We spent much of our time wishing the rain would clear, but the weekend brought warmth to all of us looking forward to fireworks. Any clear sky found us racing outdoors to take advantage of all the activities that Michigan promises. Bonfires by moonlight kept us up on more than one occasion with my sister and I belting out our favorite Michael Jackson songs over too many glasses of wine.
My Mom's extended family made it up north for a family reunion and descended upon Walloon Lake at my Uncle Bob and Aunt Michelle's lovely home for the holiday weekend. It's a picturesque place where Hemingway spent his childhood summers. Their home is filled with beautiful furniture from their business, Beauchamp Antiques, but my favorite is the big round table with mismatched fabric arm chairs. It's perfect for late night glasses of whiskey and board games that have often ended with us staying the night.
It's a perfect place to spend the most American of holidays. The day was filled with a sunset seen via a hammock, kayaks, canoes, Bob at the wheel of his speed boat, our three dogs endlessly swimming for sticks and sitting on the dock under an American flag waving in the sunshine.
To gear up for the family reunion, I visited Bill's Farm Market outside of Petoskey to pick up some beautiful fresh tomatoes and pickled asparagus spiked with red chilies and garlic. The day before the festivities, my two Aunts, Patty and Michelle, and I did a quick spin around the local market. We shucked the corn over a large bin in order to pile the pale yellow ears into our heaving cart. We had about 25 people to feed and lots of shopping to complete at the last minute. Any anxiety I had was washed away as I realized I was with two very experienced grocery shoppers.
By the time we got back to the house, our team of helpers were ready and willing with chopping boards and knives at the ready. We set up multiple cooking stations and while my Aunt Patty started on her pies, I dished out individual recipes to the masses of cousins and second cousins eager to help. Everyone chipped in. My pregnant cousin Christine propped herself up on a tall stool and chopped a huge pile of tomatoes, countless spring onions and olives. Her husband, Aaron, made a fantastic dressing whilst wearing his pajamas, and my Mom's cousins and their little girls made the biggest pile of cauliflower salad anyone has ever seen.
Michelle pulled out every pot she owned and we got straight to work. In a few short hours, everything was prepared and ready to go for the next day.
Patty ended up making three different pies and I think they deserve a post of their own. Strawberry & rhubarb, blueberry and key lime pies all begged to win the vote of the family's favorite. I promise I will share over the next few days!
We served everything on these adorable vintage cafeteria trays.
Picture by Christine Davis
Along with my Grandma Dorothy's Potato Salad, here's what we made:
Fresh Mint Tea Juleps
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Makes 8 Drinks
2 qt water
4 qt mint sprigs (6 oz)
1/2 cup sugar
8 oz (1 cup) bourbon
mint sprigs for garnish
Bring water, mint and sugar to a boil, stirring sugar until dissolved, then simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Cool completely (about 1 hour). Strain through a sieve into a large pitcher, pressing on and then discarding mint. Fill glasses halfway up with ice. Add 2 tbsp of bourbon to each glass and then top off with mint tea. Garnish with mint sprigs.
This drink went down a treat as my cousin Lauren (pictured handing out the cocktails) read some of my Grandma's memoirs in the hot afternoon sun.
Picture by Christine Davis
Corn and Tomato Scramble
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
If I had to vote, I think this was my favorite salad. I adore corn and it was super sweet, crisp and delicious.
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 1/4 lb tomatoes (you can use vine ripened tomatoes cut into bite sized pieces or cherry tomatoes halved)
1 bunch of scallions (green onions), finely chopped, keeping green and white parts separate
2 tbsp unsalted butter
4 cups of corn kernels (from about 8 ears)
Whisk together oil, vinegar, /4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper. Toss with tomatoes and set aside.
Cook white parts of scallions in butter with 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in heavy skillet over medium high heat. Stir occasionally, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add corn and saute until just tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool. Stir together corn, tomatoes and scallion greens.
Corn can be cooked 1 day ahead and chilled. Bring to room temperature before using.
Shrimp and Artichoke Pasta Salad
1 pound large cooked shrimp ( I like to grill these with some lemon zest, olive oil and chili, but you can buy them pre-cooked too)
1 can (15 oz) artichoke hearts, drained, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound Roma tomatoes, chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 pound crumbled feta cheese
1/4 pound pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1 pound farfalle (butterfly) pasta cooked to package instructions and then rinsed under cold water to stop cooking.
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
2 Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine shrimp mixture- you can chop the shrimp to get allow more people to get a bite if you're serving this for a large group. Cook the pasta and cool it.
Make the dressing by combining lemon zest and juice, garlic, fennel seeds, mint leaves, tomatoes, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Pulse on and off until just combined. Slowly add oil until it's thickened. Taste for seasoning.
Chill salad until ready to serve. If you need to serve this after 24 hours, you might want to combine the pasta and shrimp mixture with a bit of olive oil and then add the tomato dressing at the end to avoid the acid of the tomatoes becoming too much of the taste.
Slow Roasted Tomatoes with Coriander
Adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
Makes about 40 tomato halves
I am seriously addicted to these tomatoes (along with many others from Molly's lovely book.)
I must have made them 6 times over the last few months. I love them with ricotta and french bread, brie and crackers (or with brie on whole grain toast) and whizzed up into pasta sauces.
3 1/2 pounds ripe Roma tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt
1-2 tbsp ground coriander (I prefer to grind whole coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar rather than buy the already ground coriander)
3 balls of buffalo mozzarella
fresh lemon thyme leaves
Preheat the oven to 200F. Wash and dry the tomatoes then halve them lengthwise. Put them in a large bowl and toss with oil. Place them on a baking sheet, cut side up and sprinkle with sea salt and coriander...a pinch each for every 4-6 tomato halves.
Bake for 4-6 hours until the edges crinkle up and they become about half the original size. Take them out and let them cool until room temperature.
We served this with torn pieces of buffalo mozzarella and sprinkled with fresh lemon thyme from the farmers market.
I like to eat them straight away or you can put them in an airtight container in the fridge and they will keep for about a week.
Cauliflower, Green Bean and Blue Cheese Salad
1 head of cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
1 pound of fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 bunch radishes, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced on diagonal
1/4 cup of chopped Italian parsley
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp fresh tarragon
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1/4 pound crumbled blue cheese
Blanche the cauliflower and green beans in boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Drain and run under ice cold water to stop cooking. Place all veggies in a large bowl and then add the rest of the ingredients except for the cheese.
Toss gently and taste for seasoning. I thought this needed a little extra salt and pepper so taste along the way. Refrigerate for several hours and toss in blue cheese at the last minute. It was great with the beef that we served.
Marinated Flank Steak II
Once again I reverted back to my good friend the flank steak. I had intentions of serving tri-tip steaks but the butcher didn't have any, so I improvised with something I knew very well. He was able to cut us enough flank to feed 25 people, but this recipe is paired down for 10.
4 pounds of flank steak
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of chopped fresh rosemary
5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
plenty of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Mix all marinade ingredients together. Place steaks in a shallow bowl and score diagonally across the grain. Pour over the marinade and make sure it covers both sides well. Cover and refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
Grill over hot coals for 4-5 minutes per side and let rest under foil for 10 minutes. Carve diagonally into thin slices and serve with rosemary aioli.
Makes 1 cup
3/4 cup of mayonnaise
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp whole grain Dijon mustard
Whisk all ingredients together and season with salt and pepper. Put into a pretty dish and serve with grilled meat for dipping.