Now In Season...

We just returned from a dreamy week spent on a lovely little lake in Monroe, NY. Most of the time it was just TC, Lobo, Benito and I (yes, we took the cat) but last Sunday we had some friends up for a day of swimming and grilling. The houses owner had told us that our best bet for fresh produce was a place called Blooming Hill, where a farming family has transformed its barn into a green market, cafe and weekend restaurant, with tables and umbrellas set up on a mostly flat stretch of mowed grass along the edges of the small stream.

The farms jolly owner and his extremely friendly staff and family stock tables with their produce as well as mason jars full of icy lemonade with fresh mint and even a local selection of local cheeses in the barn. A few simple grills outside are used to make fresh egg omelets with sides of perfectly grilled baby carrots arranged on mismatched plates and, at least last Saturday, a teen-aged girl with a flute supplies background music, playing beautifully and intently, even while a resident tom-cat climbed onto her lap to give her instrument a close inspection (we saw him again later inside, lounging in the chard, and when we returned on Sunday he was napping with complete abandon in a round basket of zucchini). Utterly inspired, we bought a few bunches of baby carrots and some corn and headed back to the lake for some pre-party recipe testing.

I love carrots, and was thrilled to discover a new (to me, at least) way to cook them. It was hard not to eat them raw in the car on the way home. My mothers vegetable gardens in Vermont could always be counted upon for mid-play grazing. My sister and I picked and ate everything and anything, except raw broccoli of course. Our tee shirts were always stained across the belly from where we wrapped and twisted little carrots until they were clean, or clean enough. I remember that my patience was annually and thoroughly tested by this vegetable in particular, I was forever yanking them up prematurely only to find barely a thread of range root, then shoving them back in and hoping no one would notice. By the time we had two or three inch carrots we were eating them as fast as we could pick them. Did you know that the baby carrots that you buy in the grocery store are often made from big carrots? Whittled and shaped? Except for the ones you get at Farmers Market, of course, and the ones at Trader Joes, which I highly recommend. Grilling the baby carrots turned out to be very easy. We cut the carrots greens to about two inches, washed and patted them dry, and rolled them around in a little olive oil and sea salt (I used about 1/3 cup oil for a large bunch of baby carrots) and tossed them onto the grill alongside everything else. They took about the same time to cook as a few medium steaks, maybe 7-10 minutes. We knew they were ready when we could spear them with a plain old fork. Extremely delicious.

Corn, too, was always a mid-late summer crop in Vermont. "Knee High by the Fourth of July" was the rule of thumb, at least for the large crops of feed corn that the dairy farmers in our town depended on. We could usually start eating our own sweet corn by mid July, and our neighbors would be setting up crates full of fresh ears on their front porches, with a sign that read "ten ears (the six, then four) for a dollar" propped up by an honor system coffee can. At least with corn, if you weren't quite sure, you could pull back the top bit and check to see if the kernels were plump and crowded or still widely spaced, pale and translucent before you picked it. We ate so much corn. My boy cousins would compete, ear for ear, except for the summer that at least two of them had braces, which put a serious crimp in the tradition. Back in the days when butter and I were good friends (pre 30's metabolism) I was convinced that this was the acceptable condiment with which to eat corn , but now I realize my long standing ignorance. We soaked the ears in water for a bout an hour, then pulled back the husks and removed the silks (Did you know that there is exactly one piece of silk for each kernel on an ear of corn? Thats what we learned by having a science teacher over for dinner) and tied the husks into bunches using a single piece of husk. Then, we patted the corn dry and rolled it around in olive oil and salt. I know, its a theme with me. Then, we rolled them around in chopped italian parsley, and put them on the grill for about 10 minutes, turning them a few times and being carefully not to let the husks catch fire (I draped the over the side of the grill so that they weren't over the fire) It sounds simple, right? You won't believe the flavor.

TC was in charge of cocktail hour, which was usually spent lakeside. His masterpiece was a frozen strawberry mojito, which he made by combining together (in a blender) 1 can frozen limeade, 1/2 can (the one that held the limeade) rum, 2 cups frozen strawberries, and a muddled mixture of a few leaves of fresh mint and the pulp of two limes. This combination yielded two very large servings, which could easily have worked for four normal sized portions. I lost the ability to play backgammon after four sips, so watch yourselves. 

Its good to be home and partly back to a normal eating schedule after gorging myself on fresh food and slushy cocktails for a week. It would be even better if the elastic in my underpants wasn't cutting off my circulation as I type this, or if I could fit into any of my pants.