September 1, 2015

1firstviewWe 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.

2stepupWe 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.

IMG_0042We were close to my stepdad, and the country house he shared with my mother. She loved that place, the gardens, the kitchen and porch and the glorious library and it was good to see it.

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.

IMG_0082Here 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.5onthedockAs 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.6fishfingersSour cherry pie, of course. (Pie filling from my pantry.)7cherrypieGrilled, spatchcocked chicken rubbed with basil pesto (pesto from my home freezer) braised greens, local corn. 8chickendinnerFabulous Roz Chast exhibit at the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA.9rozchastRed cooked pork belly, soba noodles with Asian style stir fry local vegetables. Citrus salad with chiles, coconut and peanuts.10redcookedporkThe sunset view from the dinner table.11sunsetI 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.)
12tenderloinFirst batch of guests depart. Christine arrives from Maine bearing the most amazing gifts. Lobster, oysters, blueberries and baked goods from Standard Bakery.13lobsteraioliAlone for an evening, Dennis had leftover chicken and I enjoyed leftover lobster, blanched veg and aioli.  15lobsterleftoverAnd gasped at the most beautiful sunset.
16sunsetMy 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.17chickenwithbrotherDennis and I walked along a lichen trail in Beartown State Park. We did not see any bears. Much to my relief.18mossywalk 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.  19mezzewithMaryAnother beautiful lake. They’re everywhere in the Berkshires.
20walkingDinner for four. Shakshoushka, tsaziki with tomatoes and cucumbers, chevre chaud (baguette slices with goat cheese, toasted until melty), green salad.21shakshoushkaYeah. Another sunset. They were so amazing.22sunsetWhen 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.

The next morning, we took small back roads out of the Berkshires, just to delay the departure a little bit. See the old school map?23cornfritterGrab that last bit of summer, my friends.


IMG_0077Corn Mushroom Fritters
Makes about 18 3-inch fritters

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.

Serve hot.

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.

P.S. Hey! Look! We stayed up late our last night and finished the puzzle, Doug, Christine, Mary, Dave, et al. ARGH missing one piece! IMG_0076

8 Responses to “corn shiitake fritters and the traveling circus”

  1. Beth (OMG! Yummy)

    I grew up in the Berkshires Cathy. What a lovely spot you found. And so great that my Berkshires comrade Christine could join you! Loved all the photos of the sunsets while you were there – didn’t mind the food either! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Jamie

    Savory baklava??? My mind=officially expanded. Thank you, Cathy, for sharing this lovely and delicious story. I am thrilled to hear that you enjoyed a much-deserved break!

  3. Katie C.

    Home made haloumi? Tell me how! Someone probably his that puzzle piece so they could say that they finished it

  4. Sharon F

    If there’s any corn still at the markets this weekend, I will try the fritters – they sound wonderful, Cathy!


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