Daily Archives: August 20, 2007

Blue days, when summer begins to end

Our house is a disaster area. Since our plumbing malfunctioned last week, the day after we returned from vacation (really, you don’t want to know the details), we’ve agreed to put in 35 feet of new sewer line, from our back door, under our deck, through our neighbor’s yard. The good news is that it won’t require a 2-foot by 4-foot open trench 35 feet long, like we originally thought; the bad news is that, all told, it will still mean three 4-foot square holes under areas that are currently covered with concrete, and four days of construction. Last week, a misinformed insurance agent lead us to believe it would be covered, and we were flying high all weekend, positive about the impending jackhammers and their effects on our collective pocketbook.

This morning, we learned we’ll be paying for it. Sweet, the price of an AGA, spent on the sewer. Talk about flushing money down the toilet.

We’re feeling a little blue. I keep thinking that if I divide the cost by the number of flushes, it’s really worth the money. Plus, think of the alternative.

The thing is, our house is feeling blue, too, quite literally. We already had this house-painting project in the works, so it looks like we’re in for a busy few weeks.

We spent the weekend (that is, um, when we thought the plumbing project was covered) prepping to paint. Two trips to the very best hardware store ever (where Mike asked me if I’d ever been to Julia’s), an entire container of Simple Green, many full yard waste bins, and who knows how many gallons of water later, the outside of our Battleship Gray house is squeaky clean, and all the bushes have had severe haircuts. I think the bushes must be embarrassed.

Here’s the clean house, which on a rainy Seattle day, pretty much matches the sky:

Old Gray

And the convenient Jess-sized space cut between the bushes and the house, all the way around:

Jess-sized space

Saturday night, we were elated.

On Sunday, we decided to paint test stripes on the house, and I started by oh-so-gracefully dropping an entire quart of paint down a set of cement stairs, all the way down to the bottom, where it exploded quietly. I yelled like a cave man (loud enough to make my neighbor open her window and my in-laws, on the other side of my husband’s phone call, wonder what had happened). Then I sat there, watching the thick blue paint ooze toward the drain at the bottom of the stairs, stunned as if it were a strangers’ blood, some untouchable liquid.

My husband rescued me, and we painted stripes on the house:

Paint stripes

Then I remembered Clinton’s commencement speech, and his talk about how being part of a community enables forward progress.

We decided to let neighbors and passersby vote on the color. We live mostly on the inside of the house, right? I mean, we’re not the only ones who have to look at the outside every day. If we’re not satisfied with its distinct lack of color (we found the old paint cans, it’s actually called Cape Cod Gray), there’s a chance other people think it’s ugly, too.

Here’s the ballot, before people started voting:

Voting board

I know, you can’t really tell online, but really, you can vote, too. Choices are (top to bottom) Paprika, Overseas, Steel Bullet, French Riviera, or Please Pick Something Different. (But I think if you vote online you’re not allowed to pick the last one.) The door will probably be some form of red.

Oh, and I must explain the orange. It was a split-second decision, see. On the way to the hardware store we were both swept off our feet by the idea of a deep orange house, and we picked up a sample of “Paprika,” such a rich, loving shade on the color card. Sort of like the color of, well, paprika. But when we got out the brushes it showed up as a shade called “Carrot on Crack,” and we really doubt we’ll paint anything this color. Except maybe wooden warning barriers for the plumbing construction. In case you were worried.

In my next life, I’m going to be the person that names paint colors.

Anyway, it was a blue-themed weekend, even in the kitchen. Here’s a big, messy ppbbbpbththth to anyone who refuses to eat blue food (you know who you are, I made this just to taunt you) and to the food stylist who once told me putting food on blue dishware is a cardinal sin.

It’s comfort food, for the blue days when summer begins to end.

Blue Potato Salad

Blue Potato Salad (PDF)
Recipe 232 of 365

When summer hits, my taste buds develop a new personality. The flavor combination of salt and vinegar practically becomes its own food group, and things that completely turn my palate off all winter long – potato salad, for example, or potato chips – become central characters in my list of cravings. This salad, made with big, starchy blue potatoes I found at the farmers’ market and a simple French-style vinaigrette, gives me the tangy satisfaction I’m looking for in a cold summer salad. (It’s the kind you can serve with an old-fashioned ice cream scoop.) Served warm, it tastes almost like super chunky warm smashed potatoes.

I left the potatoes’ skins on.

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: 6 servings

4 large blue potatoes (about 2 3/4 pounds), scrubbed (and peeled, if desired)
Salt
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup champagne wine vinegar
Pepper, to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 scallions, green and white parts, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sour cream

Place the whole potatoes in a large saucepan, and fill with cold water to cover. Salt the water, bring to a bare simmer, and cook until the potatoes are soft all the way through, about 20 minutes (depending on the size and age of the potatoes).

Meanwhile, whisk the mustard, vinegar, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. While whisking, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, and mix until combined.

Drain the potatoes. When cool enough to handle, chop into 3/4″ cubes and add to the vinaigrette. Toss to combine, then add the scallions and sour cream, and stir to blend. Serve warm or at room temperature. Keeps well, covered and chilled, for a few days.

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Filed under farmer's market, recipe, salad, snack, vegetables