Crunchy local cukes and sliced onions in a potent bath of vinegar and water with salt and pepper is the perfect accompaniment to all summer food, as far as I am concerned. The flavor of the freshest mild-skinned early season cucumbers against a headstrong vinegary backdrop awakens the palate and provokes a deeply familiar taste of childhood that brings me right back to the dining room table at my Grandma’s farmhouse. My only addition to this simple recipe-less side from my past is a fluttering electric frizz of fresh dill just picked from the garden and snipped on top. Added sensory bonus: if you bring the leftovers to work and the container opens in your bag, you can smell/smell like the summery parfum of vinegar, onions and dill all day long!
Category Archives: Our Garden
Fresh Tomato Pasta for the Height of Tomato Season
Every time I come upon a tomato grown in our garden, I exclaim, “hello, gorgeous!”
My garden and the farmer’s market are booming juicy ripe tomatoes. We have been enjoying tomatoes with reckless abandon with simple preparation: in BLT’s, in a caprese salad or sliced on their own. Another delicious and simple preparation that honors a juicy tomato is this uncooked tomato pasta sauce that I tossed with hot whole grain spaghetti. It contained sliced and chopped tomatoes, two chopped sweet Italian peppers, a clove of garlic- minced, chopped flat leaf parsley, basil, and a few dashes of red wine vinegar and the tiniest drizzle of olive oil. I mixed up the sauce and left it raw, then tossed it with the pasta, cooked al dente. I topped it with fresh cracked pepper, a little salt and a ball of Buratta: fresh mozzarella with a creamy center, opened for scooping a spoonful on to each plate. The Burrata is a nice texture compromise between ricotta and regular fresh mozzarella and really made this lush. This was a fabulous summer pasta and an easy way to focus entire meal on tomatoes, raw and in their finest form: juicy and warm from the vine. Summer’s lease hath too short a date! Dig in! My recipe is a mash-up of recipes from Martha Stewart (here and here) and from a recipe from Bon Appetit, with the addition of Burrata from my own imagination.
After a break from blogging over the summer, I’ve decided to make shorter posts more the norm. I’ll be interested to hear what you think.
Thanksgiving is only a few days away. I am looking forward to it! It will be our third year hosting my parents, in-laws and brother-in-law at our house. Thanksgiving traditions have varied and evolved throughout my life from being celebrated in October (in Canada) to having a large gathering at my parents house or Bjorn’s Aunt and Uncle’s to a smaller gathering at our house. This has become one of my favorite long weekends of the year being with both of our families, eating well, relaxing and having lots of laughs. Here is a peek at last year’s Thanksgiving preparation and the resulting meal. It is also a reliable preview of this year’s anticipated event. There will some tweaks to the menu to keep things interesting, but we’ll serve our most-loved standbys to make sure everyone get their favorite traditional Turkey Day dish.
1. Our home from the front, framed by a gorgeous golden-leafed maple tree. This year all of our leaves have fallen and have been raked and hauled away. We’ve become much more zen about raking and hauling leaves this year. It is a huge job, but we’re used to it, and we enjoy being outside in the fresh air and we love these gorgeous maples so much. It sure is nice to have a cleaned up yard before snowfall this year.
2. City Bread, drying out for stuffing. City Bread is my favorite rye bread from Winnipeg which made the bulk of our stuffing last year. We’re due to visit the ‘Peg, our freezer is empty!
3. Last year I brined the Turkey using this recipe from Macheesmo. Everyone reported the bird to be juicy and flavorful and despite concerns, I was pleased that I could still make a tasty gravy using the drippings. This year I am not brining the bird. Bjorn is brining a bone-in turkey breast that he will smoke, so I’m skipping that step since my roast turkey will play second fiddle. I wouldn’t roast a turkey, but we simply must so that we can make gravy!
4. Our little house from the back, again the maple leaves last year were gorgeous. This year, with the leaves down the focal point of this view of our house is the new roof, which is cottage red. I love it, but I’m waiting for some finishing work to be done in front before I post pictures.
5. Toasting sage from the garden for my Mosaic Stuffing. I call my dressing Mosaic Stuffing because I clean out my freezer and use up the random loaves, rolls and bread ends that I’ve been hoarding in the freezer for the last few months. I love using a variety of bread with different flavors and textures as a basis for my dressing. I follow my Mom’s dressing recipe which comes together on the spot with her coaching. It is a simple recipe with bread, butter, sautéed onions, celery, salt, pepper, sage, broth and milk, similar to the recipe from the 1967 edition of the Betty Crocker cookbook but with some extra love and instinct as to seasonings, amount of milk and cooking time. We like it crispy on top and moist in the middle.
6. Sauteing celery and onions in butter for the stuffing.
7. Two pans of stuffing, one for today, and the next for the equally important Leftovers Meal, eaten tomorrow.
8. We round out our plates with a variety of roasted root vegetables: carrots, parsnip, and beets, coated lightly in olive oil and tossed with a generous handful of chopped fresh herbs.
9. Last year I grew one square foot of turnips which we saved for Thanksgiving.
10. Bjorn made the turnips into a Turnip Puff. It was a tasty vegetarian side dish, though it isn’t on the menu this year since we didn’t grow turnips!
11. Scalloped Corn is another Thanksgiving standby which will be repeated this year, except this year I am going to add more whole corn kernels as well as creamed corn and bake it in a cast-iron skillet.
12. We make a huge pot of creamy, buttery mashed potatoes because everyone loves them. I was very disappointed by the potato selection last year at Lunds– by the time I got there to shop, so many of the potatoes were green. This year I bought a bushel basket of Yukon golds from the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market. There isn’t exactly a crowd shopping at the market this late in the season, so I had my pick of potatoes and the friendly seller assured me they had just been dug and wouldn’t be green by Thursday. Shrinking the carbon footprint of our meal where I can, and having my selection of freshly dug potatoes is win-win in my book.
13. It is an all-hands-on-deck meal situation at our house. I haul out the roaster, use the crock pot and have every precious square inch of kitchen counter and table space in use to prepare this meal.
14. In contrast to the last two years, I bought a turkey from Lunds instead of from the Farmer’s Market this year. I haven’t had a lot of success buying a local turkey. I stood in line for two hours in 2010 to pick up a monstrous golden turkey, and could hardly thaw myself or get the bird cooked in time to eat the next day. Last year, our pre-ordered “fresh” local turkey was frozen and missing a wing. I’m willing to pay for quality locally grown meat, but when I’m paying a premium, I need to be assured that quality will be delivered. This year, I wanted a smaller bird and so I went the easy route. Yes, I do feel a bit guilty for not buying totally local when I can, but I decided to give myself a break. I am much happier with a completely fresh, free range bird which weighs about 12 pounds. I will be stuffing the bird with herbs and fruit, and covering it with butter and bacon, which is a family tradition, passed down from my Grammie.
Grammie roasting a huge turkey topped with bacon. Look at that Golden Bird!
15. Even though I used an electric roaster and crock pot, the oven was packed. I’m planning fewer dishes this year so we should have oven space to spare.
16. We will set the table using our Mikasa Cameo Platinum wedding china. It is simple and clean-looking, and I love it. This year, we have the full set including gravy boat! I am going to warm up the table decor a little bit this year, more candles, more colour, though the plated food will remain the focal point.
The Thanksgiving Meal:
1. Get a load of that plate of food! You will note that we enjoy both traditional cranberry sauce made by my mother-in-law, and jellied from a can. We also are so very fortunate that my mother-in-law and Bjorn’s Grandma make lefse together. My Dad and Grandfather were born in Norway, but they moved to Canada without packing their traditional Norwegian recipes, so I am pretty pleased to have married into a family in which the lefse-making tradition is going strong. I have had a lesson from Bjorn’s Grandma, and I will share that some time.
2. Mashed potatoes topped with chopped chives. I dried tons of herbs from our garden which I will use in Thanksgiving dishes and throughout the winter. This is a meal where I splurge on fresh herbs, though hopefully never again after this year, since I’m planning to plant a little indoor herb garden soon. They make everything look great and they add wonderful flavor and color that I love to see on our Thanksgiving table.
3. “Don’t drown your food” was a catchphrase from educational children’s public television. That message sunk deep into my brain. This is the one time of year I ignore it. To me, pumpkin pie is only to be served with a mighty dollop of sweetened, freshly whipped cream.
4. What is my key to a stress-free Thanksgiving? Say “yes” when people offer to bring things, especially things you aren’t good at making. I have never in all my born days baked a pie. If we’re lucky, maybe I never will. Thanks Mom!
5. The table looks festive once it is covered in an array of platters topped with appealing, sumptuous Thanksgiving standards. We’re ready to dig in!
6. Another impressive plate of food, this one topped with the brined, roasted turkey. You can see the lovely roasted golden beets on the right of the plate. They will be making an appearance again at our Thanksgiving table this year.
7. My immediate family, from left to right, my Mom, mother-in-law; brother-in-law, Dad, father-in-law and my darling Bjorn.
8. Another view of the table, close enough to see the roast turkey, carved and arranged by Bjorn, and a gorgeous platter of carrots and parsnip covered in herbs.
9. We have a buffet in our dining room which holds the dinner-table overflow. Here, wine bottles are ready to top-up our glasses, dressing stays warm in the crock, and scalloped corn and turnip puff are ready to be devoured.
10. My Mom’s homemade pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving is a homey tradition we can’t do without and her pie hits the spot.
11. The men all managed to nod off for a well-timed nap right after the meal was over. I have to wonder if tryptophan is the cause, or if they’re employing well-timed dish-washing avoidance strategy?!
12. Later in the day we manage some how to get hungry again. We set a less formal table with sandwich fixings and haul out the turkey platter.
13. We round out the turkey sandwich meal with salty snacks and cookies that my Mom and Val bring. We’ll have a full-fledged Leftovers Meal tomorrow.
We have so much to be thankful for and we are so truly grateful, wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving week.
Backyard Baby Shower for Betsy
I have a small group of girlfriends from school who all live around the Twin Cities with their wonderful husbands and significant others. We all have busy lives, so we don’t see as much of each other as we could before we all grew up and joined the workforce, but we manage to keep in touch by making sure every big event in each of our lives is celebrated. There are 5 of us in total which means we all get a chance to host small group celebrations every time someone gets engaged, married or has a baby, or in the lulls between those milestones, someone hosts a brunch or a game night. In early September, I hosted a baby shower for Betsy, who was expecting a baby girl. This is the chevron shower invite that I created at ontobaby.com, a great website that I happened upon that allows you to customize colors and content and create many neat things for free, and then print them, or send them out via email as a PDF. Since the shower, teeny little Vivian Kiyoko arrived, and she is beautiful and I am so thrilled for Betsy and her husband, Sam that they are parents of this perfect little person.
Like most easygoing and enjoyable parties, this one started with advanced preparation. I made a full recipe of Martha Stewart’s Corn and Zucchini Orzo Salad. The salad was lemony with juice of 3 lemons and zest, kicky from the jalapenos from our garden, tasty and light, but the recipe, which reports to yield 6 servings yields something closer to 16 servings. I guess the pound of orzo pasta, 6 medium zucchini and 6 ears of corn should have been a tip-off. Everyone loved the salad and it made for some good leftovers the next week for lunch. I served the crumbled feta in a separate bowl so each person could add their own. Somewhere along the line while preparing for the shower I read an article about all the things pregnant and nursing moms aren’t supposed to eat, so anything that could vaguely be construed to be unpasteurized or uncured was served separately, even though most of my groceries probably satisfied both of these pregnant-person dietary requirements. I’m a vegetarian in a mostly meat-eating world, so I am (over)sensitive to this sort of thing. I am so glad that Tea Sandwiches and Deviled Eggs are back in vogue. I like both of these baby shower classic snacks, so I made both. Tea Sandwiches are perfect baby shower bites–they are small, cute and girly. I made cucumber tea sandwiches with cream cheese and chives, and smoked salmon tea sandwiches with the same spread. Both the sandwiches and classic deviled eggs were yummy. Decorations are one of the things that make a gathering into a party, so even though this is a small shower with a group of girls who gather with some regularity and don’t rely on pretense, I had to decorate. Betsy was expecting a girl, I took that as license to go pink. I cut dots out of pink felt and strung them into a garland on embroidery floss. Each felt dot is secured to the embroidery thread with two hand-stitched french knots. [Try saying that five times fast.] I stuck these around the patio with pink striped washi tape. I also hung pink tissue paper balls from the house and our patio lights with washi tape. I bought little pots of pink mums; hearty ones, like the moms and moms-to-be at the shower. I wrapped the pots in poufy pink tissue paper, shiny clear wrapping paper and secured the paper to each pot with a wide pink ribbon, tied in a bow. The hearty mums decorated the table and served as a little favor for each person to take home. I marked every person’s place at the table with a plant stake topped with a pink polka-dot name card that I made with a strip of card stock, further embellished with washi tape that I stuck into the pot of mums at each place. To round out our lunch I served antipasto skewers which consist of golden cherry tomatoes, marinated artichoke heart quarters, salami, fresh mozzarella, marinated mushrooms, peppers and seasoned olives from the grocery store olive bar threaded on to short bamboo skewers, dressed lightly with balsamic vinaigrette and garnished with fresh flat-leaf parsley from our garden. I set up a buffet table on the patio so that we could help ourselves to food and drink while we relaxed and talked. I set out pink tumblers and reusable striped straws as well as champagne glasses out so everyone could pour their own pink lemon-aid Arnie Palmers from drink dispensers and San Pelligrino sparkling water from the bottle which was sitting on ice. I also set out bottles of fruity Joaia and Izzy’s soda, and of course, we popped a bottle of champagne. I served mixed nuts, mints and bridge mix in a cut glass candy dish, another nod to classic baby shower fare that I am happy to revive. Desert was simple and totally a highlight. I whipped cream and stirred in sugar and vanilla, and sliced strawberries and blueberries which macerated in sugar in the fridge. The whipped cream and fruit were a delicious topping to a white cake made in a bundt pan, served with coffee. Betsy took home a nice assortment of cute baby gear, books, clothes and other essentials, and this cute Locally Grown Clothing Co Minnesota onesie. Nice pick, Alison. September was a busy month! Having to buy a new car and getting a new roof for our house and a few trips out of town took the time I’d normally devote to blogging, but I’m back and planning to share a few “catch up” posts about the fun we’ve been having, stop back!
There are two schools of thought on the ubiquitous sliced cucumber side dish, one vinegary, like mine, and the other, a creamy version made with sour cream. Check out this recipe for the creamy version of sliced cukes on Deucecities Henhouse, a favorite Twin Cities based blog haunt of mine.
Watching the cukes grow has been almost as much fun as eating them. Ours are growing in all sorts of unconventional shapes. I spend time every week tying tomato plants to chicken wire and winding twine around bamboo poles to support green beans, peppers and peas. Cucumber vines take the initiative of sending out tendrils that stretch out until they find other plants and structures nearby, then curling the tendrils tightly around so they hang tight. Cucumbers are fully capable of supporting themselves.
Dijon and Herb-dressed Potato Salad for the Heart of Summer
I love the heat, energy and fireworks explosion of people out enjoying life in every possible way that takes place in July; but to me, August is the heart of summer. I savor August days when the pace of life slows down, the garden booms and I can pause to soak in warmth, the natural wonders, brilliant flavors and the easy pace that life settles into at this time of year. I enjoy being able to base my seasons on what is happening outside, instead of on the school year or the sport’s calendar. It helps me keep the summer feeling alive to the last second when the fall chill genuinely takes hold. I understand that for many people, the first sign of a cooler evening, a fallen leaf or the school year looming close marks a change. Even so, it is too early to shift to autumn-cooking mode while the garden and farmer’s market is overflowing with beautiful summer vegetables and fruits. If you have a potluck, picnic or BBQ left on the agenda, trotting out the classic potato salad is probably starting to seem a little dull and repetitive. This is when it is time to turn the traditional potato salad on its heel–add some veggies to the ingredient list, subtract the typical mayo-based dressing. With a few tweaks, you have a bright, fresh twist on a classic potato salad that capitalizes on August abundance and tastes and looks so different, you will forget the creamy classic potato salad recipe you wore out in June and July.
Dijon and Herb Potato Salad– Yield: 6 generous servings, 20 minutes hands-on, 50 minutes total time.
- 2 pounds small Yukon Gold or Red potatoes scrubbed
- 6 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and halved or quartered
- 1 cup Fresh Peas or String Beans, or a combination of both
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 tablespoons chicken or vegetable stock
- 3 tablespoons Tarragon vinegar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons Grainy Dijon mustard
- 8-10 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 minced shallot
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
- 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons basil leaves, chopped, plus small, whole basil leaves for garnish
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Drop the potatoes into a large pot of boiling, lightly salted water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are just cooked through. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place them in a large bowl with the fresh peas or string beans on top and cover with a clean towel. This allows the beans or peas to steam along with the potatoes for 10 minutes more. Note, this approach worked for me, though if you are nervous about the peas or beans being cooked, add, them to the pot of boiling potatoes for the last few minutes, or steam them separately. Cut the potatoes in half or quarters if they are large. If you used Yukon Gold potatoes, you can slip off the skins right off at this point if you like. Toss the potatoes gently with chicken stock. Allow the liquid to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.
Combine the vinegar, mustard, olive oil with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously to make an emulsion. Add the vinaigrette to the potatoes. Add the shallot, dill, parsley, basil, salt and pepper and gently toss. Just before serving, toss in the halved tomatoes and top the salad with halved hard-boiled eggs, fresh cracked pepper and small basil leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Pesto Cavatappi // A Recipe for Noodles and Company Pasta at Home
I’m crazy about growing-my-own-everything in my backyard and making bread, pasta, cheese and beer from scratch. I follow approximately 40 food blogs [and counting…], I’ve spoken to Anthony Bordain* and I’ve introduced myself to Andrew Zimmern. Cookbooks by Brenda Langton, Sophie Dahl and Ina Garden frequently show up on my cookbook stand. Even so, this post could do away with any possibility of earning recipe-developer cred or gaining respect as a highfalutin foodie. I’m sharing a recipe that is based on my favorite dish at Noodles and Company. Noodles and Co.?! Yes. So what? I did my best rendition of Noodles and Company Pesto Cavatappi and it was totally delish.
To make this dish, I started by roasting tomatoes and making a batch of basil pesto. These are two steps that you can complete in advance since you can store both pesto and roasted tomatoes covered in olive oil in the fridge for a few days for use in multiple dishes. If you roasted a bunch of tomatoes based on the recipe I posted last week, this dish is an excellent way to use the leftovers. Please refer to my method for making wonderful Basil Pesto and Roasted Tomatoes recipes in the linked posts. It takes an hour to roast tomatoes, so if you haven’t done that in advance, start there first. FYI, Noodles and Co. doesn’t use roasted tomatoes, so roasting the tomatoes is optional for this recipe. I think roasting the tomatoes is worth the effort. Shriveled, roasted tomatoes make their presence known in the dish with a sweet, concentrated tomato flavor. They also contain less liquid to dilute the basil-y, Parmesan cheese-y, garlic-y goodness of the pesto. If you’d rather, you can simply add grape tomatoes to the sauté pan (more on that in a minute), and sauté the ripe red beauties until they are softened and bursting, and adjust the amount of pasta water you use to thin the pesto to avoid having a runny sauce. Pesto Cavatappi in the style of Noodles and Company — 1 hour total time, 30 minutes active time, serves 4 — easily doubled.
Once you have made basil pesto and roasted tomatoes, the recipe is very simple and comes together quickly. Cook half a box of curly cavatappi noodles in salted water according to the package directions to a little less than done. At the same time, mince and sauté two cloves of garlic and 8 ounces of sliced, clean, button or cremini mushrooms in a little olive oil. If you are not using roasted tomatoes, you can add a few handfuls of grape tomatoes during this step. I think a minced, sautéed shallot would also fit the flavor profile. Once the veggies are mostly cooked, you can add a splash of white wine to the hot pan to develop flavor and get all of the good cooked bits off the pan–I didn’t bother with this, even though the official Noodles and Co. Cavatappi claims to contain white wine. Its presence or absence is not noteworthy. When the noodles are nearly cooked, drain them, reserving some pasta water. Next, toss the noodles, pesto and sautéed veggies together in the sauté pan, and stir gently. If you are using roasted tomatoes, they should be added at this point. I also added two big handfuls of baby spinach, which is not in the Noodles version of this dish, but is a tasty, healthful addition to this meal. I added a little of the pasta water to thin the pesto and to allow the Parmesan cheese in the pesto to melt. When everything is covered in a light coating of green and the spinach has begun to wilt, add a touch of milk, half and half or cream and stir until incorporated.
I served my pesto cavatappi topped with a little grated Parmesan cheese.
To really bring the Noodles and Company flavor home, you can also sprinkle on a little chopped Italian flat leafed parsley. I did not. There is so much flavor in the verdant pesto, and the sweet tomatoes which are roasted with garlic and thyme and layers of garlic flavour from each component of this dish I didn’t think more herbs were needed. To truly capture the Noodles and Company Pesto Cavatappi, add a little parsley, finely chopped.
While making this meal I realized that having luscious pasta available as fast food can be bad for your health. As much as I enjoy Noodles and Co. now and then, I know what makes it taste so good: olive oil, cheese and cream, [or half & half or milk if you use my recipe]. That stuff should be reserved for extra special meals. I think it is wonderful pasta to enjoy occasionally. Just don’t start going to Noodles and Company, ordering Pesto Cavatappi and thinking that’s everyday food unless you are an Olympic swimmer, marathoner, or someone else with extreme calorie needs. This recipe is fit for a special meal, or if it is just an average Tuesday, served in a smaller portion alongside a salad. Our Pesto Cavatappi was really tasty, and even with my tweaks to the ingredient list it was a lot like Noodles and Company, but better, because it was lovingly made at home.
*Alright, I’ll be straight. I asked Anthony Bordain a question in a Q&A session when he was in Minneapolis on a speaking tour. My question was about the John Spencer Blues Explosion song which is the theme song to his show on the Travel Channel. He kind of blew off the question and failed to answer which I’ve interpreted in several ways that all cast doubt on his self-proclaimed interest in awesome music.
Roasted Tomatoes for the Rest of Us
Roasted Tomatoes – 1 hour, 350 degrees
Wonderful on Salads, Pasta, Pizza, Sandwiches and on their own.
2 pints of Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, halved top to bottom
A few tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Sprigs of fresh Thyme or Rosemary, Parsley or Basil
4-5 cloves of Garlic, unpeeled
Place oven rack in top 2/3 of oven and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Half the tomatoes and toss lightly in oil until just glistening.
Arrange tomatoes cut-side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Season tomatoes and add herbs, aromatics and whole, unpeeled cloves as desired.
Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until partly dried out, sweet, juicy and tender. Store extra roasted tomatoes for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator, covered in olive oil.
Garden Delights // Square Foot Garden // July Update
Our garden delights me! We find ways to eat fresh veggies and herbs in every meal. I keep learning and I enjoy everything except the squirrels!
The Summer Sandwich // Simple Dining, Al Fresco
This post is one part ode to one of my favor summer meals and one part cautionary tale. I figure that this blog is about my life, including some of the great meals in it, so I will start with a brief account the day when I spent inadvertently spent $17.72 on 0.57 lbs of cheese. [Oopsie.]
It was a typical Saturday morning. We started our day at the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market. I determined my mission that day was to purchase the components of a summer sandwich for our lunch. At the time, our garden still had a few weeks to go before it would have much to offer us. I bought vegetables, bread, and then we left the market and looped our way up Grand Avenue to the Saint Paul Cheese Shop. That place is pretty neat. Sampling is encouraged, so we tasted several paper-thin wisps of cheese the cheesemonger shaved neatly off of several wheels of cheese and dropped into our extended hands from the forked tip of the blade of his cheese knife. I let my guard down. It is atypical for me to make a mindless splurge without glancing at the price per half pound. I was in a cheese-induced stupor when I asked for a small wedge of Marcel Petite Comte raw cow’s milk cheese from France, and a wedge of Terchelling Sheep’s milk cheese from Holland. I’m sure there are people who routinely spend far more than this on cheese in any given week. I’m not knocking it and I might do it again at some point. The difference will be that I do it intentionally. As a consolation, at least the cheese was very, very good.
Whew. Now that I’ve made that confession to my friends and readers, let’s make a sandwich! A Summer Sandwich is quite simply a sandwich with any combination of meat or vegetarian meat substitute, seasonal vegetables, cheese and sandwich spreads piled on top of nice bread.
I sliced a grainy loaf of bread and served the bread and cheese with our own cheese knives on wooden cutting boards. We eat most of our meals al fresco on our patio. It has been 90+ degrees farenheit there lately, but it is still very pleasant in the shade of a Maple Tree canopy.
I filled a platter with sliced cucumber and tomato, garden lettuces, piles of deli turkey and tofurky, along with bowls of mayonnaise and grainy dijon mustard, and placed salt and pepper shakers on the table. The secret to the perfect summer sandwich is bringing out whatever looks good and fresh, and let each person assemble the sandwich they desire.
If Freud were here, he’d say, “a sandwich is never just a sandwich.” It is the meal I ate on pebble beaches out of a cooler with my parents camping in Door County, Wisconsin in grade four. It is the BLT’s that beckoned numerous cousins, Uncles and Aunts to my Grandma’s farm house every July when the tomatoes were all ripe at once. It is the meal of lettuce, ham, turkey, tomato and cheese sandwiches on good sandwich bread that we shared with friends from Edmonton, Winnipeg, Saint Paul and Minneapolis on a lakeshore in Northern Minnesota after a long, hot day on the lake last year over the 4th of July long weekend. It is the halved baguettes piled with cheese, sliced tomato and a pile of pršut [for the meat eaters] that we ate on a secluded pebble beach a few months ago in Croatia.
What is one to serve on the side? Well, nothing—any decent summer sandwich is in itself, a square meal. Or, if the mood strikes, some salty-crunchy potato chips, leftover potato salad out of the fridge, deviled eggs or summer fruit would all be the perfect compliment. On this particular day we rounded out our plates with bright, rainbow radishes that were too pretty to slice or even to remove the stem. Sure, they could have been thinly sliced and piled on the sandwich, but they were refreshing, spicy perfection and a visual treat perched on the side our plates.
A Summer Sandwich is simple perfection. No matter what fresh fixings are available, where you are, or what time it is, a sandwich satisfies hunger. A sandwich feeds a crowd with varied tastes, comes together easily and is a perfect meal to eat outdoors on a hot July day.
And the cheese?
We’re still working our way through it, and savoring every little morsel–we figure it cost us about 8 cents per crumb.