’m there and proudly display every harvest to Vicken when I come home, in the same way I imagine I showed my parents my report card as a kid. It’s pretty ridiculous how proud I am of the food I’ve grown.

Since returning from Minnesota, I’ve been harvesting a lot of cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden. I planted 6 or 7 cucumbers, hoping I would get enough to make pickles, but production has been pretty sporadic (2-3 cukes at a time) so we’ve just been eating them instead. The Armenian cucumbers that I planted haven’t done much, but I did get one really nice one that I used in this cucumber salad. I’ve also made the salad with a peeled slicing cucumber and that works just as well. If you’ve never had an Armenian cucumber though, it’s worth a try. You don’t have to peel them, which is a major plus, and they are light and crisp. Plus, if you care about looks, the ridges that run the length of the cucumber give the slices a pretty ruffled edge.

This salad has been my favorite meal this summer. It is light and satisfying, and I it eat for lunch most days when I’m at home. The key ingredient is the Aleppo pepper (the red stuff in the jar above) you add to the lemon dressing. Vicken’s mom brought a bunch from Syria with her when she visited in June so we always have a full jar on hand. You can also buy it from any specialty spice store.

I harvested close to 10 pounds of tomatoes yesterday, so I’m sure I’ll be making lots of tomato dishes in the near future. I’ll try to write about them soon. In the meantime, this roasted tomato soup is a great thing to make with fresh tomatoes. I recently found this blog and am in love with the photography and recipes. The quality of the site is a little intimidating, but it’s inspiring me to step it up here, so that’s probably a really good thing.

Cucumber quinoa salad
Makes one large salad or two smaller side salads

1/2 large armenian cucumber, cut in half length-wise and sliced (about 2 cups chopped)
large handful cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (quinoa cooking instructions)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped parsley

juice of 1/2 lemon
3 Tbsp olive oil*
1/2 tsp aleppo red pepper
small pinch salt
small garlic clove, minced

Stir together cucumbers, tomatoes, and quinoa. Combine dressing ingredients together in a small jar or bowl and shake or stir to combine. Pour dressing over the salad and mix until it is evenly coated. Sprinkle with feta and parsley just before serving.

*If you don’t like the idea of so much olive oil, just use part of the dressing on the salad. I found I needed this much oil to balance out the lemon, so I wouldn’t skimp too much while mixing the dressing.