We made a beach trip with some of our best buddies. We brought brownies, they brought their new $5 boogie boards. Hours passed in a moment and then, when we were sand-covered and the ocean had laced salt onto our limbs and we had piled into our hot car that still smelled of chocolate and turned north to head home, J said, “Can we get boogie boards?”
We spend days in the pool, and the waves, and the sun. Towels and goggles hang haphazard around the house, wetsuits drip in the shower, and the boys’ hair is permanently spiked with salt water and sunscreen, no matter how often we bathe them. Their arms and legs have grown brown and strong, and their certainty in their own bodies is thrilling and terrifying all at once. Boys who once (and not so long ago!) gripped my fingers and distrusted the waves now bound toward the break, pulling up their own zip cords as they go.
We go to the beach as much as we can. I’m again attempting trail markers. It feels like stop-motion. I will my body to hold on, to retain muscle-memory, as though parenting these sweet small people were like riding a bike. Is this why grandparents love hugging their grandkids so? Yes, my heart tells me. Yes. Because they are so heavy in our laps, so settled, so solid. But they jump up, and the sun glints on their hair, and they race each other into the waves. I rise to follow them, the lap where I cuddled them still warm, the sand they flung onto the sliced nectarines gritty in my teeth. I squint into the sun and feel tears, the distinction between heartache and joy as hazy as the horizon.
Days spent racing the summer sun demand a different mealtime pace. While eating feels urgent, cooking feels impossible. That’s why at our house these days, there is almost always quick-boiled sweet corn, and fruit, and salad. But on extra-lucky days, there are new potatoes. We get them from our CSA box or the Saturday farm stand, and they come in a paper bag with dirt clinging to their whisper-thin, delicate skins. If you can get truly new potatoes, you don’t need to do much to them. We find they are best gently cleaned, boiled until just tender, dressed with shallots warmed in butter, maybe a snip of dill. We heap them onto big green salads with hardboiled eggs, and dress the whole in a bright, mustardy vinaigrette.
If you try it, may I suggest that you follow dinner with an ice-cold fridge brownie and a few chapters from a favorite book? You’ll want to head to bed soon with your sun-browned kids. First light comes early for a while yet and those new boogie boards should last through the season.
New Potatoes with shallots and dill
Adapted loosely from the Warm Potato Salad recipe in Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters
This is wonderful over arugula, as Alice suggests, but we have also used baby kale (delicious) and mache (wonderful). Kyle has also eaten the leftover potatoes cold, straight from the fridge, with no complaints.
1 1/2 pounds new potatoes, washed*
Butter or cream
Salt & pepper
Boil the potatoes in their skins until just tender (about five minutes for us). Drain. When they are cool enough to handle, cut them into bite-sized (1/4 inch) pieces.
While the potatoes are cooking, peel and finely dice the shallots. Once you have drained the potatoes, put a knob of butter OR about 1/4 cup cream into the warm pan, and add the shallots. You want to soften the shallots, and melt the butter/warm the cream, but you want the shallots to keep some of their oniony funk. Don’t cook them, just let them gently warm through.
Put the cut potatoes back into the pan and stir them gently to coat them with shallots and fat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with freshly snipped dill. Serve over greens, perhaps with hardboiled eggs, definitely with a mustardy vinaigrette (our easiest one is below).
Easiest Mustardy Vinaigrette
We mix of an unmeasured version of this on many, many nights. Just shake it up to taste in a little canning jar with a good lid. You can keep it in the fridge for several days.
~ 3 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
~ 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
~ 1 teaspoon honey or sugar
~ 3 tablespoons good olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mix the vinegar, mustard, and honey or sugar in the jar together. Shake well. Add the olive oil (we usually use a little less than three tablespoons, because we like a more tart dressing, but close to 50/50 with the vinegar is a good place to start). A pinch of salt and pepper, taste and adjust. Double or triple it easily – just use a bigger jar :)
* Because new potatoes are “fragile-skinned, slightly immature … and harvested from potato vines that still have green leaves” they are usually sold unwashed, as washing would damage the skins. They are moister and firmer than older potatoes of the same variety, and have a wonderful, rich, earthy flavor. Be sure to wash them very gently, to prevent too much damage to the skins.