When I was 10 years old, I convinced my mother that I was old enough to summer at a two-month sleep-away camp in New Hampshire. Considering I’d never been away from home for more than two nights, she nodded a skeptical consent.
Months before the July first departure, we unfurled a lengthy list of camp necessities, all to be packed in a trunk and shipped in early June. My mother sat up every night stitching labels into socks and blankets, which I must add, didn’t prevent me from bringing home campmates’ underwear. I realized recently that the tedious stitch work probably wasn’t prompted by pure motherly love but by thoughts of the serenity possible during my absence.
Departure date arrived at about the same slow pace as Christmas, but at last, I stood on the platform at Grand Central Station mingling with a crowd of fretful parents and excited kids. My mother and I cried as I disappeared into the chattering crowd of green shorts and white blouses, both of us suddenly unsure about my sleep-away camp idea. With my tearful face pressed to the window, I sadly waved and listened to several choruses of “We Are the Girls From Camp Birchmere.”
Finally, the whistle blew and the train lurched toward what would be the first of many fabulous Camp Birchmere summers.
I hope these recipes inspire wonderful meals and also wonderful summer memories.
Chilled Broccoli Soup
Try this as the first course for a beautiful summer dinner.
5 cups chopped broccoli florets
3 cups chopped potatoes
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 cup chopped celery
1 head roasted garlic (directions below)
4 cups water
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and pepper
Minced red onion for the top
To roast the garlic head, carefully peel off a layer of thin papery skin without breaking the cloves apart. Cut off the top (the wide part) and place it cut side down in a small baking dish. Add a tablespoon of water to the bottom and cover tightly with foil. Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes until the cloves are very soft. When done, peel off the skin, and separate into cloves.
Combine the veggies, garlic, and water in a soup pot and simmer for 20 minutes until the veggies are tender. Let cool a bit, then puree with the buttermilk and yogurt until smooth. Stir in the dill and salt and pepper, and chill well. Top each serving with a minced red onion sprinkle.
Colorful Pepper Tart
Because it’s so good, probably only 4 servings
This colorful dish should make a dent in your pepper crop.
1 cup flour
4 ounces butter
3 tablespoons ice water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds of sweet red, yellow, and gold peppers, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 garlic cloves, pressed
Salt and pepper
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
8 ounces Mozzarella balls (the kind soaked in water) at room temperature
For the crust, put the flour, butter, and ice water in a Cuisinart, and process until it forms a ball. Roll out the dough a little, and press into a 10-inch quiche pan. Chill the crust while you make the filling.
Heat the oil in a pan and add the peppers, onions, parsley, garlic, and salt and pepper. Sauté until the peppers are tender, but still a little crisp.
Using two forks, mash together just 1/3 cup of Parmesan with the mozzarella until fairly smooth.
Take the chilled crust out of the refrigerator, and spread the blended cheese on the bottom. Layer on the veggie mixture, then sprinkle on the remaining 1/3 cup of Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes until the crust is lightly golden.
You’ll probably want to grow more peppers next year.
Here’s a new-fangled use for tomatoes and basil.
1 8-ounce rosemary baguette
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed
2 tablespoons capers
1/4 packed cup torn basil leaves
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 packed cup baby spinach leaves
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
8 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper (add just before serving)
Slice the baguette in 1-inch pieces. Spread on an ungreased baking tray and bake at for 15 minutes at 400 degrees until slightly toasted. Let the bread cool, and tear into bite-size pieces.
Thoroughly mix together all the ingredients. Cover tightly and chill for a few hours, tossing occasionally. Yes, the bread pieces will be soft. Theory: anything served in an elegant bowl, tastes better. I suggest glass for this one.
Ronnie Paul is a freelance writer in Nevada City.