Ever since I was little I can remember hating that the sun would go down before I was done playing outside. This was never more true than at the end of summer. Unlike those epic mid-summer evenings that seemed to carry on forever and ever — the early onset of fall meant that basketball games in the driveway were cut short, bike rides in the neighborhood were wrapped up quickly, and dinner was served before we were done tiring ourselves out for the day. It often felt like we were racing to pack in as much fun as possible before the darkness set in; hoping that if we just played hard enough with enough gusto, the sun would corporate and set a little slower.
An after dinner game of hit the penny was nearly impossible. “Hit the Penny” is a game my Dad invented in which two people stood across from each other on the slate walkway that led to our front door. A penny was placed on the slate in between, and from there all that was left was hit the penny with a tennis ball that would get bounced back and forth between the two players. Never was a score kept, never could a player lose. But hitting the penny causing it to fly up in the air and land heads up was a thrilling feat, nonetheless.
End of summer would be marked by the last of our gargantuan jersey tomatoes, and the final hoorah of sweet sweet summer corn. Sure, we could spend hours catching fireflies in the front yard once the sun had dipped, but this was only a minor victory compared to the loss of summer itself.
While I have new signifiers in my adult life living here in Israel, I think the sentiment remains the same. Now the end of summer signals shorter days and slightly chilly mornings. We experience an exuberance in our garden, which seems relieved that the heat of summer is no longer torturing it. We sit for hours on the balcony, basking in the cooler breezes coming off the sea at dusk. I find it acceptable to turn on the oven.
But this also means I have to try harder to keep myself entertained in the dark evening hours, when playing outside is not as fun. Cooking is one such way to keep the muscles loose. Which is why I made these plantains today. I would not succumb to the sun dipping in the sky long before I was ready for it to do so. I would be productive and excited until the very last moment. Plantains fried twice and salted liberally would have to be my sunset snack of choice; there to remind me that just because the sun is going down earlier doesn’t mean that my day has to be any less fun and fulfilling.
It’s a funny thing, the changing of seasons. We all crave something different in the air. I think it’s Mother Nature’s way of giving us all a fresh new haircut, or a cute new dress. She is there to switch things up and make us pay attention, and she does so through some pretty brilliant ways. I mean, the changing of leaves in New England?? That shit is ridiculous. Growing up surrounded by such changes makes you so aware of the cyclical nature of things. That each tree goes from a vibrant green, rich with summer’s sun and rain, to a fiery fall color of orange or red or yellow, is as good a it gets.
While we don’t get skittles colored trees here in Israel we are all looking forward to the lushness that our winter provides us. Soon the rainfall will start and nature will take this rain with open arms and provide us with a fist full of greenery: a welcome change from the dry summer patches that dot the landscape right now. I may be sad to say goodbye to the dog days of summer but I am ready for that moment when you walk outside and find yourself reaching for a hoodie.
Tostones (twice friend plantains)
*one plantain was enough for the two of us to snack nicely
1 green plantain
Heat a shallow pan (preferably cast iron) with enough oil to fry in (oil should be 2″ deep or so). Slice open the skin of the plantain and peel back the outside. Slice into 1″ chunks.
Once the oil is hot enough (toss a small piece in the oil, if it bubbles you are ready to fry).
Begin frying the plantains in 1 or 2 batches (being sure not to overcrowd the pan). 2 minutes on each side should be enough to get a nice golden color. Remove from the oil with a slotted something, drain on papertowels.
Using a can or jar or whatever you have on hand, smash each plantain (woohoo!) Be sure not to smash so much that they break apart from the force. Each one should be about 1 cm thick.
Once they are nicely smashed go ahead and drop them back in the oil. Fry them for another 2 -3 minutes until they’ve darkened in color. Drain on paper towel and salt liberally.
Make a quick dipping sauce combining the above ingredients to your liking.
Squeeze some fresh lime juice on these suckers and dip to your hearts content…at sunset.