As the school year comes to a close and Nayereh gets closer to graduation, I find myself spending more and more nights sitting outside---eating, talking, laughing with friends---and it makes me incredibly optimistic about this summer. I usually look forward to the summer because it involves some sort of traveling. Three summers ago my mother went to Iran and Syria together, two summers ago Nayereh and I backpacked through Europe, and last summer I was in Morocco, Germany, and Austria for a few months. This is the first summer in quite a while that I don't plan to do any traveling. Nevertheless, I look forward to it with as much anticipation as any other summer. I look forward to just relaxing, and using the opportunity to think about how lucky I've been to have done so much traveling and what I look for in my future traveling endeavors (I'll be leaving in September for Nice, where I'll be all of next year). Anyway, these nights we spend outdoors have become so frequent I figured it was worth snapping a few pictures (despite the bad lighting) to attempt to share the kind of warm summer tranquility we all share in our sunroom.
One of my favorite parts of the summer is the delicious, fresh ingredients availible. One of the best uses of perfectly ripe summer vegetables is bruschetta. Sadiqeh makes it everytime. I'm sure Nayereh and I could do it too, but she manages to slice and dice all the ingredients with such a perfect delicacy that makes each bite harmonious.
For her bruschetta, she prefers Roma tomatoes which are more firm than the vine-ripened variety and hold up better when being diced. She finely dices several tomatoes with a handful of fresh basil (another amazing summer ingredient), a couple cloves of garlic, a shallot or two, and a bit of olive oil. Sometimes I forget how incredible fresh, simple ingredients can be and this bruschetta is a perfect reminder.
Another staple at our little evening feasts is my orzo salad, which I've been making for years from a Giada de Laurentiis recipe. It's so easy and so delicious, it's the perfect crowd-pleaser. You simply boil up some orzo and drain it. In a big bowl mix the warm orzo with salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, spinach (Giada prefers arugula), feta cheese, toasted pine nuts, dried cranberries (Giada prefers dried cherries), and fresh torn basil leaves. I feel like a cooking show host, but please, please, please try it. You will be amazed at how delicious something so simple and easy can be.
Here is a photo of our sunroom with the lights turned off, which is how we usually sit around. When you turn off the main overhead light, the few sources of light are the Christmas lights which Nayereh put up both out here and in her bedroom, a Moroccan lantern, and whatever candles we happen to have lying around.
This is a pretty standard spread at our table. In addition to the loaf of french bread, we have Sadiqeh's bruschetta, sliced fresh mozzarella, a fat wedge of Brie cheese, avocado slices, a medley of olives, a plate of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping, and my favorite orzo salad (to be served with the feta cheese which is kept separate because Nayereh is vegan). The unidentifiable black square on the left is Nayereh's ipod which provides the musical sylings of the evening.
I know I'll be having more delicious evenings like these (the summer hasn't even really begun, yet!), and I hope as the weather gets nicer more people take advantage of it and spend more time outdoors. Bring some cheese, and you're welcome to join us anytime!