Petrichor [pet-ri-kawr]: the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil. From Greek petros, “stone,” and ichor, the ethereal fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in classical Greek mythology. As I am writing this column late on a Friday afternoon, the aroma of petrichor blows through the window carried by late summer winds. September rains cannot come soon enough.
A friend noted that while she lived in the deep South there was never the smell of petrichor when it rained. Perhaps because the Southern soil is perpetually drenched by humid blankets of air from ocean currents, and there is no dry soil to release sighs of petrichor when raindrops fall.
While Southern air may be heavy, Pacific Northwest gardens benefit from long summer days. The vines droop with the weight of ripened tomatoes, squash and beans, while branches bend beneath the weight of juicy peaches.
Summer dinners are seasonal feasts. It begins with a plate of sliced tomatoes atop thick slices of mozzarella, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and topped with torn basil. Next come meatballs, made with two cups of finely shredded zucchini, a grated shallot, half-a-cup of panko bread crumbs, one teaspoon of red pepper flakes, one pound of ground turkey, a handful of chopped fresh herbs (mint, basil, parsley, dill, oregano), the juice from a large lemon, and half-a-cup of feta cheese. The meatballs are drizzled with olive oil prior to baking at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, and served wrapped in warm pita bread topped with a cucumber dill yogurt sauce. A side of colorful roasted vegetables from the garden, drizzled with oil, topped with feta and herbs completes the meal.
Barbara Kingsolver’s book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” contains a staple zucchini dish: Disappearing Zucchini Orzo. This works well as a warm side dish, or a cold pasta salad, or in a bowl all by itself. Cook up a pound of orzo pasta according to package directions. Shred three zucchini, an onion, and two cloves of garlic. Sauté the vegetables in olive oil and butter until golden and translucent. Finely grate a half-cup of Parmesan, and toss together with the pasta and sautéed vegetables. Top with freshly chopped thyme and oregano, salt and pepper to taste.
For dessert, a peach ginger crumble comes together with barely any effort. Remove skins and pits from a dozen peaches. Thinly slice peaches and place in 9-by-9 inch baking dish. Peel two inches of gingerroot and using a zester, finely grate the gingerroot over the peaches. Sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss to combine. Pour a half-cup of honey over the peaches and stir to combine. Pour two cups of quick-cooking rolled oats over the peach mixture, spreading evenly. Top the oats with three-quarter cups of loose brown sugar, in an even layer. Thinly slice a stick of cold butter and place the slices atop the brown sugar. Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, until the oat topping is browned and peaches are bubbly.