Sunday, August 7, 2011

Savoring Summer

This past week was our last evening out at Porthouse Theater for the 2011 summer season.  As always, we are sad to have this come to an end and it all goes by so swiftly it's difficult to believe summer is winding down. 

The evening began with our gathering in the pavilion on a perfect summer night.  As is tradition for the final performance, the cast wandered through the crowd and entertained cabaret style. This is always fun - the kids are so talented and the crowd sings along. 

The summer series ended on a very up note with the ever entertaining Hello Dolly!  Porthouse artistic director, Terry Kent stepped into the shoes of Dolly Levi and did a splendid job.  Our group has been to these performances for several years and this is the first time we've been graced with Ms. Kent on stage.  While her singing was nothing to write home about (which perhaps was not at all out of place for the role) her stage presence as Dolly was terrific. 

Terry Kent and cast taking their bows
for Hello Dolly!
The cast carried off their roles with the usual style and grace - including a bit of a wink by Eric van Baars, who plays Cornelius Hackl. He earned a big laugh when he had a line dealing with the fact that his character is 33 years old when it's obvious he's a touch older than that.  One of my favorite Porthouse cast members, van Baars did a wonderful job in his role.  Another crowd favorite was Jessica Cope who played Irene Malloy.  Her singing voice had everyone sitting up and taking notice of her performance.

Getting out and about
Two more favorites to add to the long list of great places to eat in Summit county.  This past week I had the pleasure of meeting friends at The Office Bistro and Lounge located in the historic Temple Square district of North Akron.  I've been here a couple of times now and it gets more comfortable with each visit.  At their suggestion, I met my friends Blue and Joanne there for a catch up session after work.  Bartender Valery made my favorite Office martini, The Flirtini, which is set ablaze and topped with a shower of cinnamon sparklers.  Happy hour is weekdays 3-6pm and appetizers are half price.  I ordered the Mango & Avocado Salsa (mangos, sweet bell peppers, red onion, cilantro, peach yogurt) with fresh tortilla chips and it was very different and quite good.  This is something I'll be trying to replicate at home at some point.

Friday night I met my friend Lynne out at D'Agnese on White Pond Drive.  This place has been a variety of restaurants in the past several years and they may have hit upon a keeper in this iteration.  The atmosphere is casual chic, the service friendly and informative and the food was wonderful.  We shared one of their flatbread specials and I ordered the roasted beets appetizer as my entree.  The salad was of red and golden beets, greens, candied walnuts, goat cheese, and a fig balsamic reduction that was out of this world not only on the salad but just as wonderful with the warm bread brought to the table dipped in. The salad was as big as my head and easily could have been shared.  I'll definitely be back here again soon.

Summer Bounty
This week began the next steps in my learning curve on preserving the summer harvest.  My City Fresh shares have been abundant with zucchini and yellow squash and I will admit that I'm just not that big a fan of these fruits (and YES, squash is a fruit). 

Zucchini abandoned on my doorstep!
I've done my best to make some interesting meals with them (ie my pepperoni and yellow squash pizza) but I'm simply outnumbered.  There's only one of me and only so many meals I can make at home in a given week and this squash seems to multiply when I turn my back on them.  As if it's not enough that I get them two or three at a time in my Fresh shares, last night I came home and there was one sitting on my back steps.  No note.  Poor thing had been abandoned and I HAD to take it in.  In all good conscience, you can't leave an innocent zucchini sitting out in the big world all alone. 

My food preservation technique of choice is freezing.  Nearly anything can be frozen with some degree of success but, in my experience, not always.  Zucchini is one of those items.  I can grate it and freeze it for use in breads and cakes and it turns out fine, but I've learned that if I simply want to use slices or chunks, freezing tends to make them a bit mushy and I really cannot stand mushy foods.

To counteract that mushy-ness, last summer I turned to my food dehydrator.  Thin slices of zucchini dried to a lovely crisp chip and are easily stored in bags or containers in the pantry.  Kept this way they are perfect for tossing in soups all winter long. 

As you can see here, my first batch were a bit too thin.  These were sliced about 1/8 inch thin.  I moved up to about 1/4 inch and they turned out fine for storage.

Simply wash and dry your zucchini, use a mandoline or slice by hand to 1/4 inch rounds. 

Use a light spray of cooking spray on your trays to keep the zucchini from sticking as they dry, my first batch crumbled to pieces when I tried to pry them from the try.  Place on the dehydrator trays and process until chips are brittle. 

Once dry, store in an air-tight container.
Last year my dried zucchini went into minestrone and my beef vegetable soups. 

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