I quit. That’s right, for reals yo, I quit my job. It’s a long story, and y’all knows I have no problem telling long stories, but I’d rather not get into it. In short, a year and a half ago I sold my company to a larger firm. We had big plans for the next stage. But it never really happened. I became disenfranchised, so a couple of months ago I decided to move on. Step out into the great unknown. Surrender.
As a result, life could not be better. Sure, I have real concerns about finances and building a new future. But without the heavy responsibility and [perceived] burden of work (for the first time in 20 years) I have found a level of calm and peace that has never existed in my adult life. I’m learning to listen to myself, the universe, my community. I’m diving head-first into the psyche of my 6-year old son. I’m getting caught up with the little things, taking naps, working out, lot’s of yoga and really having fun. Plus, it’s summertime.
Growing up at the beach, I always loved summer, which I suppose I took for granted. Now, living in a place where summer only peaks it’s head out on rare occasions, I’ve realized how precious summer is to me. I’ve always been the host of the backyard BBQ and show up to potlucks with my summery salads and deviled eggs. But in this state of awareness I’m noticing that it’s a deeper experience of connectivity to my childhood and freedom-by-way-of-beach-and-surf that signifies summer. It’s about getting a little high on wine and talking with friends over the grill. It’s about shucking oysters and steaming mussels, chasing waves, body surfing and time spent building sandcastles with my son. It’s about that magic hour around sunset when the heat of the day starts to vaporize off of your body, ice rattles in the glass while sweat beads down your fingers - I sink deeper into chairs, conversations, life.
I might not be able to help you get to this place. But what I can do is share with you a few recipes that will make the experience that much better if you happen to find it.
Grilled Radicchio with Anchovy Vinaigrette
I love this earthy salad that comes together so easily and wows your guests. Soak some bamboo skewers for an hour. Take 3-5 medium heads of radicchio and cut them in half along the white center. Cut the halves into thirds lengthwise. Stack 4 wedges on to the skewers and soak them in an ice bath for at least an hour (this removes bitterness). To make the vinaigrette start with some coarse mustard and 4-6 anchovies. Mash them between the tines of two forks until they are near a paste. Add some minced shallots, black pepper and some thyme. Mix it all together with some sherry vinegar, enough to get it wet but not runny. Slowly drizzle in some good olive oil while whisking with the two forks until it emulsifies. Taste as you go and odd more oil if necessary. Drain the radicchio on some paper towels. Coat them lightly with olive oil and a little sea salt. Place the skewers on a hot grill for a minute or two, turning once. The leaves should just start to char, but not be close to burning. Pull them off into a wooden salad bowl. Toss with the vinaigrette, salt and pepper to taste and serve warm.
A few tricks to making yummy corn. In fact, I may never go back to butter and salt again. Start with the husks on and soak them in water for an hour. Peel back the husks and bunch them together at the bottom (essentially turn them inside out to form a handle), wrapping and tying them with butcher’s string. Soak them a little longer until they are ready to grill. Slice some limes and have your pepper grinder handy. On the hot part of the grill, place the corn and turn so that 1/4th of the kernels get color. Don’t let it burn. You’re just looking for a little smokey flavor and sugar sweetness from the grill. Pile them on a cooler spot on the grill until they are done cooking, just a couple of minutes, if at all. Rub the corn with fresh limes and then grind pepper right on to them. Serve hot.
Don’t expect these to sit long. I’ve never made Deviled Eggs that weren’t gobbled up before all my guests arrived. The secrets is to use farm eggs, of course. They just have a deeper egg flavor, rich and earthy. You’ll want to use eggs that are at least a week old. This allows you to peel them easier because there is a membrane that loosens over time. Put the eggs in a pot and cover with water. Turn the burner to high. After it comes to a gentle boil take your pot off the heat and let sit for 9 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water and peel while running under cold water. Hold the eggs on their side and slice a tiny segment on left and right to provide a base when they are sitting, stuffed. Cut them in half and remove the yolks into a bowl.
The fillings are endless. Much like other recipes here, a lot is up to your creativity. Your base is typically mayonnaise, but I often use greek yogurt or even ricotta to fill or substitute. One of my favorite fillings is using Boar’s Head Horseradish sauce mixed with the yolks. Plain and simple. But for a basic Deviled Egg, try this. Put a little dollop of dijon mustard, a dash of
Worcestershire sauce, a dash of Tabasco and a shot of white wine vinegar. Mix half mayo and half greek yogurt until the filling is creamy. Salt and pepper to taste. Use a small spoon or pastry bag and fill the eggs generously. Top with smokey paprika or cayenne for a little heat or chives, fried basil or fried parsley for some herbaciousness.
Enjoy your summer and these side dishes. I’ve got a ton more where this came from, so if I can take a break from actually enjoying myself, I’ll try to write more.