We were lakeside for awhile. We took a two week vacation in Western Massachusetts.
Back in January I reserved a great big rental house, invited some of our best best friends, and made plans to read, nap, and dangle our feet in the water. Time to do nothing at all but have good friend talks, slightly rowdy dinner parties, and gulp in the last minutes of summer.
At the end of a crazy private road with precipitous drops on a twisty dirt one way up hill climb, was the house.
It was quite a climb down to the dock from the house.
We needed provisions. I packed them. Granola and tamari almonds, booze and wines, 2 dozen jars from the pantry, a cooler full of beautiful meats and ready-to-heat homemade casseroles (!!), jigsaw puzzles, water shoes, a good cheese board, and a knife roll packed with tools I couldn’t live without.
We invited many friends to visit us over the two weeks and held big cook-em-up dinners and small intimate ones. My dear friend, the inimitable Janet Dawson, and husband Doug Clark were there, which made me incredibly happy. As one guest said about Janet, she spends her day making things beautiful. Janet decorated the dinner table every day, carefully rearranging the flowers, selecting plates, platters, mats and napkins. I’ve made a promise to myself to spend more time thinking about table settings every day, I was so inspired.
Here are our dining highlights and stunning sunsets, and a recipe.
Antipasti followed by eggplant stacks and homemade meatballs in long cooked sauce. (eggplant & meatballs were made at home and frozen, I simmered the sauce all day using 2 qts. crushed tomatoes from my pantry, plus onion, garlic & basil.)
Yeah. The dock was amazing.As British Janet says, Fish Fingers aka fish sticks! Local cod, duck fat roasted red potatoes, green beans, guacamole and tartar sauce (my pantry sweet pickle relish + mayo + yogurt). Dinner on the deck.Sour cherry pie, of course. (Pie filling from my pantry.)Grilled, spatchcocked chicken rubbed with basil pesto (pesto from my home freezer) braised greens, local corn. Fabulous Roz Chast exhibit at the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA.Red cooked pork belly, soba noodles with Asian style stir fry local vegetables. Citrus salad with chiles, coconut and peanuts.The sunset view from the dinner table.I had a book event after which several people gathered in our house for dinner prepared by Janet with help from other guests. Ancho, cocoa and cinnamon rubbed tenderloin, green salad, steamed potatoes and other vegetables with an herby aioli (Hand whipped by Ally K. who proved she retained all kitchen skills through the rigors of graduate school.)
First batch of guests depart. Christine arrives from Maine bearing the most amazing gifts. Lobster, oysters, blueberries and baked goods from Standard Bakery.Alone for an evening, Dennis had leftover chicken and I enjoyed leftover lobster, blanched veg and aioli. And gasped at the most beautiful sunset.
My brother visited which was really nice. We had Peruvian chicken thighs and grilled bok choy. Thank you, David Lebovitz for suggesting par cooking these sturdy greens before grilling. That worked beautifully.Dennis and I walked along a lichen trail in Beartown State Park. We did not see any bears. Much to my relief. Mary and Dave came to visit. Mary is a chef and, as with Christine, when there’s a chef in the house, it’s good to just step back and be the sous. Let them have their way. Mezze dinner. Rack of lamb (grilled, mustard, garlic, herb rub), grilled eggplant with a raisin, pine nut, herb relish, savory baklava (!!!) with beans and tomatoes, fried homemade haloumi over tomatoes and cucumbers, tsaziki with fennel, braised greens, grilled radicchio with sorrel. And lemon possets. Another beautiful lake. They’re everywhere in the Berkshires.
Dinner for four. Shakshoushka, tsaziki with tomatoes and cucumbers, chevre chaud (baguette slices with goat cheese, toasted until melty), green salad.Yeah. Another sunset. They were so amazing.When it was all over, the very last night, I made these corn shiitake fritters. They are perfectly simple and taste wonderful no matter what vegetables you substitute in, but the toasty, slightly caramelized corn adds a satisfying texture.
2 cups corn kernels (fresh, sliced off 4 cobs, or frozen or canned, drained)
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 cups chopped shiitake mushrooms (about 20)
1-1/2 cup diced yellow onion (one large)
1-1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2-3/4 cup grapeseed oil
Preheat the oven to 275°F. Line a baking sheet with a double thickness of paper towels and set aside. Place 1 cup of the corn, the egg yolks and the milk in a blender and puree until smooth.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the mushrooms and onion and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add the remaining corn and cook for 2-3 minutes more, until everything is a little caramelized on the edges. Set aside to cool for an hour or so, or spread out on a baking sheet and place in the freezer to chill in 20 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk the flour, cilantro, baking powder, salt and pepper. In another bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff.
Add the corn puree to the flour and stir well, then fold in the corn/mushroom mixture, then fold in the egg whites.
Wipe out the skillet and heat ½ c of oil. Depending on the size you want for the finished product, use a medium scoop or a ¼ c measure, to drop the batter into the skillet. Press down on the top of the fritter to spread the batter out until it’s about an inch thick, then fry, turning only once, until golden and crusty. About 4 minutes.
Drain on the paper towel lined baking sheet, and keep warm in the preheated oven.
Gild the lily: Add 1 teaspoon hot sauce to 1/2 cup mayonnaise or plain yogurt or sour cream. Dip the fritter into the spicy goodness.