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Best of Summer Awards (aka The Dollys!)

Posted By Jenny On June 27, 2013 @ 8:15 am In Uncategorized | 346 Comments

If you asked our family what summer means, you’d get a few different answers. The girls would say tomato sandwiches, no school, and ice cream. (Seriously, it’s a physical impossibility not to eat a Flav-R-Ice or a scoop of mint cookie every day.) If you asked Andy, it would be tomato sandwiches and road-trips where you’re driving down some county road in upstate New York and you come upon a Rolling Stones-tattooed barn like the one you see above. (We had to pull over to take a picture.) If you asked me, though, it would be tomato sandwiches, a honeysuckle-infused warm breeze off the Hudson, and, of course, the DALS Best of Summer Awards. With no further ado…the Third Annual Dollys!

Best Thing We’d Always Been Too Afraid to Make, Then Made And Discovered Wasn’t Hard: Fried Zucchini Blossoms [1]
A few summers ago, we were lucky enough to eat at The River Café in London where we dined on many many delicious things – all of which have been completely subsumed in our collective memory by one dish: Fritto Misto, featuring Zucchini Blossoms. While it’s probably true that deep-fried battered anything is almost cheating when it comes to culinary trickery, these vegetables were different.  Instead of rendering them greasy, heavy, and filling, the deep-frying seemed to have the opposite effect: The blossoms on our plates were light, airy, melt-in-your-mouth-y, and gone in 30 seconds. We attempted replication last week in our own kitchen with a box from our favorite farmer’s market vendor. Success! – Jenny

Best Seasonal Sundae Topping: Fresh Strawberry Smash
Hurry up and get on this one fast, while those tiny, ruby-red, slightly soft strawberries are dominating the farmer’s market. Ever since we made the pilgrimage to Doug’s Fish Fry [2] in Skaneateles, New York a few years ago and had fresh smashed strawberries drizzled on top of homemade vanilla ice cream, I’ve been wanting to bust this out at home. This will be our year. To execute: Remove stems from berries and halve. (Don’t shy away from the berries that look overripe; those are the best ones.) Put them in a small mixing bowl, sprinkle with sugar, and smash with a fork, until the juice is running and the consistency looks saucy but not smooth. Spoon over vanilla ice cream — or, even better, sandwiched between a slab or pound cake and some fresh whipped cream. – Andy

Best Vegan Breakfast: Strawberries and Vanilla Almond Milk
If you’re not going to smash up those overripe berries for dessert, save them for breakfast. Add a bunch into a drinking glass, pour vanilla almond milk into the glass, then dump the whole thing into a blender and give it a whirl. Every time I start the day with one of these, I think “Now that’s how you start a day.” Then I chug a gallon of coffee. — JR

Best Summer Jam: Wakin’ on a Pretty Day [3], by Kurt Vile
You know when you’re in one of those phases when you can’t bear to listen to any of the music you have? When you’re sick of your entire iTunes library? When you’re out running and you spend more time scrolling — click, click, click, click — than you do actually listening to music? That was me a few weeks ago. So I emailed my buddy Will, who as far as I can tell, knows as much about music as any man alive and asked him: What should I be listening to right now? He wrote back instantly: “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day” by Kurt Vile, a song he described as “breezy good times.” Three weeks later, I’ve probably listened to it 200 times. Which is more impressive/troubling given that the song is nine minutes long. The kids love the zen-like video and it’s perfect for summer night when the patio door is open and the grill is going. — AW

Best Summer Time-Saver: Grab-and-Go Bag
We do a lot of road-tripping over the summer, which means we do a lot of packing and unpacking and…forgetting toothbrushes and braces gear and lip balm and hairbrushes. To save ourselves from the first-world anxiety that ensues, we bought the girls little cosmetic kits last year and filled them with supplies collected in hotel rooms and Target’s travel-size bins. The products live in the cosmetic kit year round, so all the girls have to do when packing for a quick trip is throw the kit in the duffel. This is one of those things that brings me (and I think them, too) inexplicable happiness every time it works. Especially when I forget my own lip balm. — JR

Easiest Summer Dinner: Grilled Sausages
Thursday is my new favorite day — it’s the day I pick up my farm-share box [4] at Stone Barns. That means I don’t have to do much by way of dinner. I throw together a few fresh salads [5], then fire up the grill or the skillet, and cook a few sausages that I picked up at the farmer’s market the previous weekend. (Last week, I added some hot dogs to the platter for a friend of Abby’s, but she ended up saying “I don’t usually like sausages, but I’m going to tell my mom to get these!” then ignored the Hebrew Nationals altogether.) Because of the bountiful produce, you don’t need a lot of meat — maybe a single link each — and the whole thing comes together faster than you can drink a glass of chilled rose.  – JR

Most Indispensable Summer Cookbook: Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables [6] 
You need to own this book. Full disclaimer here: I do not own this book. But I’ve given it to pretty much all of my food-loving friends, including Todd, who lives down the street from me, and who I email right about this time every year asking if I can borrow it for a little while. He is nice enough to say yes, but it’s really not so fair of me to take it from him right as the summer produce is peaking. The book is not so much a cookbook as it is an A-to-Z encyclopedia of vegetable inspiration – and it is always the first thing I think to turn to when the CSA box includes a head of kohlrabi or a bunch of garlic scapes or rutabaga or something else I feel utterly ill-equipped to whip into dinner. Waters assumes you’re starting with the freshest stuff possible, so the recipes are always simple (as in, again, yesterday’s slaw [5]) and always inspired. OK, Todd, I’m going to one-click it right now. — JR

Best Accompaniment to Anything That’s Been Grilled: No-Mayo Slaw
We like a classic creamy picnic slaw as much as the next guy (see page 242 of my book [7]), but lately we’ve been super into brighter, healthier, more experimental takes on the genre. Whether it’s our MVP kale-avocado-pickled onion [8], fennel-apple-sunflower seed (page 243 of my book [7]), the Lee Bros cabbage, peanut, and lime slaw [9], anything from the slaw section of The Grilling Book [10](photo above left: Peden + Munk), nothing offers the same kind of fresh, cool counterpoint to the char of a whatever is coming off the Weber. — JR & AW

Best Reminder of Why it’s Fun to Be a Kid: Pink Soccer Socks [11]
It’s crazy how much neon is flying around our house these days. It’s 1987 all over again. (Minus, thank god, the Forenza sweaters.) Neon shirts, neon sneakers, neon hairbands, neon lacrosse sticks. And now, maybe my favorite of all, ridiculously pink neon Adidas soccer socks. There may be a lot wrong with the world today and any number of reasons to despair, but these are definitely not one of them. – AW

Best Way to Use Up Straggling CSA Veggies: Scrambled Eggs
Of course, anything that involves an egg deserves a Dolly (maybe an Oscar? A Nobel?) in my book, but this has been my favorite lunch lately. I chop up whatever leafy green is on its last legs, sauté with a little onion or shallot, red pepper flakes, then scramble in an egg or two that’s been whisked with a little Parm. No one’s gonna complain if there’s a fresh chive or two snipped on top, either. It’s fast, light and, when washed down with an apricot or two, my idea of heaven. — JR


 

Best All-Purpose Summer Shoe for Kids: Salt-Water Sandals [12]
It’s been well established that I don’t have girly-girls. For the most part, I’m OK with this. OK, fine, I freaking love it. Unless we’re talking fifteen minutes before the graduation party or my parents’ 45th  anniversary celebration or the fill-in-the-blank special occasion when they come downstairs wearing something fancy (i.e. anything that isn’t a soccer jersey) with their Nike Free-Runs. When I ever-so-diplomatically suggest trying on a pair of ballet flats at Marshall’s (“just for special occasions”) they make that sucking-a-lemon face. But I’m lucky in one regard — the only fancy shoe (i.e. anything that isn’t a sneaker) they’ll tolerate is a classic: Salt-Water Sandals, or “Salties” as they’re known. I love them because a) they come in every color of the rainbow b) they are not Nikes and c) they work for pretty much every occasion that doesn’t call for Nikes: parties, sightseeing, traveling [13], beach-going. As long as it’s summer, that is. Come fall, I’m back to square one. — JR

Best Healthy Alternative to Soda: Agua Fresca
For her end-of-the-year 4th grade Spanish class party, Abby announced recently, she decided she/we would bring empanadas (more on this later, ’cause they were tasty) and agua fresca, in the flavor of her choosing. How easy was the agua fresca? This easy: I put two cups of cantaloupe chunks in a blender and added two cups of water, a good squeeze of honey, and the juice from one lemon. I blended until it was totally smooth, and poured it through cheesecloth into a large pitcher. (You can skip the cheesecloth if you don’t mind a little pulp.) I squeezed the last juice out of the cheesecloth, and put it in the refrigerator to chill. Dare I say, as good as Gatorade after a run. And maybe best of all with a bunch of ice and a little vodka? — AW

 

Best Alternative to Soda, Grown-up Edition: Mount Gay and Tonic
Late in her life, my Scotch-loving grandmother [14] – for reasons unknown – began drinking rum on the rocks. Suddenly, this was her go-to drink, summer or winter, rain or shine. As much as I loved her and respected her cocktailing skills, I am much more particular about my rum intake. But, if it’s warm out, and I’m outside, and it’s a weekend, and it is not raining, and it is not yet dark, and there is no shortage of ice, and there is a lime in the refrigerator, then I will happily drink a Mt. Gay and Tonic. Three things I like about it: 1. It’s a welcome change from our usual gin and tonics; 2. It has a really beautiful, summery coppery color; and 3. It gets the job done. — AW

Best Summer House Host Gift: Tomato Tea Towels [15]
I have a new photo album on my iPhone called “Gifts.” Every time I see something I might want to buy for someone someday I snap a photo of the item, and file it away in the folder. I was really proud of this system, until I checked it the other day and realized that there were only four photos in there – and two of them were these tea towels I spied at MOMA design store. Guess I really liked them. — JR

Best Trunk-of -Car Accessory That is Not a Jack: Fiddle Sticks [16]
You should see our trunk. Actually, you shouldn’t. It’s a mess. It contains, at all times: Two waterproof “tailgating” blankets; a red, folding chair; a pink backpack with leotards and ballet slippers; a too-big shirt I bought at Dick’s Sporting Goods about nine months ago and keep forgetting to return; about seventeen Trader Joe’s bags; a soccer ball; some Poland Spring bottles; two tennis rackets and a bunch of free-range tennis balls; and a set of Fiddle Sticks, which are tiny, plastic lacrosse sticks, and which are so much fun to play with.  Not expensive, easy to use (and trust me: I never picked up a lacrosse stick as a kid), and perfect to have on hand for those afternoons when the kids (or the dog) need to get out, find a patch of grass, and burn off some energy. A worthy alternative to the ball-and-glove. — AW

Technique Most Likely to Convince Kids to Try Vegetables: Mint Pesto
We went out for dinner recently – no kids – to Lafayette [17], Andrew Carmellini’s new French place in downtown Manhattan. Among the things we ate there: grilled asparagus with morels, absurdly sweet scallops, beef cheek ravioli, and a dessert that featured pickled blueberries. But maybe the most flavorful, and memorable, thing we ordered was a simple plate of blanched snap peas, tossed with mint pesto and served with avocado and ricotta salata. The mint pesto was a genius addition — heightening the flavor, but not overwhelming anything. We immediately began dreaming up ways to incorporate it at home — with blanched asparagus, snap and snow peas, carrots, radishes, basically anything that arrives in our CSA box. It has the added benefit of being easy: In a mini food processor or blender, combine a cup of fresh mint with 1/3 cup olive oil, some parm, salt, pepper, and squeeze of lemon. — AW

Best Summer Read (So Far): Life After Life [18], by Kate Atkinson
I’m not proud of the fact that as I’ve gotten older, it has become a lot easier for me to put a book down, half-way through, and never pick it up again. Maybe it’s because reading is part of my job, but I’ve become pretty ruthless about it. I did not, however, have this problem with Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson. When I wasn’t actively reading this book, I was thinking about the moment — on the train home, or in bed — when I would be again. It’s about the way fate can turn on the smallest of moments. What would’ve happened if I’d gone to this school instead of that one? If I’d married this guy instead of that one? If I’d turned left on the way home instead of right? If I’d grown up here instead of there? Atkinson explores these ideas, through narrative, in a way that is relentlessly inventive, suspenseful, and never hackneyed. Another one I loved: The Orphan Master’s Son [19] by Adam Johnson. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but this book is so, so good. So, so, so, so good! And you don’t have to take my word for it: it just won the Pulitzer Prize! — AW (PS: The winners of the book giveaway have been alerted! Thanks so much for playing.)

Best Best: The Tomato Sandwich [20]
Because it’s tradition, because it’s fleeting, and because it will always be our number one signifier that summer is here.

PS: First Annual Dollys [21] (2011)
PPS: Second Annual Dollys [22] (2012)

PPSS: We are on vacation next week — have a great holiday!

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Enjoy!

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URL to article: http://www.dinneralovestory.com/best-of-summer-awards-aka-the-dollys/

URLs in this post:

[1] Zucchini Blossoms: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2011/07/fried-zucchini-blossoms#ixzz2WQ9sE523

[2] Doug’s Fish Fry: http://www.dougsfishfry.com/

[3] Wakin’ on a Pretty Day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bd0K76H7sU8

[4] farm-share box: http://www.dinneralovestory.com/what-do-you-see/

[5] few fresh salads: http://www.dinneralovestory.com/five-summer-salads/

[6] Vegetables: http://www.amazon.com/Chez-Panisse-Vegetables-Alice-Waters/dp/0060171472

[7] book: http://www.amazon.com/Dinner-Story-begins-family-table/dp/0062080903/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338396066&sr=8-1

[8] kale-avocado-pickled onion: http://www.dinneralovestory.com/shredded-kale-with-avocado/

[9] cabbage, peanut, and lime slaw: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2010/04/cabbage-and-lime-salad-with-roasted-peanuts/

[10] The Grilling Book : http://www.amazon.com/The-Grilling-Book-Definitive-Appetit/dp/1449427529

[11] Pink Soccer Socks: http://www.zappos.com/adidas-copa-zone-cushion-over-the-calf-3-pair-pack-ultra-pop-black?ef_id=UMicdgAAQfQRiDIZ:20130626180850:s&zfcTest=fcl%3A0

[12] Salt-Water Sandals: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0067GKH3Q/ref=s9_simh_gw_p309_d0_i3?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0K2RQAZFBF2N4E01P7QQ&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1389517282&pf_rd_i=507846

[13] traveling: http://www.dinneralovestory.com/voila/

[14] grandmother: http://www.dinneralovestory.com/angel-food-cake/

[15] Tomato Tea Towels: http://www.momastore.org/museum/moma/ProductDisplay?purpose=crawl&catalogId=10451&categoryId=11593&productId=125082&langId=-1&parent_category_rn=26715&keyWord=Tomato+Tea+Towel&storeId=10001

[16] Fiddle Sticks: http://www.amazon.com/STX-FiddleSTX-2-Pack-Game-Sticks/dp/B0000ZSELC/ref=cm_lmf_tit_1

[17] Lafayette: http://lafayetteny.com/

[18] Life After Life: http://www.amazon.com/Life-After-A-Novel/dp/0316176486/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372093480&sr=8-1&keywords=life+after+life+kate+atkinson

[19] The Orphan Master’s Son: http://www.amazon.com/Orphan-Masters-Son-Pulitzer-Fiction/dp/0812982622/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1372270845&sr=1-1&keywords=orphan+masters+son

[20] The Tomato Sandwich: http://www.dinneralovestory.com/it-is-so-on/

[21] First Annual Dollys: http://www.dinneralovestory.com/the-first-annual-dolly-awards/

[22] Second Annual Dollys: http://www.dinneralovestory.com/2nd-annual-dolly-awards-summer-edition/

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