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East Bay to East Texas

Posted May 18 2009 9:07am
As a child, I never thought much about weather. The San Francisco East Bay is temperate year-round: winter meant a switch to long sleeves, perhaps a sweater, and summer, short sleeves...and perhaps a sweater. There was no switching of wardrobes, perhaps explaining why closets in early- to mid-century California houses (such as my parents') are (a) tiny, or (b) absent altogether.

East Texas is no East Bay. I cannot complain too much; most of the year is mild, warm, and sunny. Gone are my Indiana graduate school winters of snowbanks and frozen windshields, hallelujah, and here to stay are idyllic springs with glorious flora and fauna.

But summers in East Texas are a full-scale assault. This part of Texas is lush and wooded, which makes for great beauty, but also stifling humidity mid-May to late September. Add to that consistent complements of 90-100 degree temperatures and mosquito sieges. We spend much of the damp, sticky season under self-imposed house arrest, with only the occasional parole for snowcones and swimming.

The sweltering began anew three weeks ago (high 90s), which explains why Sunday morning was a shock. I opened the back door to feed kitty, and I was cold.

61 degrees. 61 degrees! A shocking 20 degrees lower than the previous morning. And fog to boot, a soft, gray blanket of dewy cool. This is the summer I grew up with, the summer I still miss. I grabbed my sweater, Kevin, and Nick, and together we skipped church to sip coffee, nibble toast & jam, and play catch in the backyard. We also chuckled over the final set of English paper bloopers:

*The sock market is back on the upswing (thank goodness! my argyle supply is low...)
*Norfolk, Virginity (I imagine the population is dwindling)
*my grandparents only read nonelectronic books (they must be very old...)
*The Renaissance papacy was extravagant; the Poop was omnificent (poop does have that power, spread in the right places)

The lazy morning progressed into a lazy afternoon. Kevin headed to his workshop to finish the construction of a specialized sander (I don't think I've mentioned before now that he is a woodworker in between the English professoring):

And once the sun emerged, Nick and I headed to the park to swing, slide, and frolic. Dinner was the last thing on my mind, so upon our return at 6:30, I had neither a plan nor groceries.

I scavenged the deep freeze. Hmm..chicken apple sausages. But what else? A peak in the produce bin confirmed what I already knew: no salad greens, no vegetables (save for some aging scallions). But as I continued to stare, the one item in decent supply--red seedless grapes--sparked a memory. Roasted sausages with grapes, or Salsicce con l'Uva . I'd made one version from Gourmet several years back that I liked very much, but after looking up the recipe on epicurious, I realized I didn't have quite enough grapes. But a second recipe on the same site, from 2002, used far fewer grapes, and added onions to the mix. So I improvised, combining the best of both recipes, keeping the preparation on the stovetop, limiting the vinegar to two tablespoons, and adding a bit of fresh rosemary from the garden. Nick aided in the final bit:

The results were smashing, if I do say so myself. Easy, gorgeous, and that perfect combination of different, yet familiar. What a wonderful day.

Enlightened Chicken Sausages with Onions & Grapes

I served this with a quick, soft polenta; I used a recipe from Cooking Light (but used regular yellow cornmeal in place of the quick polenta). Need I say delicious?

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 chicken-apple sausages
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups seedless red grapes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over a medium heat. Add the sausages; cook 4-5 minutes, turning every so often. Stir in the onions, then leave to cook for 5-6 minutes more until the sausages are browned and the onions softened.

Add the garlic, rosemary and grapes to the pan. Cook and stir 5 minutes longer until the grapes are starting to soften. Add the vinegar to the skillet. Cook 3-4 minutes longer until the onions are sticky and caramelized. Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition per Serving (1 sausage, 1/4 of the onion-grape mixture): Calories 222; Fat 3.8g (poly 1.2g, mono 1.4g, sat 0.7g); Protein 37g; Fiber: 2.3g; Cholesterol 99mg; Carbohydrate 27g.

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