WHIDBEY RECIPES | When you’re having fun, only today matters

You know the old saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun,” and it’s never been more true than this summer. Just a few days ago, it seems, we were celebrating the Fourth of July, and here we are now, listening to endless “back to school sales” blather and having planned our Labor Day festivities. If it continues to fly by at this rate, we’ll be picking up the Thanksgiving turkey before we turn around twice.

This past weekend, I spent time with an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old, cousins who are really more like grandchildren. During the course of our time together, I asked Nolan, the younger of the two, if he was looking forward to going back to school soon. He looked at me in puzzlement and said, “Sort of, but that’s a long way from now, so I’ll probably be more excited when it’s time.” I dropped the subject, not wishing to shock him with the news that it was really only a few days away at that point.

When I thought about that little incident later, I realized that, for Nolan, today is the only day that matters. He gets up in the morning, ready to go at mach speed with whatever the day brings. No thoughts or worries about tomorrow or the days after that, but usually with chatter about some of yesterday’s events that he may want to repeat or finish, such as fishing for bullheads and beating me at Yahtzee.

But, I realized something else during that bit of retrospective thought. There is a lesson to be learned from an 8-year-old, and it’s that a certain amount of taking things one day at a time and making the most of it can be a very good thing. Because I’m still adjusting to being alone with my life since losing my husband last year, I spend a great deal of time worrying and fussing over whether or not I’m getting everything done that needs to be done (even though I’m occasionally not sure just what it is that needs to be done), and thinking about what I should be doing tomorrow, or next week.

So, with thanks to Nolan, I’ve decided to remind myself frequently that the days are flying by and I’m worrying too much about tomorrow and the day after that instead of thoroughly enjoying today, this day, the only day that matters right now. I suspect, in today’s super busy world, that we’re all guilty of forgetting to enjoy the moment while we dither over what lies ahead, whether it’s hours or days away. This is but a gentle reminder.

Carpe diem.

RECIPES

Having said that, I was nevertheless planning for the last big bash of summer, Labor Day weekend. As always, our large family was planning a get-together and that means food, lots of it. You, too, may be thinking about an end-of-summer potluck, so I hope these may be of some help if you’re undecided. Can there ever be too much potato salad? But how about some “not your usual” potato salad?

 

ZIPPER UP

POTATO SALAD

 

½ cup mayonnaise

6 T. white vinegar

3 green onions, minced (with a bit of the green)

4 T. chopped fresh dill

¼ cup buttermilk

½ t. salt

2 med. zucchini (YEA! another way to use the summer’s zucchini), trimmed and sliced into very thin rounds

2 ½ lbs. small white potatoes, peeled, sliced into about ¼-inch thick rounds

5 peeled hard-boiled eggs, 4 sliced and 1 grated

1 cup thinly sliced celery

Combine mayonnaise, 2 T. vinegar, green onions, 3 T. dill and buttermilk in a small bowl, whisking to blend. Season with salt and pepper to taste; cover and chill at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Combine remaining 4 T. vinegar, 1 T. dill and ½ t. salt in a med. bowl; mix in zucchini. Let stand at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours at room temp., tossing occasionally. Then drain thoroughly.

Steam potatoes until just tender, about 12-14 min. Cool just to warm (about 10 min.), then transfer to a large bowl. Add sliced eggs, celery and zucchini. Mix in the dressing (gently), season to taste again with salt and pepper, if needed; sprinkle with grated egg. It’s ready to serve, or cover and let stand at room temp. for up to 2 hours. Serves 8. Note: This goes especially well with hot dogs, hamburgers and/or grilled barbecued chicken.

ELEGANT SEAFOOD POTATO SALAD

1 T. butter

3 lbs. white-skinned potatoes

3 T. white wine vinegar

10 oz. uncooked med. shrimp, peeled and halved lengthwise

10 oz. bay scallops

10 oz. crab meat (if using canned, drained and picked over)

½ cup plus 2 T. sour cream

5 T. mayonnaise

5-6 green onions, minced

5 T. minced fresh tarragon

Fresh tarragon sprigs, for garnish

Put potatoes in a large heavy saucepan, add water to cover and season with salt. Bring to a boil, cover and cook until potatoes are tender (about 25 min., depending on size of potatoes; don’t overcook.) Drain, cool slightly and peel. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise, then crosswise into ½-inch thick pieces. Place half the potatoes in a large bowl and drizzle with 1 T. of the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add remaining potatoes, drizzle with 1 T. vinegar and again salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over high heat. Add shrimp and scallops and saute until cooked through, about 5 min. (don’t overcook). Transfer shrimp, scallops and any juices to the bowl with potatoes. Add crab meat, tossing gently to blend. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled (up to one day ahead, if desired).

In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, mayonnaise, green onions, minced tarragon and remaining 1 T. vinegar, just until blended. Pour dressing over potato mixture, tossing gently to blend. Check seasoning; add salt/pepper if needed. Garnish with tarragon sprigs and serve. Serves 10.

And for a change, how about a refreshing summer melon salad, easy but delicious.

MINTY MELON SALAD

1/3 cup water

4 T. minced fresh mint

3 T. sugar

1/3 cup tawny or ruby Port wine

3 melons (cantaloupe, small watermelon, honeydew, Crenshaw; whatever is most available and your preference), peeled, seeded and sliced

Fresh mint sprigs

Combine the water, 2 T. of the mint and sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to simmer, then remove from heat. Cover and let syrup steep at room temp. for 2 hours. or overnight.

Strain syrup into a small bowl; stir in the Port wine and 2 T. minced fresh mint. Arrange melon slices on a platter and pour mint syrup over. Cover and chill until ready to serve (at least an hour or two). Garnish with mint sprigs; serve. Should serve about 10.

Note: If they’re still really fresh and available, I like to sprinkle a handful of blueberries over the melon slices.