Monthly Archive for June 2010
Cherries and I having a bit of a moment. They showed up at the markets, suddenly, unexpectedly. I remember them coming much later last year, but such memories are a tricky thing—they’re hard to trust. In any event, the cherries have been here in abundance for the past couple weeks and I just can’t seem to get enough. I’ve been happily eating them out of hand. Firm, glossy and garnet, I’ll pluck one, stem pinched between my fingers, from the bowl, pop it into my mouth, revel in the tart, summery, juicy flesh and then, lips pursed and with a phwoottt! I’ll spit the pit into a cupped palm. Discard the pit and stem; repeat as necessary. I’ve spent several recent evenings repeating until my heart, and belly, were content.
But why stop there? The cherries have me dreaming up baked goods. They conjured a simple yogurt cake in my mind, a recipe born in a split second, in a dreamy thought. I tinkered with the idea two Sundays in a row until I had a recipe, right there on paper, and a perfect cake, right there in the pan.
Happy summer all! To ring in the first day of summer, I posted a new Summer Recipe Index, which you can access by a link over on the lefthand column. It’s got recipes for BBQ’s and picnics, recipes featuring corn (quite possibly my favorite type of summer produce), and recipes for fruit desserts and (obviously) ice cream. Check it out here!
I have the most intensely wonderful memories of summer evenings at my parents’ house. The sun sank, the porch lights flicked on, the smell of hot charcoals scented the air, the crickets built to a slow crescendo. Hours earlier, the action was in the front yards that lined the winding street, where kids pranced through sprinklers, pedaled down the sidewalk and played game after game, while their parents mowed the grass and weeded the flower beds. When night fell, though, the action shifted to the backyards, where families had retreated for dinner on their patios and decks. Burgers, grilled chicken, kabobs, corn on the cob, salt-and-peppered slices of tomatoes, steamed green beans: simple food, most of it cooked fast on the hot grill.
There are a number of criteria for selecting a perfect party food, don’t you think? For starters, it should require only one hand to eat it and, relatedly, should not require a plate. In most cases, this rule applies because your other hand is occupied by a beverage. I could also see one employing her second hand to wield a camera, hold a kid, shake a stranger’s hand, high five a friend’s hand, flash a thumbs up across the room (I do this; I say goodness and whoopsie and you don’t say, too—now you know), hold a hand of cards, gesture wildly. You get the picture — party food, at its best, is one-handed (and plate-less).
Second, and almost as important as the uni-hand feature, a perfect party food should be pretty. Beautiful, breathtaking, stunning, even. This is not the time for your favorite slap-dash dinner (which, incidentally, very likely requires two hands and a plate, or a bowl at the very least). This is not the time for a monotone palette of brown and beige (ahem, I should really follow my own rules). This is the time for color and flair.
As expected, Napa was enchanting. But perhaps I should start with San Francisco, which wasn’t half bad either, lavishing us with a gorgeous sunset that cast a pinky-golden light across the Ferry Building and Bay Bridge; it made for a some lovely cocktail hour gaping. Post-cocktail hour, we finally made it to Zuni Cafe where we had the fantastic roast chicken (of course!), among other things. In the morning, we were up early for a jog along the Embarcadero and a stroll through the Ferry Building farmers’ market. A cup of Blue Bottle coffee and a lovely jar of yogurt later, we were Napa bound.
And, Napa. Sigh. Between the rolling rows of vines, the wrap-around porches and lush grounds at wineries, the just-blooming rose bushes, the smell and taste and blur of wine, and meal after wonderful meal, it was all enough to make a girl not want to leave. Honestly, I would’ve been quite content to move right into the little cottage we stayed in for the weekend.
Recipes that are regional specialties seem to require a hidden ingredient—one that cannot be picked up at the grocery store or procured by mail order. In my mind, they require, implicitly, that you’re a native. And the catch, of course, is that you can’t choose where you were born, where you grew up, the food on which you were raised. For this reason, as a midwesterner and a northerner, I tend to shy away from recipes like North Carolina barbecue, New England clam chowder and Texas chili.
Shrimp and grits, too, is a dish that fits squarely on this list. It gives the distinct impression that northerners need not apply.