I’ve been back and forth between Dallas, Breckenridge, and Freeport, Illinois so far this summer. My allergies can hardly keep up with my whereabouts, much less my family. For now, Randy and I have traded in the pleasant temperatures and pine pollen (aa- choo!) of the mountains for the Texas heat so we can celebrate his mother’s 90th Birthday. A casual take-out pizza dinner with her Wednesday night after our flight, and a strictly spontaneous get-together for coffee, cake, and an hour of “girl talk” yesterday morning are but a small prelude to the weekend family festivities and next week’s all-important Birthday Dinner in our home.
During the past several weeks, I’ve assisted my own Mother in preparing for a major move from Illinois to Texas (she’s now all moved into her “cottage” in The Woodlands); hosted a luncheon and spirits tasting at Swan’s Nest for female whiskey distiller Troy Ball (Troy & Sons, Asheville, NC); created summertime tablescapes for a Vail HOME Magazine photo shoot and article, transformed our 1898 cabin into an autumn dining destination for an interview with Log Home Living magazine (look for the story in their November 2014 issue); cooked on Aspen television’s “The Lift” on Aspen 82; participated as a celebrity chef in the 5th annual Snowmass Culinary Festival (www.gosnowmass.com); interviewed with The Summit Daily News about cool summer salads; attended to final details for my upcoming October 2 – 12, 2014 Mediterranean Culinary Cruise in partnership with Oceania Cruises and Cruising with the Chefs (www.cruisingwiththechefs.com); and spent every spare moment in my Swan’s Nest gardens planting flowers and trying to keep up with the weeds. And in the midst of all this, my computer crashed, so my apologies to those of you who’ve not heard from me recently.
Each year around this time, I fondly recall summer days spent on Cape Cod when I was growing up, and I guess I had visions of those idyllic, lazy days when Randy and I purchased Swans’ Nest seven years ago, but the reality is that summer days are now as busy as the remainder of the year, with one exception. In the evenings, as the sun begins to lower toward the mountain tops, Randy and I share dinner on Swan’s Nest’s veranda – a relaxing, quiet ritual when time slows down and we celebrate our day over a simple, fresh meal. We open a bottle of wine, watch the hummingbirds as they flit from hanging basket to basket filled with bright pink and purple petunias, enjoy the cool evening breezes, and marvel at nature’s colorful light show when puffy white clouds change into pale orange and pink puffs of cotton candy as the sun dips behind the mountain peaks. We linger over dinner and savor the peace of it all until we get chilled and rush inside to get warm. Even then, we sometimes just grab jackets and head back onto the porch – reluctant to allow those peaceful moments to slip away.
This is why I love uncomplicated summer meals that are quick and easy to assemble, feature fresh, seasonal flavors, and have a “picnic feel” to them. Summer is for sitting on the porch, not standing in the kitchen. For that reason, I’m happy to share one of my summer salad recipes with you. I hope you’ll enjoy it on the porch with your family and friends!
White Beans, Arugula and Dill with Tarragon Dressing
|2||(15-ounce) cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained|
|3||sprigs fresh dill, chopped|
|1||small bunch fresh arugula, stemmed and chopped|
|1/2||cup onion, diced|
|2||tablespoons tarragon vinegar|
|2 to 3||drops white wine Worcestershire sauce|
|1||large clove garlic, peeled|
|1/2||teaspoon Dijon mustard|
|Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste|
|1/4||cup olive oil|
In a large mixing bowl, gently stir together the beans, dill, arugula, and onion. Set aside.
In the bowl of a mini-food processor, combine the tarragon vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Process until the mixture is smooth. Add the olive oil and process until the dressing is creamy. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Pour the dressing over the beans. Toss well, transfer the salad to a serving bowl, and serve. If desired, cover and chill 2 hours until cold.
Yield: 6 servings