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My relationship with the growing of fruit is tortured, but my relationship with the eating of it remains, as ever, tip-top.

A few thoughts about the season’s tree-fruit cookbooks, on Eat Your Books.

As a rule, I don’t seek out esoteric ingredients when I’m testing for a story.  But the world of whole grains is splendid and diverse and increasingly available, so I thought I’d take a chance on “Red rice salad with edamame, tamari walnuts and ginger”.  On closer inspection, I saw it called for Bhutanese  red rice (not just any red rice, mind you!).   Despair all ye who enter here!–here being the Whole Foods in Hadley, Mass., where rice of a different color was not to be had.

As my son and I drove up to join the rest of the family, staying in rural Vermont, I mentally crossed the recipe off my testing list.  But a shopping trip had to be done regardless–the inevitable consequence of a strange new kitchen–so off I drove to the college town of Middlebury.

On first inspection, there was no rice in the bulk section at the Middlebury Co-op.  But then a sales clerk pointed back over my shoulder.   There was no rice in the bulk section because there was no room in the bulk section for rice.  The rice had its own wall.  I started walking–5 kinds of rice.  10 kinds of rice.  15 kinds of rice.  And there, modestly tucked among its brothers in this rainbow clan of rice, was the Bhutanese red rice.

I won’t even start on the local side of the equation: the goat milk, the strawberries, the greens and scapes, the meat from nearby farms.   It’s been a long time since I fell in love with a store, but I’m just going to go ahead and say it:  I ♥ the

The subject today:  Wheat-Free Noodles, the Joys of.

In today’s Kitchen Window story on NPR, we explore noodles that even the most observant gluten-free diners can enjoy.

Pictured at right is chap chae, the Korean sweet-potato-noodle dish.  This particular chap chae had the very last bit of sirloin from my local-beef buy in the fall, and the single, minute crop of spinach from my garden.

After taking the picture I devoured it in 90 seconds flat, not even bothering to replace the lens cap on my camera.

A few of my thoughts about summer cookbook sales, as posted on Eat Your Books the other day:

Every so often I have a look at the bestseller lists for cookbooks. It keeps me honest–if the books people are buying aren’t the books that I’m recommending, I should know why, even if that doesn’t change my opinion about the books themselves.

If you asked me what sells in summer, I’d probably say: eat-local books, grill books, ice cream books, seafood books. And I’d be partly right. But if you look closely at the Amazon bestseller list in Cooking, Food & Wine, this year’s trends tell a slightly different story:

Celebrities: Yep, it’s a booming market if you’re a TV personality, like Guy Fieri or Theresa Giudice. These books may not consistently inspire, delight, and instruct (the marks of a great cookbook) but wow. They do fly off the shelves. You can also sell a lot of cookbooks if you’re Gwyneth Paltrow.

Men: “Man with a Pan,” “Eat Like a Man”–sound familiar? Audience-based cookbooks are doing really well, especially if you’re a man. The battle of the sexes may have been won on other fronts, but it’s definitely still on in the kitchen.

Bloggers: Well, one blogger, namely Ree Drummond–a one-woman cookbook marketing machine.

Tell-alls & memoirs: Gritty chef stories like Gabrielle Hamilton’s rule the genre, along with macho, exposé style books like Anthony Bourdain’s (see “Men,” above).

DIY: Canning and preserving. People can’t seem to get enough of these, even though I don’t spot much of a difference between any of the dozens of canning books. Also beer (see “Men,” above).

Grills and frozen stuff: I was right about this much–people are buying ice cream books, and, in a twist this year, popsicle books. As for grills–well, not to repeat myself, but: see “Men,” above.

I really am perplexed not to see more fish and seafood books among the top contenders.  Why?  What am I missing??

What else can we conclude from scrutinizing this list? Well, here’s one guess: Men buy cookbooks in the summer.  There, I’ve proclaimed it.  Saying it doesn’t make it true, but it’s curious to observe, isn’t it?

Everything that grows around here is early by about a week.  I know that because the untamed and ill-groomed rosebush by our mailbox usually offers up its first bloom on our anniversary, but this year it jumped the gun.

In the 16 beds of the vegetable garden, food is getting easier and easier to find. The asparagus is over, but we’ve got plenty of salad lettuce now.  Yesterday’s harvest included strawberries, basil, and garlic scapes.  I picked a little parsley, too.

Zoe discovered the joys of fresh shell peas (the sugar snaps still have two weeks to go), helping herself to a little appetizer before our dinner: broccoli and linguine–with pesto, of course.

It wasn’t the fanciest cake ever, that’s for sure.  Cream some butter, sugar, eggs.  Add flour and leavening and some espresso powder (which also went into the glaze).  I can’t think of a single remarkable thing about making or eating this coffee-flavored coffee cake from Classic Home Desserts, but my budding java-head kids still went cuckoo for cocoa puffs.

After more or less weeks of recipe-testing where I didn’t use the same cookbook twice in a row, I found myself a few nights ago with an excess of the ingredients above: miso paste, limes, and ginger beer.  The miso paste, well, I’m like most people–it takes me months to work through a container of miso paste.  The limes were a 5-pound bag from Costco, aging fast.  And the ginger beer was for my nightly Mailbox Cocktail, but I always have a few leftover, going-flat ounces.

So I threw them all in a Ziploc, tossed in some chicken thighs, and let them all hang out together in the fridge for the day.  Popped the broiler on at 5pm, preheated a ridged grill, and called it dinner–a mighty fine dinner, too.  Goes to show, you don’t always need a cookbook.

They’re here! they’re here!  the best of a sizzling, sun-kissed, sea-splashed swarm of summer cookbooks.  Get them for yourself or for your friends or your recent graduates or anyone else you think needs more great food in their life during the season when they actually have time to enjoy it.  Congratulations, best-of winners.  Well-deserved, and mouth-watering.

Click here–or on the lobster–for the official NPR summer cookbooks roundup. If you missed the accompanying interview on Weekend Edition Sunday and would like to hear it, click on the audio link at the top of the story.

Zoe held up a picture in one of her books.  “Can we make this?  Please? Please?”  Well, half my brain was going “Sorry baby, I’m busy making dinner.” while the other half was thinking “What are those, pins?  zucchini?  that looks pretty easy.”  Fun-loving Mom brain won out for once.  I didn’t have zucchini, so we chopped up some broccoli stems and rounded them with a cookie cutter.  Later, Zoe nibbled a rim around the hood and we put in stripes “for a radio”.  I think she meant a radiator.

If you like to cook, chances are you have a fridge full of extra ingredients,  odds and ends that need using up before their sell-by date.  At the moment, I have about 500 square feet of an extra ingredient–stinging nettles.  I’ve made and loved nettle ravioli, but truthfully, they’re kind of a pain to make.  So tonight I made nettle soup.  With plain old bread and butter, it’s great!  Sweet, earthy, and just a little grassy as it lingers on the tongue.  You heard it here first: nettles are the bacon, the veritable bacon, of weeds.

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