Monday, September 3, 2012

summer highlights

Every summer I make a little vow to accomplish a list of things. My list consists mostly of silly endeavors such as eating as many peaches and as much melon as I possibly can this season. Check. Spending a little less time at work, and a little more time enjoying my daughter. Check. Exercise at least three times a week. Check. Swim in the lake more. Check. Buy a house, (almost there)! Smell the flowers. Check. Make jam. Check. Make pickles. Check. Sneak in a bit more beach time. This is a tough one, as there is never enough beach time. Time on the beach can mean lazily meandering along the shore, occasionally throwing a stick in the lake for our old dog to fetch, and collecting heart shaped rocks. Beach time can include swimming, rock skipping, or lounging on the warm rocks while soaking up the sun. One of my favorite beach times this summer was a week ago on my birthday. I enjoyed the evening with my family and three lovely and great ladies- Kate, Aria, and Bryn. We made a fire, roasted hot dogs, and ate figs as the moon rose. Kate inspired me as she prepared fire roasted figs on a stick. What a wonderful idea! The figs get roasty, warm, and sweet. There is no recipe, just a great concept. I might try stuffing the figs with slightly softened goat cheese in the future before I roast them, or pair them with some really dark chocolate. It was such a simple and perfect treat. As the fire dwindled, the moon's reflection mirrored Lake Superior's surface, and my daughter curled on my lap, I felt one hundred percent contentment.

Another summer favorite was a watermelon cocktail. My future in- laws were up for a visit, and brought us a 30 pound watermelon grown by their neighbor. It was sweet, delicious, and it helped me achieve one of the top things on my list; eat as much melon as possible. Even though I was trying to eat as much melon as I could, there was still a lot of melon left to be consumed. I threw my conundrum to my co-worker Kim, thinking she'd have some ideas as to how to use up some of that melon. Her suggestion; juice it, mix it, and drink it on the rocks. For one of the most refreshing drinks I have ever had, I did the following:

Juice, or puree and strain about 5 pounds of watermelon. You'll be left with about 6 cups of juice.
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup agave nector

Combine the above ingredients, adding more or less lime juice and agave to your liking.
Fill an eight ounce glass with ice. Pour one shot of vodka over the ice. Top with the watermelon juice. Sip and enjoy.

I have one more summer greatness that I'd like to share. Sweet refrigerator pickles. My daughter and I are fairly particular about our pickles. I made a batch of sweet gherkin pickles with good results, but I didn't really enjoy the four day process that came with them. I'm usually strapped for time, and these pickles, as great as they are, almost put me over the edge. I was curious if I could create a simple refrigerator pickle with as much flavor and greatness of our high maintenance gherkins. I pulled it off with this recipe:

2 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced
 1 cup water
1 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 tsp allspice berries
1 tsp pickling spice

Place the cucumbers in a clean spring- top jar.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 4 full  minutes to wake up the flavors of the spices.

Slowly pour the hot pickling liquid over the cucmbers, completely filling the jar. Allow the pickles to cool to room temperature before topping off with any remaining pickling liquid. Refridgerate.

Refrigerate the pickles for a week to ripen. They will keep for about 2 months in the fridge. Belly up!!