Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Magnificent Meal under Moonlight

Every summer, my parents mastermind monthly moonlight kayaks on one of the beautiful rivers near our home in Rhode Island. It's been a tradition for them for as long as I can remember (well, at least 12 years now, as that is how long we've had our ocean kayaks). These magical evenings consist of 5 or so couples meeting either at our "yacht" club in Westport, MA, to kayak up the East Branch of the Westport River, or at Little River over in South Dartmouth, MA, to kayak up the Slocum River. Going with the tides, they go up the river to a pre-determined meal spot, where they are greeted by candlelight, cocktails, and a delicious, summery 3 course meal (appetizer, dinner, dessert). They then strap on their glow sticks and return to their starting point, later in the evening, under the light of the moon.

Now, this is a strictly parental event. Us "kids" are the labor. My mom sets the menu and helps prep what is needed for the Typically, my baby sister orchestrates the set-up, service, and break-down for the meal portion of the event (dear-old-dad is in charge of the kayaks, picking them up, strapping them on our trailer, etc). However, this summer a family friend and I orchestrated the July kayak on the Westport River. And the August kayak? Well, all of us living in the Northeast know what the weather has been like the last few days. Last night was the full moon here, but it wasn't dry. It wasn't even cloudless! So, in anticipation of the lousy weather, we celebrated the full moon with a kayak Saturday night -- and my sister and I (eldest and youngest) were even allowed to paddle one leg of the trip!

Saturday's event was a kayak on the Slocum. My mom and I set up the dinner, while my baby sister and father kayaked the first leg. We set dinner up near some picnic benches, with torches creating a lovely ambiance under the tree tops. The menu?

To start: proscuitto and mortadella with Cleron cheese and fresh baguettes from Seven Stars Bakery, and a homemade onion tart I made (inspired by Alice Waters and an earlier tart I made; recipe below)

Dinner: Alice Water's Ratatouille (I've made this one before, SO good!), Grilled Marinated Flank Steak (a family favorite), Ina Garten's Fresh Corn Salad, along with a hearty green salad courtesy of a family friend, and plenty of Seven Stars bread and butter to go around. And vino, of course!

Dessert: Local peach blueberry crisp with vanilla ice cream.

The evening was a magical one. The food was delicious, company divine, and the paddling? We could have used a bit more moonlight, but we all had fun. I certainly did. Was having fun testing out the stability of my kayak while waiting for others to catch up. Rocked a little too far left and rolled the boat! After escaping the cockpit (wish I was wearing a skirt...) and not attempting a roll, I had lots of fun taking on water while trying to get back in. Laughter all around, but lesson learned. Don't try to roll your boat after 10pm at night!

Recipes (will be updated later tomorrow)

Onion Tart, adapted from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food
Makes 2 tarts, serves 16 for appetizer

1/2 stick butter
4 onions, peeled and sliced thin (1/8" or so)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 c flour
2 tbsp Herbes de Provence
1 stick salted butter
1/2 c ice cold water

Heat the butter in a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until translucent. Add the rosemary and cook for about 45 minutes, until the onions are golden, super tender and sweet. Set aside and let cool.

For the tart dough, add the flour to a bowl and mix in herbes. Cut the butter into 1/2" cubes and cut the butter into the flour, until about pea sized. Add in water, 1 tbsp at a time, until dough almost comes together. Turn out onto floured marble surface and knead for a couple of minutes, until it comes together. Divide into 2 pieces and let rest, wrapped in plastic, in the fridge for 30 minutes. When ready, roll each piece into a 13" circle, about 1/8" thick, and place on silpat-covered baking sheet. Add onions to the center, leaving a 3" ring around the onions. Fold the sides of the dough over the onions, a la rustic crostata. Bake in a 375 degree oven until golden, about 45 minutes.

Ratatouille - see my earlier post here

Grilled Marinated Flank Steak, from The New York Times Country Weekend
Serves 25

4 cloves garlic
4 onions, peeled and quartered
6 tbsp peeled ginger, cut into chunks
1 tbsp hot pepper sauce
1 1/4 c soy sauce
1 1/4 c honey
1/2 sesame oil (not toasted sesame oil!)
1 c canola or peanut oil (I like a neutral peanut oil, preferably organic)
12 lbs grass-fed flank steak

Using a food processor or Vita-Prep (my new favorite toy at home), blend the marinade ingredients together. Place steak in a large bowl or baggie and let marinate for 24 hours, turning occasionally. Grill the meat, about 4 minutes per side for medium rare. Let sit 5 minutes before slicing across the grain into strips.

Fresh Corn Salad, adapted from The Barefoot Contessa
Serves 6

5 ears fresh corn, picked that morning preferably (I'm a huge fan of Coll Walker's corn)
1 red onion, finely diced
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup lightly packed basil leaves, julienned

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the corn until fragrant and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Drain and let cool. Once cool, cut off the kernels with a serrated knife, cutting close to the cob. Toss the corn with the onions, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Right before serving, stir in the basil.

Peach Blueberry Crisp
Serves 12-16

Fresh peaches
Fresh blueberries (love wild Maine blueberries)
4 tbsp melted butter
1 c rolled oats
1/4 c flour
1/3 c light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

Slice peaches and toss with blueberries in a baking dish, about 9 x 13". Mix together topping ingredients with fingers and crumble over the top. Bake at 350, until the topping is slightly golden and the fruit is bubbly. Serve with vanilla or ginger ice creams. **You can adapt the ingredients as you wish -- it's a lot of fun to experiment with crisps!

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