Why? Is it because I’ll have big fat vine ripe tomatoes in my garden? Yes…but, no.
Is it because I love bright sunshiney days and summer salads like the one below? Yes…but, no.
It’s because I have plans. Oh yes, BIG plans and they don’t even involve a trip somewhere across the world. Instead of a trip, we’re doing a full-on kitchen remodel. A take down the walls, rip out the floors, start from scratch, kitchen remodel.
And you know what I recently discovered about myself? I like planning a remodel almost as much as I like planning a trip or a big dinner party. I love looking at flooring, figuring out which cabinets and paint colors, and researching appliances just as much as researching some exotic location and finding that perfect hotel or restaurant. For the last few months I’ve been deep in it. But it was all theoretical until last week when we ordered the cabinets. Now the real work begins. I am so excited and it’s not even for our home kitchen.
Late last year we purchased a vacation property that has been in my husband’s family for more than half a century. It’s in the San Bernadino mountains about an hour and a half from where we live in Los Angeles. It’s at 6000 feet and it snows there in the winter. The summers are gloriously cool when it’s scorching in LA. We’ve been going there forever, but now it officially belongs to us. The property is beautiful, at the end of a cul du sac, and in the middle of the forest with views across a valley.
But the house? Oh, the house (cue sad shaking of my head and deep sigh). It was built after a fire destroyed the original cabin in the early 1980s and it needs some serious TLC. There is a back room for storing tools which will be incorporated into the kitchen space and it’s painted “caution orange”. It’s frightening. When I showed a photo of it to the kitchen salesperson at Ikea, she said “And where will you keep your serial killer rope now?”
Yes, it’s that bad.
We used to joke about it, but we recently learned the house was designed by a high school drafting student. I kid you not. And that explains everything. It explains the lack of windows to take in the amazing view on the south side, the poorly designed use of space in the bedrooms and the pitiful lack of space in the kitchen. Only a teenage boy would not consider the functionality of a kitchen when designing a house. I have cooked many a meal in that kitchen, including dinner last Christmas Eve, but let me tell you, it’s not easy. There’s no counter space and the oven door opens into the side of the refrigerator.
So, the kitchen will be the first major improvement we make (priorities, people!) and we will be doing most of the work ourselves this summer (hopefully with the help of friends and family). I’m super excited and if y’all are interested, I will share some details and before and after photos in a later post (kitchens=cooking, right?). I’ve been through a major remodel before and I’m aware of the pitfalls. The beauty and the curse of this one is that while we won’t have to live in the dust of it full-time, the execution of it will take careful planning given the distance. There are no Home Depots down the street. But planning is my specialty. Game on!
In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy this Sicilian inspired wheat berry and tuna salad I adapted from the book Grain Mains and dream that I’m going to Sicily while working on that kitchen. I’m sure we’ll be eating plenty of easy meals like this which I can prepare at home and then bring up to the mountains this summer. For more on wheat berries and what they are, read this post on another wheat berry salad I made last year.
Do you have big plans for your summer? A trip I can follow vicariously? Your own remodel project? Lots of gardening and canning? Let me know…
Fresh and hearty Sicilian inspired wheat berry and tuna salad.
Keyword: salad, healthy
1can7 oz of tuna, packed in olive oil
1vine ripe tomatoseeded and diced
8large pitted green olives
1 1/2tablespoonsfresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2tablespoonsfresh oregano
1/2teaspoonred pepper flakes
1teaspoonanchovy paste or 1 canned anchovy fillet
Cook the wheat berries either in a rice cooker (best if it has a brown rice setting which cooks a bit longer) or with the traditional method on the stove top. If cooking in a pot, soak the wheat for 8-12 hours in cold water. Drain, and add to a medium sized pot. Cover with water and bring to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour or until tender. Drain and spread out on a sheet pan to cool. If cooking in a rice cooker, when done, spread on a sheet pan to cool.
Place the cooked wheat berries, minced celery, diced tomato and drained tuna in a large mixing bowl.
On a cutting board, combine together the green olives, capers, rosemary, oregano, red pepper flakes, and garlic (if using anchovy in the fillet, add it here too). Mince all ingredients until they resemble a coarse mixture.
Scrape this paste into a small bowl and add the anchovy paste if using that instead of the fillet. Whisk in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Pour the dressing over the wheat berries and tuna in the large mixing bowl. Fold everything together gently to combine. Try to avoid breaking the tuna into tiny pieces.
I adapted this recipe somewhat:Replaced tinned anchovies with anchovy paste because I didn't want to open it and then use just one. Added tomato for a bit of color and extra flavor. Increased the amount of olive oil and vinegar because I find that the grain tends to absorb any moisture if it's allowed to sit in the refrigerator for more than a few hours.
Note; the link to Grain Mains is an Amazon affiliate link.