Saturday, August 19, 2017

I'm Not on Vacation, I Live Here

 I have to get up pretty early in order to get anything accomplished in the summertime.  If any items on the chore list can be checked off, it will need to happen before 9:00 am, long before the pull of a sunny day begins to nag at me to get outside and enjoy it.  When you have school age kids, summer is only two months long: July and August.  It's fleeting and fast.  Before I know it, there is only a week or two left of the days when anything is possible and adventure awaits.
  Summer mornings are jammed with activities: early morning swim lessons in the cool ocean, basketball camp, writing class and when all that ends, it's "Mom, can I go fishing, will you bring me to the beach and can you see if anyone else will be there?"
  It's a mad dash from early morning until late afternoon.  Then there is dinner to prepare and clean up as well as all the other household chores: shopping, vacuuming, laundry, bills and walking the dog.  Life on Cape Cod in the summer may seem like a vacation but dishes still pile up in the sink while I take a moment for a dip in the salty water and briefly sit with my feet in the sand before I need to get up and pay attention to the rest of my life.
  Those of us who live here all year, clamor for summer sunshine as we trudge through February snowstorms and bone chilling, wet spring weather.  Because of the long wait for warm, sunny days and sunsets after hours at the beach, the push to enjoy it all while its here can get exhausting.  We don't want to waste a single minute or take any of it for granted but the constant running to take it all in is enough to make me wish for a day full of rain.  And not just a little drizzle. Declan will remind me that overcast days are still good for fishing off the dock.  He will beg me to bring him down to the now abandoned beach, to meet his friends for a wiffle ball game.  What I need is a downpour to keep everyone indoors and under the covers.  A serious deluge that lasts from morning until night so that I can get the beach towels washed and the bathroom cleaned.  Perhaps even curl up on the couch with a good book for an hour.
  But Mother Nature has been kind this summer.  Just enough rain, but not too much to keep us from packing in the fun.  So, the ever growing to-do list has barely an item crossed off.   I tell myself that there is plenty of time to go thru the stack of magazines in my office that began piling up back in March, re-organize the plastic container cabinet before it all busts out onto the kitchen floor and finally clean out the old, worn clothes from the kids' drawers.  It's time to get rid of the pants that are three inches too short.  I will get to all of that in September when the kids go back to school and all the fun is over.  But in reality I know I am really just lying to myself.  Post Labor day brings its own hectic schedule.  I will probably have to wait to clean the closets when a snow day is called next February.

  In order to get a second wind to unpack the beach cooler and throw something together for the dinner table, I need an after beach pick-me-up.  After yelling at the kids to get into the outdoor shower and wash off the sand and salt before entering the house, I am ready for a moment of peace before round two begins.  It's time for a cold jolt of something slightly sweet and a little caffeinated. (Not too much to keep me up past my  9:00 pm bedtime.)  I want a refreshing drink just like the kind you can order at the fancy coffee place with the mermaid logo but without the astronomical price tag and the line that ends outside the door in the summer heat on Cape Cod.  This easy recipe fits the bill and I can sip it in my big chair under the shady tree in the yard, maybe catch a minute of silence before my children begin to ask, "Mom! What's for dinner?"  Did I mention that I need a vacation?

shaken coffee in a stem glass

 Frothy Coffee Drink
(serves one)

1 handful of ice cubes
1/3 cup lowfat milk (fancy coffee places usually use 2%)
3/4 cup black coffee (leftover in the pot from this morning)
2 squirts of agave syrup or honey

Add all ingredients to blender or cup of Magic Bullet.  Blend until smooth.  Drink immediately.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Farm to Table at Highfield Hall and Gardens

 There have been some requests for the recipes from the Farm to Table class I was asked to teach at Highfield Hall and Gardens*, the restored mansion and gardens that was once a summer retreat for the illustrious Beebe family.  It's former gardens now thriving and original stunning home welcomes visitors to to view art, listen to music and taste delectable foods as well as many other forms of entertainment and education.  Gail Blakely, Culinary Director and longtime food columnist for our local Falmouth paper, The Falmouth Enterprise, invited me to join in the fun for two classes featuring seasonal produce where I got to also answer lots of questions about growing up in Falmouth, specifically at 540 Old Meeting House road where I learned pretty much everything that shows up on this blog thanks to Val and Dick.  You may know these two as my parents as they are featured prominently in all my stories.
  Some of these recipes have been adapted from famous cooks and bloggers.  Some are my own and some are from Val's recipe file.  All of them are easy and delicious crowd pleasers.  This is the perfect time to make them as the summer bounty of zucchini, green beans, cucumbers and fresh berries is upon us now in the middle of July and August here on Cape Cod.


Notes from Val’s Kitchen Recipes

Minty Peach Sangria
Makes about 10 cups

1 (750 milliliter) bottle rose wine
¾ cup vodka
¾ cup peach nectar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 ripe peaches
1 small package fresh raspberries
2 cups club soda or seltzer, chilled
1 pint peach or raspberry sorbet
Fresh mint leaves (about 2-3 full stems) for garnish

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large pitcher.  Add peaches and raspberries.  Cover and chill for 3 hours.
To serve: stir in club soda or seltzer.  Add a small scoop of sorbet to each glass.  Pour sangria over sorbet.  Rub mint leaves between your fingers to release oils.  Add a few leaves to each glass for garnish. 

**Garden Fresh Herb Sauce
Serves 6-8

1 large bunch fresh herbs such as parsley, basil or cilantro or a combination
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 pinch red pepper flakes
pinch of salt and black pepper, to taste

For Serving:
Greek Yougurt (about 10 0z.)
Salt and Pepper Kettle Chips (or any sturdy chip)

Remove all stems from herbs and place leaves in a Cuisinart with blade or small chopper.  Add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper.  Puree mixture.  If leaves are not moving around, add more olive oil to loosen so that the mixture moves around in the chopper.  Once, leaves are pureed into fine pieces, adjust for taste.  Mixture can be saved in an airtight container in refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Spread Greek yougurt on a plate leaving 2” border.  Create a well in the middle of the yogurt leaving 1” border of yogurt.  Dollop the Herb Sauce into the well in the center of the yogurt.  Scatter the chips around the edge of the plate and serve.

Summer Vegetable and Herb Goat Cheese Tart
(Adapted from Ina Garten, “Zucchini and Goat Cheese Tart”
Makes 2 tarts

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
10 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
½ teaspoon cider vinegar
5 tablespoons ice cold water
1 ½ pounds zucchini, sliced 1/8 inch thick (small zucchini are best for this)
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces plain, creamy goat cheese (room temperature)
1 teaspoon thyme leaves (or other fresh herbs)
Zest from ½ lemon

Place the flour, ½ teaspoon salt and the butter in a bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse 12-14 times, until the butter is the size of peas.  With the processor running, pour the vinegar and cold water through the feed tube and continue to process just until the dough comes together.  Dump dough out on a floured board, form 2 disks and wrap in plastic, individually.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place the sliced zucchini in a colander and set over a plate.  Toss it with 2 teaspoons of salt and set aside for 30 minutes.  Spread the zucchini out on a clean dish towel, roll it up and squeeze gently to remove some of the liquid.  Put the zucchini slices in a bowl and toss with olive oil.  Using a fork, mash together the goat cheese, herbs, lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Set aside.

Roll out the dough on a floured board to an 11-12 inch circle.  Place each rolled out piece of dough on a separate sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Spread the dough with the goat cheese mixture leaving ½ inch border.  Lay the zucchini slices in tightly overlapping circles, starting over the edge of the goat cheese (the zucchini will shrink as it bakes).  Continue overlapping circles of zucchini until the whole tart is covered.  Sprinkle with pepper. Turn up edges of tart to slightly overlap outer edge of zucchini and goat cheese. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the dough is golden brown.  Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Substitute full fat ricotta cheese for goat cheese, mix in 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped oregano along with lemon zest, salt and pepper.  Top with 12 oz roasted red pepper (jarred) cut into ribbons.

Spread tart dough with 6 oz. spreadable herb cheese such as Allouette.  Top cheese with 1 cup ricotta cheese mixed with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs and zest from ½ lemon, salt and pepper. 

**Crisp Streusel
(Adapted from “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, by Jeni Britton Bauer)
Makes about 3 cups

2 sticks butter, cubed and chilled
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put all ingredients except oats into a bowl and blend by rubbing the dry ingredients into the butter with your fingertips.  Work quickly so that the butter does not melt.  When the mixture looks like coarse sand, add the oats and mix well.  Spread on an ungreased baking sheet.  Break up any large chunks into crumbs, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch size.  
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until toasted and browned, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, especially in the corners and to turn over the unbaked portions.  Let cool completely, use right away or freeze until ready to use.  The streusel can be frozen up to one month.

(Serve with vanilla ice cream and fresh berries)

Cucmber Salad with Creamy Garlic Dressing
Serves 8

4 medium to large cucumbers
1 small red onion
¾ cup Hellman’s Manyonaise
¼ cup buttermilk
1 large garlic clove
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Slice cucumbers into  quarters then, into ½” size pieces.  Cut red onion in quarters and slice each quarter thinly.  Add both to a large serving bowl.  In a small bowl, mix mayonaise and buttermilk.  Grate garlic into mixture.  Add salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Pour over cucumbers and onion.  Chill and serve cold.

Quick Pickled Cucumber and Red Onion
Makes about 2 cups

1-2 pickling cucumbers, sliced (about 1 ½ cups)
1 small red onion, halved and sliced
1 tablespoon pickling spice
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 dried bay leaf
1 cup cider or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt

Place cucumbers and red onion in a heat proof bowl (plastic or glass).  Place pickling spice through salt in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Heat until sugar and salt dissolve.  Strain mixture over cucumbers and onion.   Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Refrigerate in liquid for up to 2 weeks.

**Warm Chicken Salad with Green Beans
Makes 4-6 servings

2 large boneless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice 
1/2 pound fresh green beans
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon dried onion
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons light vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Use spray oil to grease a small baking dish.
Place chicken in dish and sprinkle with salt, pepper and lemon juice.  Cove dish with foil.  Bake 25-35 minutes until chicken is cooked but still very moist.  Cool chicken enough to slice.
  Meanwhile, wash and pick green beans by removing the stems. If they are long, snap them in half.  Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.  Blanch beans in boiling water for 1-2 minutes until they turn bright green.  Drain immediately and plunge beans into the ice water bath to stop the cooking process.  Let rest for 5 minutes and drain thoroughly.
  Mix the dressing: combine celery seed through vinegar.  Add honey and whisk to combine.  Slowly add oil while whisking.  Add sesame seeds and mix thoroughly.  Place sliced chicken and green beans in a large shallow bowl or baking dish.  Pour dressing over ingredients and toss to coat.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

**Basil Rouille
Makes one bowl of dip

2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup mayonnaise (Hellman’s)
1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste
Zest from 1/2 lemon
Juice from 1/2 lemon

Mince garlic cloves and transfer to blender.  Add basil and olive oil.  Puree, stopping to scrape down sides, if needed.  Add mayonnaise, anchovy paste, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Puree until combined.  Store in refrigerator for up to one week.

(Serve with assorted fresh vegetables for dipping.)