Thursday, June 27, 2013

Notes From The Country - Summer Days

Summer is in full swing. June has been very agreeable so far. Although we're a bit parched due to lack of rain, the weather has lent itself to grilling and gardening and generally enjoying being outside. We've been doing a bit more grilling of late, and, while hamburgers and hot dogs have their traditional easy going place, we've been branching out a bit.

 Grilled pizza. Yes, a little more work because you make the pizza dough from scratch. But it's so worth it.  Assemble all the ingredients - individual pizza dough rounds, sauce (we used the traditional tomato based in this case), and toppings. We used fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato, and grilled mushrooms, zucchini, and chicken - which we grilled first.

The technique we used was to grill each side of the oiled pizza dough, then spread on the sauce, arrange toppings and let sit off to the side on the grill with the top down to let the cheese melt a little, sauce to heat up, and toppings to settle.

Very enjoyable.

 Especially with a nice bottle of wine

I also love grilling fruits and vegetables. This past Father's Day I think we set a record for the four of us. My husband and I enjoyed aged ribeye and filet steaks. Our oldest vegetarian daughter had marinated, grilled tofu, and our other daughter went the traditional hot dog route. Other than these, we cooked corn, portabella mushrooms, belgian endive, sweet peppers, peaches, nectarines and pineapple. Many just need some olive oil and salt. I like grilling the corn in the husk after de-silking them and spreading a touch of butter and fresh Rosemary and wrapping them up again. I also like to experiment with flavored oils and salts and herbs - all these add a subtle flavor that's fun to get creative with.

What I love is that nothing takes that long to cook on the grill. And it all seems to come out tasting delicious and fresh and outdoorsy. 

It has been getting rather hot in the afternoons....

And a spot of shade is always welcome

As for the roses, they are all in full bloom now. My favorites have made their appearance. This is La Reine de Victoria - an heirloom Bourbon rose. Smells luscious. 

Louise Odier - another Bourbon. Roses like these make me wish I was a perfumer.

Madame Hardy - a heady scented damask rose

And, purported to be the oldest rose in cultivation, a gallica rose, the Apothecary's Rose aka Red Rose of Lancaster. This rose hearkens back to the 15th century in England where it became the emblem or badge for the House of Lancaster. There was that whole War of the Roses thing - wink - between the House of Lancaster and the House of York which were both parts of the Royal House of Plantagenet -the one that produced Henry V among others. (Have you seen Kenneth Branagh's version of Henry V? One of my favorites. You might want to have cliff notes handy though. But I digress.) This red rose was the badge for Lancaster, a white rose represented York. Henry the VII otherwise known as Henry Tudor defeated Richard III thus ending the war. 

I had taken this photo at Haddon Hall
which was painted on the ceiling of the dining room. (I thought it might make an interesting stencil) Turns out this is a Tudor Rose. You see, when the War of the Roses ended, Henry Tudor combined the two roses - red and white as a symbol of unification. You can see the white rose within the red. I just didn't realize that this little piece of history was associated with the Apothecary's Rose. Now when I point out my rose shrub I have a more interesting story to tell.
Now what does this have to do with grilling?
Naturally you can't have a table full of deliciously grilled food without a centerpiece for the table.

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