Tick Magnet

Have I mentioned that I love my dog? Let me tell you what he managed to do today.

Every evening Indy barks until I take him for yet another romp around the fields and woods where we live. Today’s  romp resulted in me being covered in no less than 24 miniscule ticks. The things were smaller than a grain of sand, barely big enough to see without a magnifying glass. I can only imagine that my beloved beast ran through some kind of tick nest. My dog is a tick magnet. But of course no tick wants to stay on my dog, who gets a dose of Frontline applied religiously.  I however, am a different story.

When a hot shower didn’t remove the itty-bitty blood suckers, I handed D a pair of tweezers and he went to work. Now that’s love. Is there Frontline for humans? Off! just doesn’t cut it out here.

Tick-Magnet

But really, I do love my dog.

Burrata Caprese Pizza Recipe

Is there a better summer dish than vine-ripened tomatoes paired with mozzarella, fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil? Before last night, my answer to that seemingly rhetorical question would have been of course not. Now I’ve had a revelation, which came last night in the form of  this simple but delicious burrata caprese pizza recipe.

Burrata-Caprese-Pizza-Recipe

Burrata is Italian for “buttered”. That should give you an idea of how rich and creamy this cheese is. Burrata is a thin shell of mozzarella di buffala stuffed with a mixture of cream and the leftover bits of curd from the process of making mozzarella di buffala. Basically it’s mozzarella on crack. One taste and you’ll swoon. If you haven’t tried burrata cheese, get thee to a Trader Joe’s or your local cheesemonger forthwith.

As with most things in my kitchen, necessity was the mother of invention behind this combo of caprese salad and pizza. Tomato season is in full swing so I had two pints of the sweetest, ripest cherry and yellow grape tomatoes sitting on my counter. I had fresh basil growing outside and a ball of pizza dough that needed to be frozen or eaten. I had no mozzarella but I did have two fresh balls of burrata. What could possibly go wrong?

Not a thing. This simple burrata caprese pizza recipe is my new favorite as far as pizza goes. (And New Yorkers are serious about our pizzza.) It’s easy for a weeknight but delicious enough to hold up for a dinner party too.

Burrata Caprese Pizza Recipe (Serves two hungry people.)

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • A few tablespoons of flour to keep your pizza dough from sticking as you knead and roll it out.
  • 1 ball of pre-made pizza dough (I like Trader Joe’s, you can also try your local pizza parlor. Or whip up your own dough from this great recipe.)
  • 1 jar of good quality pre-made pizza sauce (San Marzano, Mario Battali or make your own.)
  • 2 small balls or 1 large ball of burrata cheese, sliced (Again, I suggest Trader Joe’s.)
  • 1/2-1 cup of cherry and/or grape tomatoes , cut in half
  • Handful of fresh basil, chopped or whole
  • Freshly ground sea salt to taste

Directions

  • Take your pizza dough out of the fridge an hour before you start cooking to let it warm to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees and rub 1 tsp of olive oil on your pizza pan. (Skip the olive oil if using a stone.)
  • Knead your pizza dough on a lightly floured surface until it becomes smooth and elastic.
  • Roll out the dough into a 10-12″ circle and transfer to your pizza pan.
  • Add the toppings: sauce to taste, slices of burrata cheese and cherry/grape tomatoes.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the basil and sea salt on top. Slice and enjoy.

Burrata-Caprese-Pizza-Recipe-2

 

 

Dog meets possum – It is not love at first sight

Most  people have to set alarm clocks to wake them up during the week. Most people like to turn said alarm clocks off on the weekends. Therefore, most people do not find themselves breaking up an unexpected dog and possum meeting gone awry at 6:30AM on a Saturday morning. Unfortunately, I am not most people.

My alarm clock is Indy, a gigantic Great Pyrenees mix. Indy does not have an off button. When he is awake, he thinks you should be too.  On Saturday, he decided that I should be awake at 6:23AM. He pounced on my bed, plopping all 95 pounds of himself ever so gently on top of my head, emitting high-pitched yips that a dog his size really shouldn’t be capable of making. Clearly, someone had to go potty and like a toddler had to GO RIGHT NOW.

Usually I get my wake up call closer to 7AM so I dragged my groggy self down the stairs and escorted my joyfully wriggling “bestest buddy in the whole wide world” into the car for his daily morning run. (To be clear, he runs, I drive. Every morning I am the chauffeur of a four-legged athlete who aspires to one day run as fast as the deer he chases.) Usually I drive at 20mph for two miles before Indy decides he is tired enough to get back in the car.

There was nothing usual about Saturday morning.

I had only driven about 500 yards when I realized that Indy wasn’t galloping along beside me. Instead, he had run into the middle of the nearest soybean field. He was bouncing up and down. His tail was wagging. It looked like he was playing with his favorite piggy toy. Of course, there are no squeaky dog toys in soybean fields. I pulled a U-ey and sped towards my buddy, praying that he hadn’t tracked down a copperhead snake. By the time I jumped out of the car, Indy had abandoned play mode and gone on the attack, barking fiercely and lunging at something that I still couldn’t see. I raced through the beans. There it was: a hissing white face and a long, naked tail. My dog had met a possum and it was not love at first sight.

I quickly realized that the trick would be to drag Indy away from Ol’ White Face without either of us being bit. I shrieked and hollered to no avail. My dog was not about to walk away from a fight and the possum was fighting for his life, weaving through the beans with teeth bared. So I joined in their crazy dance, attempting to grab Indy’s whirling tail. For a dog in the middle of a do-or-die battle he was unusually adept at curling his tail just out of my reach. The dog, the possum and I were a sight to behold but of course, no one else was awake to see it.

Finally, I realized that my best shot at nabbing Indy was to wait for the possum to play dead. Sure enough, a few minutes later Indy pinned the possum to the ground and  Ol’ White Face curled up in a motionless ball. Indy froze and leaned over the apparently dead marsupial, panting heavily. I snuck up behind him and grabbed his collar.

Hauling 95lbs of adrenaline-charged dog back to the car wasn’t easy but my own adrenaline was pumping. I shoved Indy into the backseat, slammed the door, and about went limp with relief. No one needed a rabies shot and Ol’ White Face would live another day.

On the ride home I attempted to give Indy a stern talking to about fighting with possums but his eyes glazed over and he just stuck his head on my shoulder. Couldn’t I tell that he had been protecting me the whole time? I gave up, rolled down the window, and let my best buddy enjoy the early morning breeze, ears and slobber flying.

Indy, my fierce protector.

Indy, my fierce protector.

Summer Kind of Wonderful

The past month has been a throwback of the summers I used to have in elementary school. (Which was over 15 years ago – eep.) I’ve got scrapes on my knees, bug bites all over and this is currently the view from my “office”, by which I mean a lovely patch of grass. Give me a couple of popsicles and I’ll have reverted to 4th grade summer vacation status entirely.

The view from my "office."

The view from my “office.”

 

Aside from my “office”, I’ve been taking full advantage of everything Indiana summers have to offer: picking my own produce, visiting the local farmers markets, squeezing in as many cookouts as possible, watching the fireflies come out at dusk. Here are a few snapshots of summer fun on the farm. Maybe I can get used to this whole country thing after all…

 

Picking raspberries at a local berry farm. The ones I didn't eat on the way home made it into a raspberry pie.

Picking raspberries at Berry Best, a local farm and orchard.

 

You know you’re in Indiana when a drive to Louisville, KY (aka “the city”) turns into an impromptu pick your own raspberries adventure. The ones I didn’t eat on the way home made it into a raspberry pie.

 

Grill Master Kamden

Grill Master Kamden

 

Another summer highlight has been turning up the heat on the grill. There have been several yummy cookouts but it’s hard to beat the delicious chicken and corn that D’s good friend Kamden made for us.

And of course it wouldn’t be the dog days of summer without a dog. Indy has been having adventures galore. We encountered this new friend crossing the road during one of our bike rides.

Going somewhere?

Going somewhere?

 

Enjoy the remaining dog days of summer!

A Perfect Country Morning

Sometimes a perfect summer morning comes fluttering by. A combination of a cool breeze, fluffy clouds tumbling through a bright sky and the chatter of happy birds hunting for breakfast. The cicadas hum yet everything is still and the mind empties to join the stillness. Today was one of those rare, perfect moments.

Not wanting to let it slip through my fingers, I took my breakfast of ripe, juicy melon outside. The melon was grown by a nearby produce farmer who kindly dropped off a pile of them to D’s family just yesterday. I call it cantaloup but around here it’s known as mushmelon. Since these were ripened entirely on the vine, each was heavily fragrant and sweet.

I  joined the birds in the grass to savor my smiling slices. A dozen ants promptly joined me, wiggling ecstatically as they slurped up droplets of juice.

There was plenty to go around.

Melon2

Back in Indiana, Eating Sweet Corn

After a whirlwind tour attending weddings that had us crisscrossing from Italy to Los Angeles and quite a few places in between, we’re back in Indiana. I have so much catching up to do on blog posts that I hardly know where to start. So for now I’ll make like a good farmer and just talk corn.

One of the best things about summer in the country is the sweet corn. We have returned just in time to pick sackfuls of the fresh ears grown by Jerry, one of my favorite Dupontians. (Jerry also happens to my best local source of cooking advice and fresh egg supplier extraordinaire.)

D and I waded through the waving green stalks, bugs buzzing and a hot sun above us. Occasionally I yelped upon encountering ears of corn riddled with black beetles and small white worms. D’s response: You wanted organic!

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We picked what I considered to be a lot – two big shopping bags full of bright green ears – and drove back to the equipment shop on the main farm. There we found Jerry in the midst of shucking a big old tub of corn which he had already gone and picked for me. Apparently my meager two bags were not enough to “put up” for winter eating. While we shucked the rest of the ears, Jerry told me how to put up corn for winter:

  1. Remove any bad spots and boil the ears of corn for 15 minutes.
  2. Immediately plunge the corn into cold water to stop it from cooking any further.
  3. Line your counter with a couple of dish towels and lay the corn out to dry and cool off.
  4. As soon as it’s cooled enough to hold, cut the corn from the cob.
  5. Put the corn in freezer bags, label with the date and pop the bags in the freezer.

Voila! Fresh corn for the winter. Having spent yesterday afternoon doing this, I feel rather like the industrious ant in Aesop’s famous fable.

Of course all of the corn can’t be saved for later. Apart from gently cooked ears so tender and flavorful that salt, pepper and butter are merely optional, this recipe for corn with tomatoes and basil is the quintessential summer dish. I learned it from the mother of one of D’s closest friends and it’s an ideal way to celebrate the summer’s bounty.

Fresh & Simple: Corn with Tomatoes & Basil

Grab a few ears of fresh corn, uncooked, and slice the kernels from the cob. Roughly chop up a ripe tomato or two, or slice cherry tomatoes in half. Tear a handful of basil into small bits. Throw this into a pan along with a couple of generous glugs of good olive oil. Stir and grind in sea salt and pepper to taste. You’re done once the skin on the tomatoes starts to wrinkle.

I made this with fresh grilled fish en papilliote on Friday night and it was perfection. A bowl on its own makes for a delicious summer lunch.

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Hope you’re all having a lovely weekend! I promise to finally share travel tales and photos next week.

Catching up with friends, folk music & the Dalai Lama

Catching up with friends, folk music & the Dalai Lama

I have absolutely no idea where the month of May has disappeared to. Three quarters of the month have flown by and I’m only managing my first post of the month now. EEK. Has May flown by for you too or am I just getting old?

There has been so much going on that I’ve hardly had time to catch my breath! Thankfully the activity has been of the fun kind rather than stressful so while the days seems to have vanished into thin air, I still feel like I’ve been soaking in spring. May activities have been all about catching up – with everyone from friends to folk musicians and the Dalai Lama!

I kicked off the month with a week in Europe visiting a close friend who I only get to see once a year. It was an incredible trip so I’ll save the details for a separate post coming next.

Back in Indiana I got to enjoy some world class acts. This does not happen often so it was a rather momentous occasion. First, the Carolina Chocolate Drops came to Madison to perform in the annual River Roots folk music festival. I hadn’t heard their music before but their live performance was so energetically fun that I’ve become a fan. The Drops drew a big crowd – folks came all the way from Louisville to see them, including my friend Emily of Em Dash Designs. (Prior to the festival Emily & I had ourselves a country outing that involved hummingbird cake and a runaway goat. Check out Emily’s post about it here!) It was clear why there was such a crowd after witnessing the group’s pitch perfect artistry. A personal favorite was their rendition of Blu Cantrell’s “Hit ‘Em Up Style”. The Drops’ string instruments and lead singer Rhiannon Gidden’s soulful voice gave the track a depth and grit that took it to a whole new level. A great live performance always blows recordings out of the water but have a listen to group’s hit “Country Girl”. It doesn’t get more country than this!

Still humming about cornbread and butterbeans, the next morning D and I drove down to Louisville, KY to see none other than His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It’s not exactly every day that you get to listen to the Dalai Lama, who came to Louisville for a three day visit with the theme of “Engaging Compassion.” 14,000 people attended the Dalai Lama’s talk, where he spoke about wanting the 21st century to be the century of compassion and said that in order to improve our lives we can’t just pray, we have to have a passion to get out and do things in the world. That’s a belief I definitely subscribe to. On a lighter note, the Dalai Lama was absolutely hysterical. He opened his speech about compassion by having a giant laugh at the Buddhist monk who had introduced him. The poor monk spoke very little English and was so nervous that he had delivered his painstakingly prepared remarks in a monotone punctuated by coughing. The Dalai Lama found this very funny and had no qualms about saying so. In fact, he pointed and laughed at various things throughout the entire speech, causing the entire arena to double over with laughter. He also wore a visor (presumably to block the glare from the stage lights) and spoke like Yoda. “Compassion, you must find.” It’s my new motto and the Dalai Lama is one of my new favorite people.

Ok that’s enough rambling from me – I think we’re all caught up now. Hope you are all having a wonderful week!

Feature photo credit: Louisville.com

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