The thrill of summer is palatable. I could nearly feel it vibrating in the air as I watched the eighth-turned-ninth-grade students my husband teaches march up the aisle at their graduation a couple of weeks ago. Young couples ride the train into the city in the late morning, flirting all the way, free to adventure as they please. My twin nieces are sporting sunglasses (tiny, three-year-old movie stars that they are) and brightly colored swimsuits, armed and ready for the season. A little girl comes into the coffee shop with her father, ordering blueberry coffee cake to share alongside one americano and one glass of steamed milk.
I remember that rush, of course—the sense that the season was infinite, and maybe I was as well. With summer spread out before me like endless joy, I knew what awaited. There would be sprinklers on sticky summer days and a vacation to visit our family out west; I’d attend basketball camp on dew-drenched mornings; we’d ride our bikes to get frozen yogurt on warm nights, circling through parking lots along the way. Simple as it all seems now, the whole of it felt epic. I’d like to get this piece of childhood back, to see both the big and small, vacation and sprinklers alike, as that good, that glorious.
In the final episode of The Office, Andy Bernard reminisces on the years the show spanned—years spent behind a desk at a paper company in a sleepy town, his office mates quirky and his life neither flashy nor lucrative. He pauses for a moment, looks at the camera and says, “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.”
How true. I’ve done the same myself, as that carefree summertime child and many times since. Now, I look back at moments past and realize how exciting a season, how incredible an opportunity, how lovely it was to have time to be bored, that I actually looked pretty great in that dress, that I was happy.
This year, none of my summer plans are particularly noteworthy. I hope mostly for quiet moments during stretches of busy days, a camping trip, warm summer nights, lots of fresh produce, some ice cream.
The good old days might be now. I’ll call these epic.
Blistered Snap Peas & Radishes with Lemon-Mint Cashew Ricotta
Note that the cashews need to soak for several hours before you make the ricotta—at least 2 hours and up to overnight—and that this recipe will make more ricotta than you will need for this dish.
Vegan ricotta doesn’t taste quite the same as a traditional dairy-based ricotta, of course, but its flavor and texture are reminiscent. Here, I’ve added lemon and mint to punch up the flavor. I like vegan ricotta best when combined with flavorful veggies hot from the pan or oven, such as the peas and radishes used here.
Serves: 4 (with leftover ricotta)
FOR THE LEMON-MINT CASHEW RICOTTA
1 1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup water, plus additional for soaking
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint, plus additional
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
FOR THE BLISTERED SNAP PEAS & RADISHES
8 ounces sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and strings removed
6 ounces French Breakfast radishes (or other variety), ends trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise
1 teaspoon coconut or olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (less if you’re sensitive to heat)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Soak the cashews in water to cover for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
To make the ricotta, drain the cashews and discard the soaking water. Place the cashews in a food processor along with the 1/2 cup water, nutritional yeast, lemon zest and juice, mint, salt and pepper. Process until the nuts are completely broken down and the mixture creamy. It should have a texture similar to that of traditional ricotta. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Set aside. This recipe makes more ricotta than is needed for this recipe; store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for another use.
To prepare the peas and radishes, warm a cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil. Once hot, add the peas and radishes, tossing to coat. Cook the vegetables, undisturbed, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until blistered and blackening on the bottom. Flip, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 3 minutes more. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and toss well. Cook for 1 minute, stirring, then remove the pan from the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the peas and radishes hot, topped with a scoop of ricotta and additional mint to garnish.