Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer girl's night

The menu:


Trader Joe's limeade, a touch of mint simple syrup, rum, and mint leaves to top it off - it's pretty sweet, so dilute with club soda as necessary.

Spring roll salad (adapted from 101 Cookbooks)
I know it looks complicated, and yes, it does take time, but it is worth it.  

3/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms (or other mushrooms)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons shoyu (=soy sauce)
4 ounces (4 cups loosely packed) fettucine-style rice noodles (Trader Joe's sells these)
2 carrots, sliced into matchsticks (1 cup; I actually shaved using a vegetable peeler, much quicker than doing a fine julienne, and the texture is nice.  I also used shaved cucumbers, yum)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
(I also added all my CSA greens for the week; these aren't included in the original recipe, but I think tipping the balance toward vegetables makes it an even better summery salad)
1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts, roughly chopped in food processor

--Roasted Shallot Peanut Sauce
3 medium shallots, unpeeled
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon shoyu
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Tamarind dipping sauce (or in my case, dipping sauce, for I still can't find tamarind concentrate.  Oh well, it's still good)
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate
1 tablespoon shoyu
1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced (I used CSA garlic scapes)
1 teaspoon finely slivered seeded red serrano or Thai bird chile (I have a jar of Thai chile paste that saves me here, Thai chiles are hot and apparently physically painful to cut.  Thank goodness for the World Aisle at Shaw's)

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  Cut the stems off the shiitakes and discard them (or save them for stock). Thinly slice the caps; you should have 5 cups. Toss the shiitakes in a bowl with the olive oil and shoyu. Then spread them out on a parchment-covered baking sheet and transfer it to the oven.  Also, place the shallots in a baking pan.  Roast both the mushrooms and shallots in the oven, stirring the mushrooms twice, until the mushrooms are shrunken, browned, and fairly crisp and the shallots are a bit oozy (about 40 minutes).

Place the mushrooms in a small bowl and set it aside.  Let the shallots cool, and squeeze into the bowl of a food processor.  Add additional ingredients in the peanut sauce and puree until smooth (makes about 2 cups, keeps well in the fridge).

To make the dipping sauce, combine sugar and water in a saucepan, and warm over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and add lime juice, tamarind, and shoyu.  Let cool, and stir in cilantro, garlic and chile paste (makes about 1/2 cups, does not keep as long as the peanut sauce, but will keep a couple days).

Cook noodles as directed, and drain, rinsing with cold water. Enjoy the salad buffet style.

Rhubarb ice cream (adapted from Not Without Salt)

3 to 3 1/2 cups rhubarb chopped in half inch chunks
1/2 stick butter
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar, not packed
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
7-10 drops cherry blossom extract or rose water (optional)

Combine the rhubarb, butter, vanilla bean and seeds, vanilla extract, sugar and salt in a medium sauce pan.  Cover and braise over medium-low heat until rhubarb is soft (this takes about fifteen minutes).  Take off heat, break up any obvious chunks, and let cool for about twenty minutes.  In a medium bowl combine the cream and milk then add the cooled rhubarb mixture. Add the extracts at this point, and let chill completely before churning.

Watermelon sorbet (adapted from Tartlette; this works with any kind of melon, oh yes)

4 cups watermelon, seeded and diced
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Splash to 1/4 cup liquor (vodka, elderflower liquor, pick something delicious; keep in mind that the more alcohol you add, the lower the freezing point dips---which can make for smoother sorbets, but it can also make them loose the frozen texture that some people really love)

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. (or in my case, put in my largest stockpot and puree using an immersion blender.  Much easier, less mess).   If the graininess bothers you, strain it.  If not, let cool completely and churn.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Midsommarfest 2011

(more about Midsommar and last year's Midsommarfest here)

The day dawned dark and dreary.  Oh well.  Sometimes it isn't so sunny in Sweden, either.


But I set the tables up with the help of one of my lovely undergrads here for the summer and her friends from work and got to making food. 

Seating for 34 people.  I love dinner parties.

Bacon-wrapped apricots.  Delicious.

 In line for food:  Swedish meatballs, cucumber and dill salad, potato salad, cheese flan, smoked fish, cheese, bread, beet salad, all manner of other good things.

...and a bonus? The sun came out!

So many people! 

Me and my first taste of aquavit - delicious!  It also tastes rather delightful with lingonberry saft and water.  

All smiles.  What a great night.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Road trip: day 4

Day 4:  Burlington, VT to Boston, MA


We stayed overnight at my travel partner's uncle's home in Burlington - an expansive home full of sports equipment galore and everything that could make the neighborhood kids love it.  They live a block from Lake Champlain, the lake that we ferried across the night before.

Lake Champlain in the morning - it reminds me of Lake Mille Lacs

Enjoying the view and the sunshine.

Ben and Jerry's!

The factory is really nestled within the mountains, I love it. 

Cabot Cheese!

The cider mill - alas, wrong season for operation, but I was able to get some apple molasses to use in something or other.  Not sure yet - probably cakes and sauces, but salad dressing may work as well.

Not pictured:  a stop at the lovely NH state liquor store to stock up:
--vodka for making vanilla
--gin for the Tom Collinses at girl's night (my first try of gin, ever.  I know, I know.  I've lived under a rock.  But---lemon and gin fit so well together!)
--campari to make a wonderfully tart David Lebovitz grapefruit campari sorbet that was the most lovely shade of coral
--Disaronno, for I owe a composer friend of mine a batch of amaretto chocolate chip cookies once it's cool enough to send them his LA way (meaning December.  But I don't get to NH often, so there you are).

We arrived home around 4, just in time to get everything clean and put away, and hey, get ready for the lab meeting I presented on Tuesday!   Fun, fun, oh yes.  Our total mileage for the trip ended up being 1437 miles, with 32 mpg...not bad, little car.  You served us well.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Road trip: day 3

 Day 3:  Niagara Falls, ON to Burlington, VT

Rainbow Bridge

Under the rainbow bridge.

Little did I know that the Canadian side of the falls is a tourist trap full of wax museums, haunted houses, and casinos...

 I guess they thought it was a good idea?  I'm not convinced. 

Boston Pizza.  I'm not sure what Boston-style pizza is, so...yes. 

We had breakfast at Tim Hortons - maple donuts are delicious.

Getting ready to board the Maid of the Mists!

 Breakfast still in hand...good thing the ponchos are gigantic.

All smiles!

I was speechless.  I could literally not believe that this place existed.  Incredible.  (this is the American falls, by the way).

The Canadian Falls.  (how is this real?  Blows my mind.  That, and the fact that the vast majority of the water is held back for hydroelectric power means that the falls would look even more spectacular in real life)

 The mists

Very wet. 

American Falls, from the promenade on the Cana

Guard tower at the border crossing

Michael's Inn (literally a block from the border crossing)

We stopped in Utica for a late lunch (early dinner?  The only other people in the restaurant were seniors).  It was a town that seemed far too quiet and empty, but it must have been quite a hopping town during the shipping era (Utica is on the Erie Canal trading route). 

Then - there was a ferry!!  I was super excited to drive onto a boat.

Our little car - on a boat!  (you can see the bridge under construction in the left side of the photo)

 Hey guess what!?  We're on a boat!

I don't know what this is (lights maybe?)  but it's cool.

 Welcome to Vermont!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Road trip: day 2

 Day 2:  Fishkill, NY to Erie, PA to Niagara Falls, ON

Early in the morning, my traveling partner gave me the tour of her home.  The lot backs right up into a woody area, giving me a jolt of homesickness. 

The tour included the backhoe outside of my window.  Excellent.

We ate a lovely breakfast of ham and chocolate waffles before heading off to Erie bright and early.

The church - spectacular ceiling.
Outside the church, waiting to blow bubbles!


 Watching the first dance.

Red and blue!  (and I know, those sleeves!  It was chilly out.  And I was cold).

The McCormick ladies

Lake Erie

Lake Erie

Heels and nylons meant no dipping feet in the lake for me...sad.

The traveling companions!

The 94 stairs that take you back to the camp.

Dunes and rock formation.

Sunset over Lake Erie

The sun was setting, dinner was over, the peanut blossoms were on their way to being demolished, and we headed towards Niagara Falls - my first time out of the country since Sweden in seventh grade.  The lines at the border crossing weren't too long at 10:30 at night, and it wasn't long before we were situated in our hotel.  I grabbed the leftover stash of peanut butter blossoms hungrily, and turned on the tv.  I channel-surfed, enjoying commercials for things that are very Canadian, and hit on Star Wars - "-------, Star Wars is on!"  We sat on our hotel beds drinking lambrusco and inhaling cookies, enjoying the fact that we were both doing exactly what we wanted at that point.  What is it they say?  ...something like before you move in together, take a three day road trip and really deal with someone's quirks 24-7.  We passed that test with flying colors.