Some food for thought now that summers almost over

The nine weeks of summer vacation have flashed by like lightning, but my children had some important accomplishments. Ruby learned to ride a bike, Gideon turned 10 and Violet finished her bat mitzvah thank-you notes. As a family, we were able to have lots of “nothing days” — going to the beach, enjoying long leisurely breakfasts, spending time with family and good friends, celebrating and appreciating a real Shabbat. For us, that means a Saturday without sporting events or other activities.

But Violet’s special scrambled eggs, served at 10 a.m. will give way to bowls of cold cereal and milk at 7 a.m. Sun-warmed tomato slices with garden basil at 3 p.m. will be replaced with lunch box sandwiches. And dinner, currently being finished up by 9 p.m. now must be served promptly at 6:30 p.m. in order to make way for homework, instrument practice and family-connection time.

But take heart, dear readers, life will still be so good, even if the pace is soon to be more hectic than during the summer. How fortunate are we to be able to be grateful for the gifts of each season, summer and fall included. God willing, the children continue to awake healthy each morning, and we have enough time and money to cherish every day, whether they’re with us at home or not.

One way we mark the transition of back to school is to have a neighborhood dinner, potluck-style the day before school starts. I love hosting, and I’m always so thrilled when people bring their favorite dishes. Our non-Jewish friends are very respectful of our meat-free, kosher home, and once, a neighbor even made blintzes.

Pasta Estiva | Serves 6-8

1 lb. ripe cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
1 clove garlic, through the press
4 Tbs. shredded basil
2 Tbs. shredded mint
6 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. pepper
1 lb. pasta, cooked and tossed with 1 Tbs. olive oil
3/4 lb. fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes

Place the tomatoes in a small bowl and add the garlic, basil, mint, olive oil, salt, pepper and sugar. Toss well.

Place the cooked pasta in a bowl and toss with the fresh mozzarella. Add the tomato mixture and toss very well. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Jicama, Avocado and Orange Salad | Serves 8

1/4 cup orange juice
4 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin seed, ground
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 clove garlic, through the press
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 cup sliced, peeled oranges
3/4 lb. jicama, peeled and coarsely shredded
1 large avocado, peeled and cut into 1/2-ince dice
8 cups salad greens
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

In a large bowl, whisk together the orange juice, olive oil, vinegar, turmeric, cumin seed, cayenne pepper, garlic, sugar and salt.

Gently toss 1/4 cup of the dressing with the orange slices, jicama and avocado. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes. Just before serving, toss the remaining dressing with the salad greens. Divide the salad greens among eight plates. Top each salad with some of the orange-jicama mixture. Garnish with the pine nuts. Serve immediately.

To prepare the oranges, cut each end off the orange. Cut off the peel and pith. Working over a bowl to catch the juice, cut each segment free from the membranes.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].