Lisa’s Wedding (And Sam’s, too)

img_3747On Saturday, we went to a wedding at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, Maine. The bride, Lisa Clark, is the daughter of Beth and John Clark, two good friends we have known for years and years. So many years, in fact, that I can remember Lisa when she was knee-high to a grasshopper, as the old saying goes. Once, when Lisa was quite young and energetic, my husband, Clif, and I were invited to the Clarks’ house for dinner. While John and Beth were busy putting the finishing touches on the meal, Lisa and her older sister, Sara, stayed with us in the living room. Flip, flip, flip. Lisa entertained Clif and me by doing gymnastic rolls on the rug.

Finally, Sara, in a big sister voice, said, “Calm down, Lisa.”

Lisa did a few more defiant rolls, but then she did indeed calm down.

How moving it is to go to a wedding when you have known the bride since she was a child, to have watched her grow through the years. Lisa is still energetic, but she is now a confident and capable young woman. Lisa teaches in the Bronx, and as John put it, she is a fourth-generation teacher. To honor her literary family, many of whom are published authors—this includes John—Lisa gave books as wedding favors, books that were written or published by her father, her aunt, or her grandmother. They were wrapped in brown paper and bound with a ribbon that is also a bookmark.

Unfortunately, I don’t know Sam Barrese, the groom, but during the wedding ceremony, I learned that he is keen on home-improvement projects, that he works with his hands as well as his mind. (Sam is an engineer.) As if the books and bookmarks weren’t enough, Sam came up with his own wedding favors—beautiful stained-glass roses to be used as window ornaments. Best of all, he made them by hand. Ours is hanging in a window in our kitchen.

The wedding ceremony was held by the ocean. Lisa and Sam were married by a sea captain who quoted Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116:

Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken..”

The day was very hot, but we found a place in the shade. Behind Lisa and Sam, the deep blue ocean sparkled. Occasionally, a sea gull flew by, and some time during the ceremony, a squadron of dragon flies arrived, dipping and darting over the couple, and it seemed as though they were nature’s attendants, there to officiate the wedding.

Congratulations, Lisa and Sam! Many you have many, many happy and creative years together.

Lisa mugging it up before the wedding
Lisa mugging it up before the wedding
John and Lisa
John and Lisa
Lisa and Sam exchanging vows
Lisa and Sam exchanging vows
The wedding favors
The wedding favors

 

 

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The Fourth of July, 2013

Yesterday, the rain held off until 6:00 or so, long enough for us to do what we wanted: bike to the public beach for a pedaled-powered  smoothie and then have friends over for a Fourth of July celebration later in the afternoon. But my, it was hot! A few days ago, I was wearing a corduroy shirt over a long-sleeved shirt, and yesterday, I wore the lightest clothes I had. And I was still sweating. Good thing we had a tub full of ice and drinks at our barbecue. We needed them, even though all we did was sit, eat, and talk.

Today’s post will be mostly pictures, but I do want to write a paragraph about the smoothies and about our gathering.

First, the pedaled-powered smoothies. Emilie Knight, the daughter of our friends Steve and Margy, has started an enterprise called Edible Outreach of Maine. Emilie wants to work with teenagers and bring her bike, blender, and healthy smoothies to schools, camps, and events. She hopes to become a licensed vendor so that she can make smoothies at farmers’ markets and thus earn the money to fund her edible outreach program. Clif made a smoothie on the blender-bike, and he was amazed at how quick it was to mix everything up using pedal power—a minute or two was all it took. And the smoothies? Delicious! Good luck, Emilie. I hope you are able to bring your bike, your blender, and your smoothies to teenagers throughout the state.

The sample table
The sample table
The list of ingredients, all from Maine
The list of ingredients, all from Maine
Clif making a smoothie, with Emilie watching
Clif making a smoothie, with Emilie watching

 

Then, our gathering. Our hot dog and barbecue beans were a success, so much so that we will plan on doing this now on for our annual Fourth of July parties. The hot dogs and beans cover the range of tastes among family and friends, from the vegetarians to the meat eaters to the flexitarians. In addition, there were wonderful sides: watermelon slices and deviled eggs (Jill); a zucchini and couscous salad (Alice); and a noodle salad with soy sauce and sesame oil (Shannon). For dessert, we had the homemade vanilla ice cream pie with the raspberry sauce and blueberry sauce. Everyone agreed it was not only tasty but patriotic as well. I think this will become the dessert of choice for our Fourth of July gatherings.

Finally, as I was hustling around in the kitchen, I looked out the window and saw everyone laughing and talking and having a good time.

“We all know each other so well,” my daughter Shannon noted. (She was in the kitchen with me). “We just feel so comfortable together.”

Yes, we do. And while I certainly want to continue to make new friends, I cherish the feeling that comes from a gathering where people have known each other for many years.

The cranberry chutney and pepper jelly spread. It all went.
The cranberry chutney and pepper jelly spread. It all went.
Loaded hot dogs
Loaded hot dogs
Our patriotic dessert
Our patriotic dessert
A gathering of family and friends
A gathering of family and friends

 

 

A Report on the Cranberry Chutney and Pepper Jelly Spread as Well as an Almost Recipe for Turkey Patties

img_3714Another gray day, but the weather is supposed to clear for tomorrow. Fingers and toes crossed. We have a nice dining room, but it’s so much better to be outside on the Fourth. I’ve put humming bird feeders by the patio, and those little ethereal beauties found them right away. What a delight it will be to watch the humming birds when the weather is warm and dry enough to eat on the patio.

Yesterday, I made the cranberry chutney and pepper jelly spread, and it came out just as well as I’d hoped it would. I’d never made it before, and I got the idea from my friend Perian. A few weeks ago, I was at her house for wine and appetizers, and she served crackers with cream cheese topped with a red jelly spread. One bite and I was hooked. The spread was sweet and spicy and tart all at the same time.

“What is this?” I asked.

“Cranberry chutney mixed with pepper jelly,” she answered. “I had a jar of each, and I combined them and then spread them on softened cream cheese.”

Now, in my cupboard, I had a jar of pepper jelly, a gift from my friend Diane. (She, in turn, got it from her friend Debbie Potter, who makes them to sell. Debbie calls her product “Mrs. Potter’s Perfect Pepper Jelly.”) I didn’t have a jar of cranberry chutney, but in the freezer, I had a bag of frozen cranberries, and I knew I could make my own cranberry chutney. The Fourth seemed like a perfect time to try to recreate what Perian served me, and I did this yesterday.

Success! Last night I served some of the spread—without the cream cheese—on a cracker to Clif, and he noted, “While the chutney and red pepper jelly both taste good separately, they are much better together.”

Yes, they are. When next fall comes, I will be picking up extra cranberries to freeze. I’ll also get several jars of that pepper jelly. Then, when I want something tasty for a gathering, I’ll have what I need.

I am happy to report that I am right on schedule with my Fourth of July preparations. I made the ice cream pie yesterday, and today I’ll be making the sauces to go with them. I also decided to make a batch of crackers to go with the chutney-pepper jelly spread, and I’ll be doing this today. The beans are soaking, and they soon will be simmering.

The ice cream pie waiting for berry toppings, red and blue, of course
The vanilla ice cream pie waiting for berry toppings, red and blue, for the Fourth of July

On busy days, it is handy to have a quick but tasty meal planned for supper. Yesterday, after cooking and cleaning for most of the day, I was in no mood to fuss with our evening meal. This time of year, with a fridge crammed full of greens, we have a salad every evening. So that was easy. Last night, to go with the salad, I made ground turkey Parmesan patties, and they are so easy that they don’t even need a recipe. (This idea came from my friend Barbara Penrod. I’m beginning to think I don’t have any original ideas.) I took 1 pound of ground turkey and added a half-cup of grated Parmesan cheese as well as a half-cup of seasoned bread crumbs. Voilà! Turkey patties that are a bit tastier than just plan patties. Obviously, more could be added—onions, garlic, peppers—but last night I was into ease, and those patties fit the bill, as the saying goes. We had leftovers turkey patties, which will be used tonight on a supper salad that will be served with pita bread toasts. With all the heavy food planned for the Fourth, a supper salad will be a very good thing.

A happy Fourth to you all! In the morning, Clif and I plan to slip in a quick bike ride to our town’s public beach, where Emily Knight, the daughter of our friends Margy and Steve, will be making smoothies with pedal power. What a great idea! I hope to get some pictures of her as well as of our backyard spread.

I’ll be back on Friday.

Cookin’ and Cleanin’ for the Fourth: Recipe for Cranberry Chutney

img_3710What a rainy spell we’ve had. As I sit here typing, I am wearing a corduroy shirt over another shirt, and I am not exactly feeling hot. Not long ago, we had a blast of heat—too much even for me—and now we’ve swung the other way. I know. Compared with what’s happening in the Southwest, this damp weather is hardly worth mentioning. But for someone like me, who loves being outside as much as possible, it is a bit of a trial to be inside so much. I certainly hope that July and August will be dryer—without going into a drought, of course—than summer has been so far.

As we do most years, Clif and I will be hosting a gathering on the Fourth. In the past, we’ve had good luck with the weather on the Fourth, but with the way it has been this year, we both decided to keep things simple and to make a meal that could be served indoors as well as outdoors. After some thought, I decided to go with barbecue beans in a Crock-Pot and hot dogs with fixings ranging from mustard to sauerkraut to a broccoli slaw. What could be more American than beans and hot dogs? If the weather allows, then the hot dogs will be grilled. If not, then they will be pan-fried inside.

To say that Clif is thrilled with this menu is an understatement. He has a  passion for hot dogs that borders on obsession. (I can hardly throw stones. I have a similar passion for donuts.) Clif has been doing research on hot-dog toppings, and he is the one who came up with the sauerkraut idea. Clif also suggested grated cheese, which we will serve along with the other toppings.

In addition, for appetizers, I’ll be making a cranberry chutney—I still have a bag of cranberries in the freezer—which I’ll combine with some pepper jelly. I’ll spread this on top of softened cream cheese and serve it with tortilla chips.

Our guests will be bringing sides, and I’ll be making a vanilla ice cream pie with a raspberry sauce and a blueberry sauce to drizzle on top. Red, white, and blue.

Therefore, for the next couple of days I’ll be busy cookin’ and cleanin’, as Ida LeClair might say, and following her advice, I have a little schedule devised for myself so that everything doesn’t pile up at the last minute. Today, the ice cream pie, the chutney, and the dusting. Tomorrow, the vacuuming and the sauces for the ice cream pie. Tonight, I’ll soak the beans—white and black. Tomorrow, I’ll cook them so that I can throw them into the Crock-Pot on Thursday morning.

Dividing the chores over a series of days really does help make the preparation easier. Organization doesn’t come easily or naturally to me, but over the years I have improved. By Thursday, I will be ready for my guests. Now, let’s hope the weather gods will be smiling on us.

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:27]

 

 

The Greens Just Keep Coming: A Recipe for a Chicken Florentine

A few weeks ago, I positively longed for fresh greens from a Maine garden. I’d had it with the insipid taste of bagged lettuce shipped from across the country. We belong to a CSA run by our own farmer Kev, and I was counting the days until the first delivery.

When that delivery came—I noted it on this blog—I felt as euphoric as a thirsty desert wanderer stumbling over an oasis with a fresh spring. We received two bags of greens, one of lettuce and one of spinach, and Clif and I happily indulged in big, big salads. How good those greens were, and by the end of the first week, we had pretty much finished all that Farmer Kev had brought.

But then the greens just kept coming, and rather than two bags, there were three or four. We ate more salads, some of which have morphed into wraps, and we hosted a salad supper with our friends Judy and Paul. But we still have an abundance of greens in our refrigerator.

What to do? Give some away, perhaps? That is always an option. However, when I was talking with my friend Liz Sienko, she told me about a recipe she had come across for chicken Florentine.  She made some modifications—it called for cream of mushroom soup. Instead, Liz used fresh mushrooms and made a Parmesan, garlic cream sauce. “It was delicious,” she said. And best of all, it uses a lot of spinach. You pretty much cram as much spinach as you can into a large casserole dish. On top of that go raw, sliced mushrooms, cooked chicken, and the garlic cream sauce. Then the whole thing is topped with mozzarella and baked for 20 minutes or so until the casserole is brown and bubbly.

I made Liz’s chicken Florentine a few days ago, making some modifications of my own. (Liz had also used a bit of pesto and some onions, which I omitted from my version.) To say that Clif and I liked this dish is an understatement. This recipe should serve at least 4 people, but by the time we were done with dinner, there was barely enough left for one small serving.

“I think we overdid it with the eating,” I said to Clif.

“Yup,” Clif replied. “But it was pretty darned good.” (Yankee-speak for it doesn’t get much better than this.)

It was pretty darned good, and best of all, I used at least 1/3 of a big bag of spinach.

Here are some pictures of how the casserole was constructed:

Raw mushrooms layered on raw spinach
Layer raw mushrooms on raw spinach
Cooked chicken added to the mushrooms and spinach
Add cooked chicken
Next comes the Parmesan, dill cream sauce
Next comes the Parmesan, dill cream sauce
Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese
Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese
Dinner!
Dinner!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:26]

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, June 28, 2913: Bits and Bobs from the Internet

From the New York Times: Let’s face it, whether it’s with sweet or salty treats, even the most dedicated foodie has chinks in his or her healthy-food armor. KJ Dell’Antonia writes a thoughtful piece about going without a junk food for a week.

From NPR’s The Salt: Another reason not to waste food. According to this piece, wasted food also involves wasted water. Lots of water, which is a precious resource.

From the Grist: Some thoughts about guerrilla gardening and the role of humans in the environment.

From the Portland Press Herald: Anne Mahle offers a few strawberry recipes that go beyond shortcake. Not that there’s anything wrong with short cake.

From Time magazine: Should obesity be labeled as a disease? The AMA thinks so, but writer Maia Szalavitz is not so sure.

From the Guardian’s Australia Food Blog : I love Maine’s farmer’s markets, but I must admit to feeling a teensy-weensy bit envious when I see pictures of markets in warmer countries, where, say, freshly-picked pineapples are sold. But Hilary McNevin’s “How to Enjoy a Food Market” has good advice for those who shop at food markets in Maine as well as in Australia.

Grated Eggs, a Summer Supper at Margy’s, and then a Library Event with Monica Wood

Grated eggs
Grated eggs

Yesterday, I did something I have never done before: I grated hard-cooked eggs for a salad. I was at my friend Margy’s house, and I was helping her get ready for a birthday supper for Mary, a mutual friend.

“What can I do to help?” I asked when I first arrived.

“Here,” she said, handing me a bowl of hard-cooked eggs with the shells on. “Peel those eggs and grate them for the salad.”

As I began peeling the eggs, I confessed. “I want you to know, Margy, that I have never grated eggs before.”

“What?” Margy asked, as though she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “We do it all the time for salads and sandwiches.”

Just then our friend Paula came in, bearing a beautiful strawberry-rhubarb cobbler. “Have you ever grated eggs?” I asked her.

“Never,” she said. “I always cut them up with a fork.”

Another friend, Patrice, joined us. “What about you?” I asked. “Have you ever grated eggs?”

“Nope,” she answered. “I use a fork.”

“See?” I said to Margy.

Mary, the birthday girl, was the dissenting voice. “We always used a mouli, so that’s something like grating.”

After grating those eggs, I had to admit that they looked pretty darned good, as my husband, Clif, might say. And they sprinkled beautifully on the big salad Margy made using Farmer Kev’s fresh greens.

At a round wood table, we ate supper in Margy’s summer dining room. The fans were on, making the room pleasantly cool on a very hot day. We had salad (with grated eggs), bread, and cheese. We sang happy birthday to Mary.  I brought an ice cream pie, which meant we had 2 desserts, which tickled us all. Paula’s delectable cobbler had a light, scone-like topping, and the strawberry-rhubarb was the right balance of tart and sweet.

Strawberry-rhubarb cobbler
Strawberry-rhubarb cobbler

After that, it was off to Bailey Library to hear Monica Wood talk about her most recent book, When We Were the Kennedys, a memoir about growing up in Mexico, Maine, and the terrible loss her family suffered in 1963. She read excerpts from the book, and she explained how it took her a while to find the right voice for the story. Initially, she wrote it in a cool, journalistic style, but when her sister noted that the book was a little flat, Monica decided to use elements—such as dialogue—normally used in fiction. Creative nonfiction I believe this is called, and Monica made a good decision. I read When We Were the Kennedys last year, and I have it starred in the little journal I use to note books I’ve read. This warm and humane yet shrewd book is not only beautifully written, but it also captures a time and a place—a mill town in Maine in the 1960s—the positive and the negative.

I, too, come from a mill town in Maine—Waterville—and my father was born in Mexico, Maine. Monica’s descriptions could be my descriptions, right down to the dark, dirty polluted river—the Androscoggin in her case and the Kennebec in mine.

When We Were the Kennedys is selling very well and is gathering a lot of praise. And deservedly so. It always so gratifying when a moving, well-written book gets the attention it deserves. Readers, if you haven’t read this book, put it on your TBR pile. Put it at the top.

So last night we went from the slightly silly—grated eggs—to the sublime—When We Were the Kennedys.

A day in the life of a small town.

 

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