There's something about the change of the seasons that always romances me. Maybe deep inside me is some pagan blood just burning to frolic in wild celebration four times a year, but it never fails that I get the burning desire to throw a party.
I've always wanted to be that person, the kind that holds a soiree every winter, spring, summer and fall with long tables topped with mismatched plates, wild flowers and depression glass. I'd invite my friends from California, Sweden, New York and Tennessee,(and they would come, by the plane-full).And for the menu, I would let my garden speak to me, and tell me just what tastes the best (because really, who better to know?).
This day of course would be sometime centuries in the future, when I wear nice shoes to work and no longer live in a one bedroom apartment in the not so swanky side of town. Hell, I didn't even have a garden until a few months ago ( let alone a chatty one). No, Solstice\ Equinox parties are definitely a long way off or at the very least they're on the back burner until I make close personal friends with Eugene Hütz and he vows to have his band play each and every party.
This morning as I puttered rubber flip flops around my tiny balcony of potted plants, humming to myself and thinking about the day all these things would happen. The breeze jingled wind chimes and warm dirt and fresh blossoms swirled perfumes in the golden sunshine and I swear, ever so faintly, I heard a gentle whisper 'Mint! Take some mint! And Lemon too!'
Maybe a little practice run?
I didn't really have a plan when I started out, mint and lemon being somewhat loose guidelines but when a garden gives you instructions I think it's best to at least try and follow through. I kind of winged it with a light handed effort at a Martha Stewart recipe for lunch. A lemon kissed Tabbouleh (say it with me, Tuh -boo-lee) with bits of watermelon, feta cheese and couscous. It's fancy to say, simple to make and it's kind of like a salad dressed in lace, standing shoe-less in the tall grass. If you know what I mean. If I had a fancy outdoor garden party this would probably make the cut.
But what I really fell in love with was the Minty Lemon Iced Tea. It is simply a revelation. Why on earth I've never tried steeping fresh herbs with black tea I'll never know. I've been kicking myself all day for all the time I've wasted. And the combination was completely accidental. I was sort of tossing mint in random things to see what worked and this magical brew came about. Southern sweet tea with a chill of mint an a ring or two of lemon, it simply sighs a moonlight skinny dip against your lips. It is divine. When the time comes I finally host my yearly summer parties I will serve this tea by the truckload. Eugene Hütz will write a song about it I think,( he strikes me as an iced tea man).
And for my last trick, dessert.
I'm a firm believer in dessert after every meal (what can I say that's just how I roll) and with a dish this easy there's really no excuse to not roll along with me. These lovely almond shortcakes are magical, they are as easy to makes as tarted up pancakes (No really!) only you bake them in an oven and stuff their lovely centers with citrusy whipped cream and fruit. In fact if you had the mind to serve this at a brunch instead of pancakes you might just start a revolution. Only this isn't brunch, (in fact definitely no) this summertime party is totally planned for the PM. It's summertime in Nashville, lets not even kid ourselves, and what's a summer in the south without fireflies?
After dessert, who knows. Break dancing? Fire juggling? Drunken limbo? The pagans seemed to like a good old fashioned frolic in the altogether, but... lets just wait and see how we feel.
Mark your calendars for someday soon, when it's finally time I'm inviting you
What would your summer party be like? Would you invite gypsies?
Tabbouleh with Watermelon
adapted from Martha Stewart Living
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup couscous
8 ounces watermelon (about 1/2 small),peeled and coarsely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
2/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1. Bring water and 1/4 tsp salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in couscous, and remove from heat. Let stand, covered, for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and let stand, uncovered until cooled, 15 to 30 minutes.
2. Transfer couscous to a bowl and toss with watermelon, parsley, scallions, oil, lemon zest and juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Gently fold in feta cheese.
Minty Lemon Iced Tea
3 cups of boiling water
4 black tea bags ( I used a mix of Luzianne and Tazo Awake)
2 fresh mint sprigs
1 cup granulated sugar or splenda
1/4 cup lemon juice or 1 whole lemon, sliced
5 cups cold water
Fresh mint and sliced lemon for garnish.
Use the boiling water to brew the black tea with the mint sprigs for 5 minutes. Strain or remove tea bags and mint. Add sugar and lemon juice, stirring until sugar dissolves. Stir in cold water. Serve over ice, garnish with fresh sprigs of mint and a slice of lemon.
Almond Shortcakes with Minted Blueberries and Cream
adapted from Food Network Magazine
For the filling
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 pint picked-over blueberries
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup well-chilled heavy cream
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
For the shortcakes
1 Cup flour
1 1/2 cup Almond meal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
In a very small saucepan simmer water and 1 tablespoon sugar until sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute, and in a small bowl toss with blueberries and mint. Chill blueberry mixture, covered, 15 minutes, or until cold.
While the blueberry mixture is chilling start making the shortcakes.
Whisk flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg and oil, then stir in the flour mixture being careful not to over mix, the dough will stay loose and wet (almost like pancake batter) . Drop scoops of the dough on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with sugar and bake at 475 degrees F until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool.
While the shortcakes are cooling, beat heavy cream with remaining tablespoon sugar in a chilled bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks and fold in zest.
Split the shortcakes and fill with whipped cream and blueberries.