Food Friday: Zucchini Time!

What are we to do with all the zucchini? It doesn’t look very nice on the windowsill – the many tomatoes in varying stages of ripening are much more attractive. With school starting soon it is time to say good–bye to summer, and to turn on the oven, as you rid yourself of demon zucchini.

An elegant galette is a good way to start your purge. The crust is easy and forgiving, and it is soothing to lay out all the zucchini rings in ever widening circles. You will look very competent and trustworthy. And then you can start to spring these other surprises on the unsuspecting. If you have a garden, you have been harvesting tomatoes with a greedy heart, thinking about the jars of spaghetti sauce you will enjoy this winter. But what about that ever-rising green mountain of zucchini? You need to put on your thinking cap, and find some creative culinary solutions.

That one packet of seeds you planted can probably take care of a family of four from now until next planting season. The prospects are daunting. But do you want to be the formerly favorite aunt who brings zucchini ginger cupcakes to the picnic at the lake? Not if you want those kids taking care of you in your old age! They never forget so-called “gourmet” baking experiments, or deliberate kid slights.

Do not be this person. Do not be a vegetable sneak. Those fourth grade girls will make your life a living hell, and I will pay them to do it! Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies

Instead, be like Nigella. Warm, earthy, sweet and flavorful. And perhaps you will develop a cute British accent. Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Nobody is fooled by zucchini bread. Least of all the small children into whom you are trying to stuff healthy vegetables. You might fool them once, but never twice. Here is one recipe for you to try, you shameless exploiter of small children. Lemon Zucchini Bread:

One of the best ways to reduce your zucchini surplus is to invite unsuspecting houseguests. Breakfast is usually a good time for a surprise zucchini onslaught. The white wine from last night isn’t out of their systems yet, and the coffee hasn’t kicked in. They will need food. A hot and cheesy frittata, please. If they were raised to have minimally good manners, they will eat whatever is placed in front of them, and then they will ask for seconds, and also for a copy of your recipe. Print the recipe in advance, so you look gracious and artfully prepared. Ina Garten’s Zucchini and Gruyere Frittata Squares

Soon you will be running low on friends and dinner invitations. But just in case your iPhone vibrates with a sudden text to come next door for an impromptu drink, consider having a quart (or two) of Sichuan Pickles on hand to bring along. Your friends won’t suspect anything, since you won’t be clutching a large brown paper bag while edging furtively into their house. This is a glorious host-y gift, particularly if you package it nicely. Think green garden twine, and Mason jars, and vintage labels. Lovely. Sichuan Pickles

It has been a record year in our neighborhood for zucchini harvests. You should have a variety of zucchini recipes lined up: breakfast, lunch and dinner. You are going to be working on a veritable squash assembly line. And you will look back fondly on these wacky summer zucchini days when you are scraping ice off your windshield come February. Really.

Breakfast: Thank you, Food52, Lemon Zucchini Pancakes

Lunch: Thanks to A Spicy Perspective, Zucchini and Green Chutney Salad

Dinner: Cooking to impress, from Sur la Table – Baked Sole Roulades

Dinner: For the rest of us: No Cooking Required Zucchini-Potato Soup.

Get cracking!

“Vegetables cooked for salads should always be on the crisp side, like those trays of zucchini and slender green beans and cauliflowerets in every trattoria in Venice, in the days when the Italians could eat correctly.”
― M.F.K. Fisher

Food Friday: Easy Peasy No-Cook Meals

My personal summer philosophy, as Gentle Readers may have noticed over the years, is to avoid the menace lurking in the kitchen – the stove – as much as I can. I make exceptions for steaming ears of corn, quick-frying croutons for BLT chicken salad, and boiling pasta. In my fantasy life we would be dining out often, but the reality is not half that glamorous. We tend to be frugal homebodies, but that doesn’t mean that we are not eating well.

Last night we had a divine Caprese salad, that was rich and varied and quite unlike the cold, straight-out-of-the-fridge restaurant version that you often get served these days. I shopped local (our farmers’ market) for a couple of pretty and colorful heirloom tomatoes even though our garden is still producing a prodigious amount of fruit. It was nice to inject some color with the yellow tomatoes, and a little sweetness with some jewel-like cherry tomatoes. I snipped a couple of bunches of basil from the back porch basil farm, too. We had some leftover fresh slicing mozzarella from last Friday’s pizza, and small olive-sized pearl mozzarella. Mr. Friday likes olives more than I do, so I tossed a handful of deli Kalamata olives in his bowl. Then I enjoyed a grownup version of roasting marshmallows by roasting red, green and yellow peppers under the broiler for a few minutes. They sizzle and crackle and blacken. I suppose you can cheat and buy jarred peppers, but where is the fun? (And five minutes of broiler time will not seriously compromise your new summer philosophy.)

Easy Peasy Caprese
Suggested ingredients:
2 ripe bell peppers, 1 red and 1 yellow if possible, roasted
Salt and pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound fresh mozzarella, at room temperature
2 pounds ripe tomatoes
½ pound cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon capers
A scoop of good-quality olives
6 thin slices of prosciutto, more if desired (I skipped prosciutto in mine)
Handful of basil leaves

You can also add croutons, cucumber, or thin onion slices. Use your imagination, and what may be hiding, forgotten, in the vegetable bin. We want to avoid wasting food as much as we want to avoid another trip to the store.

We drizzled lots of fancy olive oil, too. Obviously two people will grind to a heart-stopping halt if they ate that much cheese every night, so eyeball the amounts you want to use, or what you have on hand. You can even make this as a side dish, and use salad dressing instead of just oil. We were trying to feel sophisticated and Tuscan. Be sure to add some good crusty bread and a glass or two of delightful wine. And candles. And then there is plenty of time to binge watch Season 2 of Derry Girls.

Here is a somewhat fancier recipe:
Ultimate Caprese Salad

More stay-at-home, no-cook summer favorites:

Gazpacho – so versatile – you can make it as soup, or as a cocktail!

Garden-Fresh Chef Salad – get out of the iceberg rut!

Cucumber, Yogurt, and Horseradish Soup

Here is a fiendishly easy way to rid yourself of excess zucchini!
Zucchini Carpaccio

This next recipe does involve turning the oven on to roast the nuts, but maybe you can assign that to someone else while you read the next chapter of Fleishman is in Trouble.

You should be enjoying the heck out of summer. Winter will be here soon enough. Indulge!

Nigella Lawson’s No-Bake Nutella Cheesecake

“In the summer, the days were long, stretching into each other. Out of school, everything was on pause and yet happening at the same time, this collection of weeks when anything was possible.”
– Sarah Dessen

Food Friday: Keeping Cool in August

Welcome to the dog days of summer. We have just started our long slog through August, yearning for relief while gasping for a cool breeze and grasping at (paper) straws in our cocktails. Through this wretchedly long month we droop, we melt, and we puddle in the heat. Thank goodness today is Friday.

During the week we will enjoy cheap white wine with dinner, but with the weekend comes a little freedom to imbibe more exotic nectars. Although Mr. Friday will tell you that the best thing on a hot day is an icy cold beer, pulled from a galvanized cooler, dripping with melting ice and condensation. I prefer a little frippery in my life, although my New England forebears would look askance, and tut tut. Obviously they will have forgotten about August, the hottest month in our hemisphere. We enjoy air conditioning in our cars and houses, and any time we spend outdoors seems hellishly warm. Even Luke the wonder dog is tired of the heat. Halfway through our morning walk he lay down in the shade, and refused to budge. He is not a fan of the dog days.

My favorite cocktail is the French 75, which offers a nice kick, but not much in the way of coolth. It is shaken with ice, and it quickly warms up outside in the real world. Unlike Nick and Nora Charles, I cannot be witty or clever after a few cocktails. Instead, as we sit in the early evening shade in the Adirondack chairs, I want to hear the clink of ice cubes in a tall, light and fruity drink as we wait for the fireflies to start lighting up the back yard. Luke, never far away, sits on the grass with the ball between his paws, hoping for one more game.

Find some backyard cocktail glasses before you start mixing up your own concoctions – something colorful and durable. Something to flash color and spark back to the fireflies as we all sit out the hot month in our backyards, waiting for the Perseid meteor showers to begin.

I am informed by the young and impossibly cool young folk I know that rosé wine is the way to go this summer. And, if possible, sparkling rosé is even more sought after. My exposure to rosé was limited to my parents discovering Mateus rosé the summer they went to England. Interesting that it skipped a generation. So try to be young and impossibly cool, too, with this:

Rosé-Aperol Spritz

¾ cup passion fruit juice, chilled

¼ cup Aperol

¼ cup fresh lime juice

4 teaspoons sugar

1 750ml bottle sparkling rosé, chilled

Ruby red grapefruit wedges (for serving)

Whisk passion fruit juice, Aperol, lime juice, and sugar in a large pitcher until sugar is dissolved. Stir in rosé. Serve spritz in large ice-filled wine glasses. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge.

This brings sweet relief:
Sour-Cherry Gin Smash

2 ounces gin
6 sour cherries

1 sugar cube
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

Ginger ale

1 lime wedge

In a cocktail shaker, combine the cherries and the sugar cube. Muddle until the sugar is broken down. Add the lime juice and gin, and then shake. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with a splash of ginger ale and garnish with a lime wedge.

Perfect for the backyard at twilight:
Firefly Lemonade

4 cups lemonade
4 cups tonic water
1 cup Blue Curacao
1 cup Midori
1/2 cup vodka
4 glow sticks

To four glasses, add crushed ice. Add in 1 cup tonic, 1/4 cup Blue Curacao, 1/4 cup Midori, and 1 ounce vodka.
Stir with a glow sticks to combine. (If you prefer a lot of ice, stir together mixture first, then pour over ice.)

This is pretty kicky – The Frida. I’m sure Frida Kahlo, the ultimate in cool, knew how to refresh in the summer heat of Mexico.

1.5 ounce jalapeño-infused tequila

2 ounce of watermelon purée (purée pieces of watermelon in blender)
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

3/4 ounce simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a glass, garnish with lime, and serve.

But this is my favorite summer cocktail, hopelessly old-fashioned:
Pimm’s Cup

Moonlight croquet, anyone?

1 3-inch piece English cucumber, cut into 1/2-inch slices, plus 2 spears (for garnish)

3/4 cup Pimm’s No. 1*

3 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice or regular lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Ice cubes

2 sprigs each fresh rosemary, thyme, and mint

2 lemon slices

2 fresh strawberries, halved

Ginger beer, chilled

2 rhubarb stalks (for garnish)

Place 1/2-inch-thick cucumber slices in cocktail shaker. Using muddler or handle of wooden spoon, mash well. Add Pimm’s, lemon juice, and sugar. Fill 2 Pilsner glasses with ice; set aside. Add ice to Pimm’s mixture, cover, and shake vigorously 20 times. Strain into glasses. Push 1 rosemary sprig, 1 thyme sprig, 1 mint sprig, 1 lemon slice, and 2 strawberry halves down into each glass. Fill glasses with ginger beer. Garnish with cucumber spears and rhubarb stalks.

“My old grandmother always used to say, Summer friends will melt away like summer snows, but winter friends are friends forever.” 
― George R.R. Martin

Food Friday: August is National Peach Month

August is National Peach Month. I want you to be ready, and armed for every occasion. Here we are, still plodding along happily in July and already I have seen tempting, tumbling piles of local peaches. Golden mounds of them seem to roll toward me at the farmers’ market, and I offer little resistance to their allure. I bag them, and haul them home, and start devising the many ways to eat a peach.

In Baltimore they know what to do with peaches – they bake peach cakes.

I bet you don’t feel like driving over the bridge, do you? Try this at home:

Peach Cake With Raised Sweet Dough Base

(Makes two 9-inch round cakes)
1 cup lukewarm milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cake compressed yeast (2¼ teaspoons dry yeast)
1 egg
1/4 cup shortening
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups flour

Mix together milk, sugar, salt and crumble into mixture, yeast.
Stir until yeast is dissolved. Stir in egg and shortening. Mix in first with spoon, then with hands, half the flour, then the remainder of the flour.

When the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl, turn it out onto a lightly floured board and knead. Knead dough, then place in greased bowl, turning once to bring greased side up. Cover with damp cloth and let rise in warm, draft-free spot until double in bulk, about 1½ to 2 hours. Punch down, let rise again until almost double in bulk, 30 to 45 minutes. Divide dough in half.

Pat dough into greased 9-inch round pan forming a ridge around the edge. Arrange thinly sliced peaches overlapping one another in a circle around the center. To keep peaches from darkening, sprinkle with lemon, orange or grapefruit juice. Cover and let rise until double, 25 to 35 minutes. Bake 25 to 30 minutes in 400° F oven.

Quick Apricot Glaze:
Add 1 tablespoon hot water to 1/3 cup apricot jam.
Recipes from The Baltimore Evening Sun, 1958

Mr. Friday sliced half a peach onto his bowl of cold twiggy cereal this morning, leaving the other half for me on the cutting board. I ate it over the sink, because the juices dripped furiously and there wasn’t anyone around who would point out that I should have been more ladylike and used a napkin. Don’t neglect any opportunity to just seize the day, and a peach, early, and eat it in your crude plebeian fashion. I understand that the young royals are not allowed to use their fingers to eat fruit – they are supposed to use a knife and fork! Shocking!

Summer is the time of melting ice cream and oozing s’mores and juicy watermelon and dripping peaches. How can you appreciate a peach unless you feel the velvet skin with your own sticky fingers? If you haven’t had peach juice run down the front of your T-shirt, you have not had a satisfactory summer experience.

By the time cocktail hour rolls around you might feel a certain longing for the decadent. I haven’t been to Harry’s Bar in Venice (although I’d like to) and sometimes I want to experience a Charles Ryder moment. Harry’s Bar has brought us the Bellini, the dry Martini, and Carpaggio. I think a Bellini or two will do this evening. It is Friday, after all. And what a thrifty and timely recipe – using some of our glut of peaches instead of the usual pears for a Bellini!

And if you like your peaches pure and unadulterated, now is the perfect time for you to grab a couple of them, mosey out to the hammock, pick up the latest Laura Lippman novel, and while away a summer’s afternoon.

“Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it.”
― Alice Walker

Fun facts to know and tell:

Food Friday: Summer Bounty

We are suddenly overwhelmed by the burgeoning of our half dozen tomato plants. We planted them early in May in the raised garden bed on the side of the house, where they would get lots of afternoon sun. We also planted a row of zinnia seedlings in the front, and another line of hollyhocks behind them, thinking the hollyhocks would provide a colorful background wall, planning ahead for my Instagram feed. We hadn’t planned on Nature running its own headstrong course.

Because of the serendipity of a week of rain, good soil, an attentive neighbor who watered when we were out of town, and a practically weedless growing environment, the tomatoes and the flowers are now enormous. In the two months since they were planted, the tomatoes have spread their wings and fully occupied the small enclosed space. There seems to be competition among the plants to see which can grown the tallest first.

And then there are the tomatoes. The tomatoes are coming in waves. In spurts, in drips, in rivulets, and in quick succession. I promise you, all I did was go out and coo at them a couple of times a week, and now they are the sorcerer’s apprentice of fruit. We have a bowl full of crimson orbs on the kitchen counter, another six or seven resting on the window sill as they ripen, and a bulging paper bag waiting to be delivered next door.

I thought we overplanted last year, when we had tomatoes, beans, peppers and basil all elbowing for space. This year the basil farm lives on the back porch, and we gave up on peppers and beans altogether. The tomatoes are rushing to the sea. The tomato cages are listing under their weight. Now it is time to get practical in the kitchen.

Yesterday I had my first tomato sandwich of the season, thinking fondly of Harriet M. Welsch, (a.k.a Harriet the Spy) the eleven-year-old snoop and scribe who carried a tomato sandwich to school every day. Living below the Mason Dixon Line as I do, I am supposed to slather on the Duke’s mayonnaise – but Hellmann’s is what was on hand. I dusted the slices of juicy tomato with a little Maldon salt and some black pepper and enclosed all that deliciousness between two slices of Pepperidge Farm bread. The result: nectar of the gods. And today I will repeat the process. But that only uses up one tomato. I need to think exponentially.

The eager beavers at Food52 have gone a wee bit overboard, I think, with their tomato sandwich variations:

Thursday night we had Tomato Pie.

On Friday night, which is Pizza Night, we will be grilling some Big Love Pizzas. The dough is rising in a big bowl, and there is plenty of basil wafting in the breeze on the back porch.

Big Love Pizzas

1 pound tomatoes, you can eyeball this, depending on how many people you are feeding – because if you need more, you know where to go.
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella

Pizza dough
Flour, for dusting
2 bunches of fresh basil leaves, torn
Garlic – at least 1 clove for each pie

Seed and chop tomatoes

Oil and then heat up the grill – we used a gas grill which has 3 bars, using the 2 outside bars. The fire is medium-hot when you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack for 3 to 4 seconds. We lowered the heat once the dough was on the grill.

Divide the pizza dough into 2 and roll it out.
Oil the side that goes on the grill.
Toss with care onto the grill.
Grill for 2 to 3 minutes and then flip with tongs.
Cover the cooked surface with tomatoes, garlic, pepperoni and mozzarella, drizzling it with a little oil.

Close the top of the grill to let the cheese melt.
The dough will rise, and when you start to smell burnt bread it is time to take it off the grill, about 3 minutes.

Add the roughly chopped basil just before serving.

Experience matters. We discovered that it is easier to combine the oil and garlic and tomatoes in a bowl first and then distribute that mixture on the pie. Lots of burned fingers resulted when putting all the ingredients on by hand.

And since it is Friday night, a celebratory glass of wine, please.

Don’t forget you can always whip up a batch of bruschetta, or make a panzanella salad, too.

We seem to have made an initial dent in our ever-growing stash of tomatoes. It looks like it is going to be a nice, long summer of fine eating.

“In this world of uncertainty and woe, one thing remains unchanged: Fresh, canned, pureed, dried, salted, sliced, and served with sugar and cream, or pressed into juice, the tomato is reliable, friendly, and delicious. We would be nothing without it.”
– Laurie Colwin

Food Friday: Metropolitan Ice Creams

It is shaping up to be a hot summer. Which is a good thing. It gives us something to reflect upon fondly when we are scraping ice off our windshields in February. Mr. Friday and I will remember the week we just spent vacationing in New York City, where the heat was hellish, the sidewalks were soft and sticky, and there was an endless parade of cooling, delicious summer ice creams forever strutting before us, beckoning us, luring us with chilly, sweet siren songs. And as good tourists, we obliged by eating as much ice cream as we could.

July is National Ice Cream Month. Thus our gobbling up ice cream was not only good manners, it was patriotic. Since we missed this week’s ticker tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes for the U.S. Women’s National Team’s victory lap, I’m glad to say we celebrated the international competition of ice creams with gusto. Cautionary tale: since coming home, I have taken my plump little self back to the gym every damn day. But it was worth it.

On our first day in New York we ambled over to the west side, up on the High Line, and under the hulk of The Vessel, the new M.C. Esher-like landmark built for photo ops and tourist initiations to pedestrian challenges. The Vessel stands in the once industrial Hudson Yards, where Long Island railroad cars are stored before they make their return journey. Now there is a sleek urban mall with hideously expensive residences which rises above the trains, in a city that already has much of the world’s chic and pricey shopping. Take heart – not every shop is as tony as Neiman Marcus or Cartier. In the lower level you will find the bustling populist world of José Andrés’s Spain.

Our first steps into Andrés’s Mercado Little Spain fed us right into colorful whorl of people, murals, maps, small plates, hams, breads, wines, food cases, and this display of ice cream and ice cream sandwiches. I could not think of anything more divine than these cubic feet of frozen delight. For a more detailed description of this Iberian food paradise, please read Rachel Sugar’s New York Magazine piece:

I admire José Andrés’s World Central project where he and his people feed folks who have been stricken by natural disasters. His good work is a lesson to us all. And so I felt justified in supporting him by buying an extravagant ice cream sandwich – before meeting friends uptown for dinner. (Mr. Friday, in the meantime, scarfed down a large plate of paella, in case you wondered.)

Another day of walking the Museum Mile found us battling Stendhal Syndrome: an overwhelming, heart-stopping abundance of gawping and wonder. What can you do? Why not have a gelato or two? After a morning spent in the Planetarium, whizzing around the universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson, and mingling with dinosaurs, the great blue whale and a few grizzly bears at the American Museum of Natural History, we strode across Central Park, and into the Mecca of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We walked with the Egyptians and sallied into the American Wing to pay obeisance to my favorite painting, John Singer Sargent’s Madame X. The only thing to do after that humbling experience is to find ice cream. As the crush of humanity to get into The American Wing Café was unbearable, we perched on some uncomfortable chairs wedged into the Chinese porcelain collection in The Great Hall Balcony Café and spooned up some fortifying gelato. There must surely be a special place in heaven for the inventors of ice cream! Grazie molto!

On our last night we got gussied up and strolled around the Lincoln Center complex, sad that we had not booked tickets for My Fair Lady. Instead we watched little girls in tulle tutus chasing each other around the spouting fountain, while member of various orchestras rushed by, clad in black, hauling their instruments across the marble plaza. Then we ambled north to our restaurant, Café Luxembourg, for a final night of cosmopolitan living. I had a French 75 cocktail, which is always best when served on a silver tray by an obliging waiter.

Mr. Friday had Wellfleet oysters and classic moules frites; I had steak frites, because there was not going to be any frite sharing, I can promise you. But we did split an adorable serving of profiteroles, which were made with ice cream, and not the crème pâtissière we had expected, and it was a sweet and cool way to end our vacation. Tired and happy, heady with wine and frites and sweets. We loved New York.

(And thank you very much, Chef Andrés, for this helpful culinary hint:”Buy the best quality sorbet or ice cream from a local ice-cream maker. It’s the perfect ending.”)

“What’s the use of a great city having temptations if fellows don’t yield to them?”
― P.G. Wodehouse

Food Friday: Road Trip!

It’s time to claim your fair share of the back seat. Clamber in, and be ready for quality family time. You are going to get along with your brother and no, you cannot roll the window down again. It is too stinking hot. We will get there when we get there, and not a moment sooner. Did you go to the bathroom? Do you have a book from your summer reading list? Batteries charged? Let’s go!

When I was a child we seemed to spend every summer driving up and down the eastern seaboard visiting Civil War battlefields. My father was an elementary school teacher, and had the summers off, and we were his malleable minds. Every moment was a teaching opportunity. We were grist for his mill. The best time he has was spent at the dining room table, unfurling the AAA map, plotting our routes, and showing us everything that we would be seeing. He would have loved Google Maps!

My mother was a complete bluestocking. Everything one needs to know could be learned from reading a book. Somewhere she had developed a romantic notion that picnic lunches were homemade fried chicken, hard boiled eggs and brownies, with Dixie cups of lemonade from the Skotch Kooler to wash it all down. The lunch was best when packed in shoe boxes, everything wrapped in crinkly, unmanageable waxed paper. The March girls must have had a fried chicken picnic luncheon with the Lawrence boy once, passing little paper twists of salt and pepper for the eggs. I haven’t been able to find the literary precedent. But that is what my mother thought was a good meal for a family vacation.

But when you were driving to Gettysburg from Connecticut, the brownie was gone before you reached New Jersey. The waxed paper was probably tasting delicious along about Princeton. We couldn’t pull off the interstate into a handy dandy McDonald’s then. The closest we came to fast food was an elegant evening meal at a Howard Johnson’s. Ah. Peppermint stick ice cream. Divine.

My own children fared a little better. They had McDonald’s. And an obsessive compulsive mother who loved all those cute little carcinogenic plastic boxes for Cheerios, Capri Sun juice pouches, yogurt in tubes, string cheese sticks, apples, oranges and grapes. I must have been like Charlie Brown’s friend Pigpen, with a trail of plastic recyclables following us at all times.

Things have gotten better here in the twenty-first century. We now have adorable containers that won’t kill us – I am a big fan of stainless Bento boxes. Mom is laughing at me, for using nice, safe brown, waxed-paper bags. And the snack foods are better, and easier to assemble. I won’t be sweating away in an un-air conditioned kitchen, frying up a batch of homemade fried chicken the night before our trip, and I reluctantly toss those shoe boxes into the recycling bin instead of creatively repurposing them as adorable little lunch boxes. I still call the window seat, though.

To pack up in cunning containers:
Popcorn – pop your own for heaven’s sake
Protein bars – but I won’t tell if you toss in a couple of Snickers bars
Bananas – be sure to get rid of the peels ASAP! Nothing worse than old banana smell in your car!
Carrots – excellent nutrition, easy to hurl at your brother
Grapes – ditto
Peanut butter crackers – Ritz and Peter Pan, simplicity itself
Pistachios – get the red ones and see whose fingers get the most disgusting
Trail mix – you can do this yourself, too
Cheerios – tried and true!
Slim Jims – you must have a disgusting boy in that car
Cheetos – because you are on vacation
Cookies – because you know you want some yourself
Reusable, leakproof water bottles – PBA free, of course

Civil War battlefield alternatives:,28804,2006404_2006095_2006204,00.html,28804,2006404_2006095_2006026,00.html

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”
― Mark Twain

Drive carefully!

Food Friday: Farmers’ Markets

Here we are on the very first day of summer! It starts at 11:54 AM EDT today, Friday, June 21, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Are you getting ready to celebrate? School is out, the summer reading list is varied and full of challenges and delights, the shady front porch beckons with its welcoming wicker chairs and the creaky glider. Tomorrow is Saturday, a day chock-full of potential. Who wants to sleep late when it is summer vacation, and the farmers’ markets are in full swing and in all their glory?

Some of you might be lucky enough to live just a stroll or a bike ride away from the market. We have to drive about ten minutes. Last week we decided to have a Saturday road trip, and we drove an hour to try out another town’s market. There is nothing like a little Saturday car ride, with NPR playing softly in the background, as we drove in the sunshine over bridges, past farms and miles of car dealerships, tooling through little towns and hamlets. After one stop for coffee and a Diet Coke, we arrived.

I don’t care if it is 8:30 in the morning, or 3:00 in the afternoon, those wretched kettle corn vendors always stop me in my tracks. Popcorn is such a miracle and a delight, and kettle corn is insidious and always irresistible. Here is my money, give me some fillings, please. This fool soon parted with her cash, and then had the necessary energy required to walk around the couple of dozen white tents nestled under a grove of large oak trees. In the tents were tempting fruits, vegetables, flowers, crafts, live geese and bunnies, organic eggs, jewelry, seafood, and coffees. There was even a live music performance, with a little family jug band: I bet holidays at their house are raucous and joyous events!

We wandered around for a while, saying hello to the many dogs who were behaving so nicely. I fear that Luke the wonder dog might have a little too much energy for such a public outing. The other dogs all seemed inured to the passing variety of people and dogs. There were few surprises for these farmers’ market habitués, as they tagged along with their yoga pants-clad people. An ancient, white-muzzled black lab waddled after its plump, madras shorts-wearing folks. A young springer spaniel struggled to contain himself on a short pink and green leash with its young Lilly Pulitzer family. A mutt (rather like Luke) was sartorial in a pink bandana; nothing makes a dog look more jaunty, I think.

Luke would have leapt at the opportunity to gambol with his fellow dogs, scarfing spilled kettle corn, hoovering up dropped sausage biscuits, and sniffing appreciatively at little girls who walked by with ice cream cones, held temptingly low to the ground. Poor thing. Don’t tell him what he missed.

We stood in one line that snaked out of a tent and around an oak tree for some ears of corn and heirloom tomatoes. Then we found the second longest line for some new potatoes. The farmer told us as he manipulated the digital scale and calculator that he had dug the potatoes on Thursday afternoon. Pretty amazing when there is no middle man! While waiting our turn to pay we admired some produce that was unusual for us – golden beets! Gorgeous! To describe them as jewel-like is not excessively florid.

And then we got in the car, hoping that it was time for Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, as we turned toward Luke and home. We could have saved a couple of hours and just buzzed over to the grocery store to make our produce purchases, but it was a worthwhile adventure to get out and meet the folks who raise and grow and dig our food. It was a sunny beginning to summer.

Now it’s your turn. Go out to your farmers’ market tomorrow and buy some kettle corn, some home-churned ice cream and some heirloom tomatoes. Pat some dogs. And maybe you’ll try one of these recipes for those beauteous golden beets. Happy summer!

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

Food Friday: Remembering Betsy Ross on Flag Day

I guess I was actually thinking about Barbara Fritchie. I am forgetting my fifth grade history lessons. Barbara Fritchie, was from Frederick, and the Whittier poem about her is from the Civil War. Betsy Ross, equally sentimentalized and linked to our nation’s flag, was from Philadelphia, where she sewed the first flag, the Stars and Stripes, in 1776. Or maybe 1777. History is a little vague about this Colonial American legend.Move to Trash

I remember reading a fifth grade-level bio about Betsy Ross, where she smartly showed George Washington (who came to her upholstery shop, to personally discuss the flag situation with her) the beauty and economy of motion required to make a five-pointed star, when he and Congress had wanted six-point stars. It was easy to trim a five-pointer out of fabric, which she demonstrated with aplomb. I suppose it is a daydream worthy of a hardworking seamstress.

Flag Day commemorates the day that the United States adopted this flag design (maybe sewn by Betsy Ross – her grandchildren waited 100 years before making their claims on the flag’s origins) on June 14, 1777. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day. And so it goes.

I have decorated our window boxes and the pots of unhappy geraniums on the front porch with lots of little American flags. I am waiting for the Fourth of July before I break out the bunting and flag swags. I am also waiting until the Fourth rolls around before I start to bake (or assemble) labor intensive flag-inspired dishes. I think Betsy Ross would agree with me – speed and efficiency are required. And so, instead, tonight Mr. Friday and I will indulge in a couple of Betsy Ross-inspired cocktails. But you might want to be a little splashier with your patriotic gestures, so here are a couple of red, white and blue recipes to get you started.

This first recipe is pretty easy, and colorful. But HUGE! If you are having a neighborhood Flag Day Fete it will be perfect. You can substitute whipped cream or vanilla pudding for the custard. Vanilla ice cream works, too. It all depends on what kind of Friday you have had. Simplify!

Betsy Ross’ Berries
3 pints cleaned raspberries
3 pints cleaned blueberries
Creamy Custard Sauce

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
4 beaten eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In large saucepan, stir together sugar, cornstarch, sale and milk. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a boil; stir and boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir a little cooked custard mixture into 4 beaten eggs; return eggs to saucepan; stir well to blend thoroughly. Stir in sour cream and vanilla; blend well. Remove custard to medium bowl, cover and refrigerate until serving. Makes 3 cups.

In large bowl, gently mix together both berries. Portion about 1/2-3/4 cup berries into individual serving dishes; top each serving with about 1/4 cup Creamy Custard Sauce. Makes 12-16 servings.

Patriotic Angel Food Cake

The Classic Fourth of July Sheet Cake

Betsy Ross Burgers – of course!

Our Flag Day option:
Betsy Ross Cocktail

2 ounces Cognac
3/4 ounce Ruby Port
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Grated nutmeg, as garnish

Shake with ice.


There is another cocktail recipe from Epicurious that calls for a raw egg yolk. Your call – but I am not inclined to try that one.

Betsy Ross (and Barbara Fritchie), we salute you!

‘“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,

But spare your country’s flag,” she said.

A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;

The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman’s deed and word:

“Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on!” he said.’

-John Greenleaf Whittier

Food Friday: Green Garlic

Are you enjoying the bounty of spring vegetables and fruits? Are you rhapsodizing poetical as you cavort around the farmers’ market, gazing affectionately on new asparagus, young beans, tender strawberries and brilliant, jewel-like radishes? Have you found your way yet to the shrine of green garlic? You must search until you have achieved the bliss that comes with spring and young garlic.

There are some notable folk who do not enjoy garlic, and keep it off their menus and out of their kitchens, these poor sad, misguided creatures. The Queen, for one, cannot abide garlic. Which is why, perhaps, that at the grand state dinner at Buckingham Palace this week, this was the menu: steamed fillet of halibut with watercress mousse, asparagus spears and chervil sauce, followed by the meat course of Windsor lamb with herb stuffing, spring vegetables and a port sauce. There were no double cheeseburgers. There was no shrimp scampi. It looked as it it was delightfully bland mélange of locally raised meat and produce, without a trace amount of garlic.

Enjoy the tender, young green garlic while you can. It is deelightful. And it is not like the truculent garlic we depend on in the winter to get us through the long cold nights without Jon Snow. We need that strong, reassuring garlic in our spaghetti sauces and our beef bourguignons and garlic roasted pork chops with winter vegetables. We need heaps of garlic in the winter. But now, as we trip into summer, something lighter and more merry is in keeping. Something like the smell of onion grass when the lawn has just been mowed. Something ineffable, like the scent of warm tomatoes as you walk past the tomato patch, sneaking a peek at the burgeoning zinnias, whispering encouragement to the nascent sunflowers. We are not coping with the oppressing heat of summer just yet. Our dog still likes lying in a liquid puddle of buttery sunlight. We are enjoying the emergence of fireflies. Life is good.

I, for one, could live on this garlic bread. My apologies to Her Majesty. This is sheer genius.

I expect that this recipe will send out plenty of scented warnings, so any errant Windor-Mountbattens who are wandering by my house will keep on their royal way: Thank you, Martha.

And in case you want to explore more garlic avenues all year long, here is a handy dandy garlic cheat sheet:

“Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime…Please, treat your garlic with respect…Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screw top jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.”
― Anthony Bourdain

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