30 August, 2007

last adventures of the summer

Just being selfish here with all these photographs. I don't want to forget a thing.

A raucous dinner party a couple of evenings ago with our farmer friend Rollie, his wife Judy and two of their sons, Christopher and Todd. Young Rollie was otherwise occupied (his firetorn house perhaps, or demanding swarms of bees behind Hannan Honey?), but we managed to talk over each other just the seven of us, all evening. And did we eat? I should say here: I have never before fed young farmers in August. Slightly elderly farmers in August yes, and slightly elderly farmers at Christmas and in February. But 20-something guys who've been up hauling hay since 3 in the morning? Nope. I have never seen food disappear so fast.

Joel's Artichoke Dip
(serves very few farmers and NO ONE else who doesn't move fast)

equal amounts:
artichoke hearts in vinegar (those in oil are too oily)
grated parmesan cheese

Mix all ingredients and spoon into ramekins, bake at whatever degrees (so much other stuff was in the oven, I couldn't be choosy, and this recipe is very forgiving) until bubbling, about 20 minutes.

Lillian Hellmann Chicken
(all these recipes served about 6, that night! Normally 10)

10 boneless chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups Hellman's mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups grated pecorino cheese
juice of three lemons
pinch of Penzeys Fox Point Seasoning
plenty of fresh breadcrumbs (perhaps 2 cups or more?)

Mix the mayo, cheese, lemonn juice and seasoning and coat each chicken breast LIBERALLY with the mixture. Then roll thoroughly in breadcrumbs and place on a foil-covered cookie sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. This dish is even good cold, so it's perfect for a large party or a buffet, sliced in chunks.

Scalloped Corn

8 ears corn, kernels cut off in a large bowl (don't cut off on a flat surface as the kernels will bounce all over the place!)
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups heavy cream (sorry!)
3 tbsps butter, melted
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Nonstick-spray a deep glass dish, square or oval or anything. Scatter half the corn, then all the garlic, then the rest of the corn, pour over cream. Toss the breadcrumbs in the butter and scatter over the top. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.

Tomato Mozzarella Salad

6 heirloom tomatoes of different colors, sliced thick
2 large balls mozzarella cheese
handful basil leaves, chiffonaded

1/3 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
salt and pepper

On a pretty platter, alternate slices of tomato with slices of mozzarella. Scatter basil over all and just before serving, drizzle with dressing. So pretty and so good.


With this all I served sliced sweet peppers in all the colors: yellow, red, orange and purple. Confession: I can't stand green peppers. Why? No reason.

Judy brought one of her divine lattice-topped blueberry and blackberry pies, and chocolate cookies with tiny York peppermint patties baked into the tops! I must get that recipe.

The boys regaled us with stories of their farming adventures, among them a gig baling hay on a farm that, no matter who guys the property, comes with an 85-year-old man, in the barn. Lives there with his paraffin heater (fire hazard, anyone?!) and his cooler full of beer and hamburgers. Always wears a hard hat, day in, day out.

Next day found us at the Southbury Historical Society (naturally my family says every "historical" as "hysterical", don't know who started that but even John says it now) where Anne had brought me over the weekend. A darling place chronicling the life of South Britain and Southbury over the last few hundreds of years. It's well worth a visit, and manned by the nicest volunteers you can imagine. The lady there on the Sunday we went is a local farmer's wife, and once Anne found out what land she has, Anne was taking no prisoners. She is a valiant supporter (probably the most) of the Southbury Land Trust that buys land and grants easements on property so as to keep it out of the hands of nasty developers who would plant 10 identical houses on a plot of land slightly larger than 10 acres, after of course denuding it of all its ancient trees. Our land is part of the trust, and there is nothing like the gleam in Anne's eye when she has spotted a prospect.

The lady listened with fairly good grace! "We have no intention of selling to any developer, ever," she assured us, but Anne described all the clever opportunities for landowners that don't include selling, like money for restoration, lifetime residency, all sort of things. As I remarked before we parted ways, it's a good thing that Anne's unbelievable powers of persuasion are on the side of righteousness, because she could talk me, personally, into almost anything. The Trust is a great idea for those fathers who don't really want gifts anymore at Christmas: you can donate in their names.

So Avery's had her last riding lesson, we've had our last trip to the pool, our last dinner with Jill, Joel and Jane (sob). Joel fed us simply divine shrimp, grilled in an aluminum foil envelope in a dill butter sauce, with asparagus. Yum yum. And Jane and Avery ran around the yard tickling each other and giggling. Summer is winding down. It's always hard for me to believe that we have another life waiting for us on the other side of August, on the other side of the pond, but we'll be there on Sunday. Have we packed? No. We're in denial.

A funny Avery story, or least a story that highlights one of my favorite things about her: her very wry sense of humor. We were driving past our neighbor Kendra's house where she keeps at least six horses in her front yard. "Ooh, there's somebody riding," Avery said. "I've never seen anybody riding there before, just the horses." I asked if it was Kendra herself and before Avery could answer, John asked, "You know, I don't even know if I'd recognize Kendra herself, since we met her only that one time several years ago. Pause. Then Avery said, "Well I don't think this was Kendra. You see, it was... a MAN."

All right, I've got to rouse myself and get ready for Anne and David to come to dinner tonight. I'm trying to recreate a dish John's dad had in Litchfield: shrimp and clams with linguini, in a fabulously garlicky sauce with white wine and crushed red peppers. Wish me luck.

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