a Summer of Food amid Frolics

Hey, here I am.Image

There’s a lot of summer going on between that bun!  (That special sauce can be found here.) 

And so it goes: summer’s flowing humidly by, and there’s just been too much to do and see and eat to spend too much time in front of this laptop.  [Real jobs and the after-work laze may also play a role here.]


There were a few travels. Ann Arbor, MI–you are lucky to have Zingerman’s Deli.  That place is a wonderland for all the epicures among us.  I could cry just standing in front of their cheese counter (why oh why did I not take a photo of all those ripe French cheeses?!?).  They also serve delectable sandwiches on myriad house-baked breads:Image


And Toronto, you’re awesome in so many ways–one of them being your abundance of all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants.  Now that’s a great idea!



And now, how about those London Olympic Games?!  I’ve pretty much been a champion couch potato ever since the opening ceremonies, which were celebrated with a Fish and Chips dinner (complete with malt vinegar and mushy peas!), all in British style:Image

…and thanks to Cale for serving up Guinness Floats [coffee ice cream + Guinness].  (We decided to go ahead and cheers all the British Isles.)  Luscious!Image


So, that’s what’s been going on around here–lots of indulging.  Hope you are too, because that summer sun and all those veggies won’t be with us long!

Got some fresh peppers?  Stuff ’em!

Gather ’round

Hello, all.

It’s time to gather ’round.

Last week’s theme for Approach the Light‘s Project: Draw with Light was Gatherings. I’m a couple weeks behind, but I am happy to say it’s because I’ve been focused on just that: gathering around people who make me glad and giddy.

And it’s been grand. Last weekend we hopped the rocks at Rock Island State Park until we finally made it to the swimming hole–and look what we found: This was happening on a rock, here:

see there, beneath the tennis shoes? magic is happening!

That suave curly-haired fellow is also known as the “River Messiah,” not least because he lugged a grill to this rustic location and made fresh chicken tacos! See the messiah at work:

Thank you, Matt T, for excellent tacos! Cheers to all you lovely friends in attendance; I adore our good times. This has surely been the coolest gathering I’ve made it to recently!

…And Hippie Jack’s was not too long ago–I sure do love all the music and camping and creek-ing and sandwiches and “banquets” and dancing (especially with those two cats below).

Rallies around food are most certainly my favorite gatherings. This brunch comes to mind. And this Autumn pumpkin party. Oh and these were served at this wine-tasting ‘Pinot’ party:

This post is getting rather long…but Gatherings! I love them! They look like this:

and this,this,

Sunset cocktail hour.

and this:

I’m lucky for so many sunny times and darling friends. Gather with yours and make a delicious summer!

Tuna Croquettes!

“Croquette” sounds Frenchie-fancy. These croquettes are both casual and classy; they’ve figured out that balance (like those lovely Frenchies I know!).

Eat them with your hands, dipped in the tangy sauce below, as a tasty appetizer for a summer gathering. Get a little more sophisticated and put them atop lightly dressed salad greens for an easy, impressive meal.

These little guys have been extremely popular every time I’ve made them for friends and family. They are pleasingly light and bright with the lemon and Dijon, but many seasonings could be used to change their flavor–I’m going to try an Asian/sesame profile soon.

Dainty, delicious little things! Coquettish croquettes–you’ll probably fall in tuna love.

Tuna Croquettes
recipe adapted from Alton Brown
makes about 20 small croquettes

3 (5 oz.) cans white albacore tuna
2 green onions, chopped fine (white and green parts)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup bread crumbs (panko or regular fine bread crumbs)

Panko bread crumbs for coating (about 11/2 cups)

Oil for frying

Drain tuna well, transfer to a large bowl, and shred up any large chunks with a fork. Add the onions, Dijon, lemon juice, pepper, salt, beaten eggs and ¾ cup bread crumbs. Mix it all together—the texture should be moist but able to be formed into little patties (if it’s too moist, add a bit more bread crumbs. If it’s too dry, add more beaten egg). Pour part of the Panko bread crumbs onto a plate. Form the tuna mixture into small (or large) patties in your hand, then roll them in the Panko to coat. Once all your croquettes are formed, refrigerate them for at least 15 minutes (this firms them up a bit for frying).

Fill frying pan with about ½ inch of oil (I use vegetable) and heat the oil to 350 degrees F. Fry croquettes in hot oil until golden brown on each side (5-8 minutes per side). Serve with dipping sauce (recipe below) as an appetizer or atop a salad bed (see recipe below).

ready to fry!

Tangy Dipping or Drizzling Sauce for Croquettes

½ cup sour cream
2 tsp hot sauce
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp lemon juice

Mix it all together in a bowl until smooth.


I served this for dinner with a salad of leaf lettuce, spinach leaves, tomatoes, and thinly-sliced radishes dressed with a light vinaigrette (red wine vinegar, fresh lime juice, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil). I drizzled some of the dipping sauce atop the croquettes. It was a dream, and it makes a pretty plate!

Bon appétit!

Sips and Bits of Gratitude

Approach the Light‘s Project: Draw with Light theme this week is gratitude. Let me share with you a few things I’ve been grateful for in recent days:
(1) One of my favorite kindred spirits: a brother who shares my infatuation with bubble tea…

…and (2) these roses we admired on our sunny afternoon promenade through the park. I am extremely happy with the Dogwood Park expansion–Cookeville, you know what I mean–such a nice new place to meet and lounge and stroll!

(3) An unexpected evening full of chats and catch-ups–featuring a signature Carly cocktail, the Scurvy Squid–that would be equal parts spiced rum and coconut water (coconut juice) over ice. It’s a perfect summer beverage–light and sweet, but not saccharine. Try it!

I’m grateful for people who are bright, open, and focused on the pleasure of the present moment. Thanks, Carly!

(4) Every morning I am welcomed in my (parents’) kitchen by a fresh, hot pot of coffee that I never have to make. And that cake is this cake–which tastes its best exactly 2 days after baking! (I’m grateful for the glorious phenomenon that is pound cake!)

And there they are, (5) the parents who make the coffee, buy the groceries, eat my experiments, and let me run wild in the kitchen. Thanks, you two!


Sunlight…and a cocktail for it.

Project: Draw with Light

I am taking part in a community photo project hosted by Beth at Approach the Light (she also blogs as This Little Lightling). This week’s theme was sunlight.

I hope to work food into my interpretation of each theme–regardless, I will be posting a photo on my blog for each week’s assignment. Cheers, Beth and Becky!

Now, the origins of this cocktail: my Matt made a celebratory dinner to commemorate the end of my employment at the public library (fond memories, but I gotta move on). He sent me to the porch with two glasses and two small frosty bottles–apparently filled with an herb and sunshine-filled apéritif. Before he came out for a toast, I had to sneak a curious sip.

This pretty, fresh, summery cocktail was created by Matt the mixologist. He used basil, and today I tried it with rosemary–equally herbally wonderful. I suggest you drink it outdoors. You don’t have to make it in cute little bottles…but it’s fun.

Sunset cocktail hour.

Fresh Sunshine Cocktail with Basil or Rosemary

For one cocktail:
1 large basil leaf or 1 sprig rosemary
1 or 2 slivers of lemon peel
(about 1/4″ wide)
1/2 oz. gin
Sauvignon Blanc
(or another grassy white wine) to top off, about 2.5 oz

Stuff the basil leaf (or rosemary sprig) and lemon peel into a bottle. Pour in the gin; seal and shake briskly a few moments. Pour in the wine, seal and shake again, then chill for at least an hour (so the flavors can infuse). Pour in a glass with an ice cube to serve. *If you like your drinks sweet, add a teaspoon or two of simple syrup when you add the wine. **You could also increase this and mix up a batch in a pitcher for a great summer party beverage.


Spice Oil

I’ve been experimenting with “blooming” spices in olive oil. This simmering process deepens the flavor of the spices and infuses the oil with all their savory flavors. It’s wonderful!
Spice Oil
(recipe inspired by Bon Appétit)

Simply heat a few tablespoons of oil and add in one half to one teaspoon of each spice (freshly ground is best if you have a spice grinder, though I love coriander seeds whole!). The oil will begin to simmer and make a crackling sound. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat and pour the oil into a bowl (scrape all the spice bits in too!). Here are the spices I used:

crushed red pepper flakes
coriander seeds
freshly ground peppercorns
(a colorful mix)

Into the bowl of warm oil, stir a few cloves of minced garlic, 1 tsp lemon zest, and fresh lemon juice and salt to taste. This is great drizzled on cooked fish or scallops.

Yesterday, lunch was yellow rice with fresh cilantro and seared tilapia with a generous drizzle of spice oil (both under the rice on the plate and atop the fish). Delicious, bright, and savory flavors!

This oil would also be nice drizzled atop a platter of hummus.

And, spice oil + flat bread = an extremely tasty snack or appetizer!