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Posts Tagged ‘summer’

Paddling away

Last weekend, a friend of mine invited me to go canoeing on a nearby river.  I have only gone canoeing a couple times, and not in years and years, but I associate canoeing with frustration.  I think it is a combination of not being very good at paddling a canoe and the communication and coordination required with another person to propel and steer a canoe.  I am generally cooperative and personable, but something about canoeing just hasn’t worked for me.  Perhaps I should have been a big girl and given it another try, but I decided to go with kayaking instead.  I love kayaking, so that seemed like a much more pleasant way to explore the river.

kicking back on  the kayak

My friends, A, J, and M, piled into a canoe, and we headed off down the river.

canoers

I should note that the canoers didn’t seem to have any trouble or conflict the whole trip, so if you may have been inclined to try out canoeing, don’t let my aversion sway you!

We were in the Concord area and started on the Sudbury River, which flows into the Concord River. The Concord River is spanned by the Old North Bridge, site of one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War.

Old North Bridge

Unfortunately, I may also now remember it as the site where I accidentally dunked myself in the river. We had stopped briefly at the historic park that surrounds the bridge, and when we returned to our boats, I lost my footing while trying to get back in the kayak. Oops! Luckily, it was a warm day, so I wasn’t too uncomfortable while we made our way back to the boathouse.

Despite the dunking, our afternoon on the river was lovely. The banks were lush and green, with patches of brilliantly red salvia.

woods

layers of color

We saw a grey heron, a deep yellow, fuzzy caterpillar that wanted to join our picnic lunch, and so many turtles.

basking turtles

It was a lovely, relaxing way to spend a Saturday with friends. And we topped it off by going out for ice cream after.

As a parting gift, I will share a blurry photo that I actually like!

doubled

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components

Soon I will stop apologizing about my poor quality photos. You know, as soon as I either get better lighting in my apartment (especially the kitchen) or get a new camera. Hopefully the latter. But for now, sorry for these blurry, yellowy photos. They do not do this tasty dish justice. Hopefully the images won’t prevent you from trying to make these fritters, because they are delicious.

As I mentioned in the post about the dinner I hosted, I made artichoke fritters from Tyler Florence’s, Dinner at My Place. The recipe in the book includes a simple and lovely batter, along with not entirely clear instructions for taking whole artichokes and turning them into slices of raw artichoke heart. Let’s just say that while the artichoke fritters were tasty, I did not skillfully butcher the artichokes. And it felt like a waste to have to discard all those lovely fresh leaves, but I don’t think there is a way to avoid it with the recipe.

After making the dish, I had a lot of batter left over. I wasn’t sure whether it would keep, but it seemed worth a try. A couple days later, we got our first zucchini of the summer in our CSA share, and I decided to try making zucchini fritters. Unlike the artichoke version, this iteration was super simple and came together in no time. The batter was a tad dry after sitting in the fridge, so I added a splash of hard cider, sliced up the zucchini, and heated some canola oil on the stove.

frying up

Then it was simply a matter of dipping the slices in batter, dropping them in the oil, flipping them once, and cooking until both sides were lovely and golden brown.

ready for nomming

I put them on paper towels layered over a brown paper bag to drain, salted them, and they were ready to eat. And I pretty much ate a bunch of them for dinner that night. They were good plain, but they were wonderful with a bit of malt vinegar or balsamic cream (a mixture that has not actual cream but consists of reduced balsamic vinegar and grape must.)

zucchini fritters, two ways

I am away from home for the weekend, so I can’t post the recipe for the batter at the moment. I will try to remember to add it when I get home, so you folks can make all sorts of battered, fried, tasty items (or you can buy the cookbook, which has lots of lovely photos and mouth-watering recipes.) I plan to try this batter with a number of other items, fish, more veggies, and even squash blossoms, if I can get my hands on some.

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dinner in the back yard
I really like entertaining. I love the challenge of figuring out a menu that fits my skills, the food preferences of my guests, and the season. It makes me happy when friends are gathered around happily chowing down and chatting away. There’s that wonderful alchemy that happens when you combine good food and good company, and that is what I hope for in a dinner party.

This weekend that’s exactly what I got. I hadn’t had people over for a meal in ages. Seriously, I think it had been many months. Yikes! I definitely hope to host dinner parties much more frequently in the months ahead. I often host casual dinner gatherings; we might even eat in the living room with plates on our laps. But this time, maybe because it had been so long since I worked the hostessing mojo, I just couldn’t resist putting a little more polish on the evening. So I set up an improvised table (a long piece of plywood over two small tables) in the tiny outdoor space behind my apartment) and decorated it with pink hydrangeas and real linens. It was simple and elegant without being formal. And a heck of a lot cooler than sitting inside that evening!

Summer Sunday dinner menu

That’s what we had for dinner. I didn’t take pictures of the appetizer, artichoke fritters from Tyler Florence’s Dinner at My Place, we ate in the kitchen before sitting down to dinner. They were labor intensive, but tasty. What you see on the plate there is a salad of fennel, green beans, and radishes, pork tenderloin with fresh cherry and chile salsa, and grits with garlic scapes and goat cheese. Everything turned out well, but I was most proud of the pork, since I rarely cook meat. That cherry salsa was a sweet-savory delight, and it was also lovely over the Finnish frying cheese that I grilled for the vegetarian in the group.

peach and almond trifle

For dessert we had a trifle with peaches, almond sponge cake, and whipped cream. I had intended to have an amaretto flavored custard in the trifle, but I totally failed in the process of making the custard and it didn’t seem necessary enough to warrant using another 9 eggs. The trifle was yummy without it, but one of these days I am going to make custard, darn it!

I had a blast cooking for a few of my friends, and I hope I’ll have more of these dinner party menus to post soon.

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