Friday, June 22, 2012

Commemorating Summer with a Meal

Summer is the season of extremes, the season of hot, sticky weather and the season of powerful storm-fronts. Clear blue skies and the scorching sun make beaches a preferable environment and grilling the cooking method of choice.

After all, who wants a kitchen heating up the whole house when it’s the perfect time to cook outside and the cool indoors can welcome you?

We celebrated the first day of summer on Thursday (it was within the first twenty-four hours EST, so I’m counting it), and the grill seared the lamb pieces and caramelized the squash and eggplant in their aluminum foil pockets. Mama Dazz and I took turns watching the grill as I put on the finishing touches of my quinoa tabouli and mint watermelon lemonade (recipe below). Everything was prepared with care (sipping on New Grist gluten-free beer all the while). Everything was eaten with gusto. Everything was delicious and harmonized well together in flavor, texture, and presentation. Everything I took a bite or sip of reminded me of the beauty of the summer season.

The first days of summer have been filled with preparation for summer camp at the community center: learning the morning dances; decorating the rooms and the “Art Cart” (I’m the Art Specialist for the first three weeks); attending conferences in regards to team-building, creating a nurturing environment for the campers, customer service, and the ethics and principles we should bring with every day; and making friends with such an amazing group of people.

I wish summer camp went on like this all year long, because I love this program. I hope to update you all with the art projects the kids make, many Bento Box Snapshots that adhere to Judaic principles (the community center and camp is Jewish-oriented, though many who participate, such as myself, are not). I will be working on keeping my lunches and snacks as kosher as possible, and the camp is willing to work with me around my dietary restrictions.

I love this job already, and I’m so excited for the challenges ahead.

The watermelon was initially going to be part of a virgin watermelon mojito drink, but I only had lemons on hand. It was refreshingly light and yet harmoniously flavorful with amount of ingredients. The amount of each ingredient wasn’t measured out, so I suggest tasting as you go, but the watermelon should be the main ingredient, followed by the peppermint and then the lemon juice. You can put it all through the juicer, or use a powerful blender and strain the pulp.

Mint Watermelon Lemonade

1 “Small” (between 9 and 12 pounds when whole) watermelon, cut from the rind in medium-sized chunks
1 handful Peppermint, coarsely torn into pieces
Juice from 4 – 5 Lemons* (depending on how “lemony” you want it) 

In small batches, blend the watermelon chunks on a low pulse until it has a gazpacho consistency and strain the pulp over a large bowl to catch the juice.
Continue blending in small batches, the last one containing the mint and lemon juice, and place the drink in glasses to serve for any summer feast.
Serve chilled or slightly below room temperature.

Makes 6 – 8 glasses.

*If you would like to make mojitos from this recipe, simply replace the lemons with lime and add rum (or keep it kid-friendly, if you prefer). It really doesn’t need additional sweetener, but do so to your preference. And I'm sure you could make an amazing soft drink with some sparkling water added to it.

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