The start of this week marks Week 2 of summer break for me. To celebrate the end of school and other duties, our family went to Jones Beach to hear Gloriana, Sheryl Crow, and Rascal Flatts in concert on May 30. My brother is the Tour Manager for Gloriana so the free tickets and backstage passes, along with the chance to see Nate, made the night a perfect way to start summer vacation.

Meeting the band Gloriana at Jones Beach
Meeting the band Gloriana at Jones Beach

The next day Anna flew to Indiana for a week with her grandparents, where movie watching, shopping, and excursions with Grandma and Poppa filled her days. Jacob, Brad and I enjoyed some glorious summer weather back on Long Island and began the process of settling into summer days that contain a different pace and rhythm.

One of those new rhythms is cooking. It always takes me a little while to adjust to cooking dinner on a regular basis. Instead of thinking about meals for one or two nights during the week, now I need to menu plan for 5 to 6 dinners per week.  To mark my “re-entry” into regular cooking life, I made a dish that screams SUMMER. Jacob and I love this dish, while Anna and Brad tolerate it.  However, if you like Mediterranean flavors, you will like this recipe. It is called Rustic Vegetable Tart. One of my Live Oak colleagues introduced this recipe to me and it has been a favorite ever since.

Pastry Ingredients:

1 cup flour

½ cup cold butter (I used a little less this time and didn’t notice any sacrifice in flavor.)

2 to 3 Tbsp. cold water

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place flour in a large bowl; cut in butter with pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in enough cold water with fork until flour is moistened. Shape into ball. (I use my food processor, making this step even easier.)

Roll out pastry on lightly floured surface into 12-inch circle. Place into ungreased 9 or 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom or pie pan. Press firmly onto bottom and up sides of pan. Cut away excess pastry; prick all over with fork. Bake for 11 to 14 minutes or until golden brown.

Filling ingredients:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil

1 small (1 cup) zucchini, cut into julienne strips

1 small orange or yellow bell pepper cut into thin strips

1 tsp. finely chopped garlic

½ cup chopped fresh basil (or 2 tsp dried basil)

1/3 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives

4 ounces (1 cup) crumbled feta cheese

2 Tbsp. pine nuts

Meanwhile, heat oil in a fry pan until hot; add tomatoes, zucchini, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and liquid is evaporated (5 to 6 minutes). Stir in basil and olives.

Spoon tomato mixture evenly into baked pastry shell; sprinkle with feta cheese and pine nuts. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until filling is hot and cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Cut into wedges. Serve warm or cold.

I plan to make this dish several times this summer. I particularly like that this recipe can be a complete meal.

Last week also found me tackling long-awaited house projects and filing school papers. I will admit it—I was a little aggressive. The part of me that loves to accomplish tasks and feel productive kicked into hyper-drive last week. Let’s see:  how many items can I check off a to-do list in one day? The more items checked, the better I feel. I chilled a little towards the end of the week, but even then I struggled with the notion that I must be doing something. Argh!

One of my projects last week--painting a door in the family room.
One of my projects last week–painting a door in the family room.

The flip side of this coin is a legitimate desire to be intentional with how I spend my time this summer. I have work and personal goals that need time devoted to them. So I am seeking a rhythm of work and rest that is sane, balanced, and glorifying to God. I won’t do this perfectly. I know that. With God’s grace and power, I will seek to grow and to learn (again) that completing tasks and meeting goals is NOT a measure of my worth and value as a person.

In the meantime, summer provides many opportunities for rest and renewal. Here are some ways I plan to enjoy the next several months: spending time in God’s creation; Making and eating good food; Practicing hospitality; Reading good books; Reminding myself that God loves me regardless of whether or not I do anything.

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