I could bitch on endlessly about the heat wave of 2011, and I might still. I’m an English rose, not a hot weather bromeliad. I wilt, I sweat, my hair and shirt plaster to my skin and I’m not good for much but lolling — even in air conditioning. My garden? The weeds are as high as an elephant’s eye. My beautiful birthday bike — the heat’s cheated me out of my summer fun and workout. It’s been so hot that I haven’t even made it out mi casa to buy my longed-for basket and bell.
But hunger happens, even if one’s been dogging it reading thrillers, vacating the couch only to take a shower and grab a glass of ginger ale. Skinless boneless chicken breasts were on sale, and because I’m dumber in the summer, I bought a pack because there’s no other cut of meat than can be transformed into edibility with zero effort. They’ve been rubbed with Thai chile paste and will be sauteed in five minutes. The timer has just beeped, so the basmati rice pilaf awaits.
But today I used some cherries, pears, celery, onion, garlic, jalapenos, onion, cider vinegar,cumin and white raisins to make an informal chutney. I channeled my Indian sisters — I understand the heat and humidity are dreadful in Delhi. Chutney is a relish reared in India, and like any great condiment it can be tinkered. Suvir Saran’s Tomato Chutney rocked me and propelled me to try other varietys, like Mint Chutney. I have mentioned that I run a mint farm?
I love making chutney with what lurks in the fridge. Today it was two pears and some disappointing Bing cherries, along with the aforesaid ingredients. Chutney must be sweet and sour, hot and cool, spicy and vegetal. It’s like exotic cranberry sauce, and this is the bowl I serve my sauce in everything Thanksgiving.
It’s terrific with every meat except beef. Your grilled cheese sandwich will sing, and I adore it with any soft stinky cheese. You’ve got apples, nectarines, nasty hard peaches, apricots, aging zucchini? Yum. The vinegar can be anything handy: cider, white, red wine, white wine, balsamic. The sweet? Go for it : honey, white sugar, brown sugar, whatever.
It’s hardly more complicated than making applesauce, but I’m saving applesauce for a cool October day when the sun’s shining, it’s 65 degrees and the air’s like champagne. If I’m not greedy, I may have a scrape of chutney in a jar in the fridge in October. More likely? I’ll use it up on a Croque Madame within a month.