Have you ever come home from trip and just felt kind of depressed to be back home? Oh, who am I kidding, I’m sure everyone has had that experience. No one likes the fun to be over, and to have to come back to reality. I’ve just had it again myself this last week. We spent the end of last week, and the weekend with friends at a house on a lake in western Illinois. It was glorious. We hung out by the lake with our pack of dogs, went for rides in the boat, rode the jet ski at death defying speeds, and generally just had a great time in the sun relaxing. And I have a watch tan to prove it. The other thing we did all weekend was eat. And I don’t mean junk food either. We had several excellent cooks with us, including Kate. And that meant we ate like kings and queens for the weekend. And all of that is what led me to the inevitable depression of Monday.
But alas, I have memories to sustain me. Like the falafel pita sandwiches that we somehow managed to wheedle out of Amy for the third time in about a month. On paper, the sandwiches seem like they could end up being a little boring. They’re basically just a pocket pita, homemade falafel, and some lettuce and avocado sauce. But these are seriously one of my favorite surprise eats. I think the secret is in the falafel itself. Amy makes them from a combination of mashed beans, some tortillas, and probably other things I haven’t paid enough attention to figure out. Unlike a lot of falafel I’ve had these are not dry at all. The insides are moist and delicious. If I had to guess I’d say it’s because these aren’t made with the traditional chick peas, which I always find dry, even when they’ve been cooked properly. These particular falafel are made with a pinto bean, lending a Latin flair, especially when combined with the avocado sauce. And the combination of the pinto beans and the avocado sauce guarantee that they sandwich won’t taste as dry as it might if it was a traditional pita. I would absolutely put this dish on the list of things I could eat as often as it appears on my plate. And Amy, if you’re reading this, I am making no demands. Seriously.
The night our friend Donna arrived on the scene was also a highlight of our culinarily blessed weekend. Donna has a flair for baking- especially bread. You may remember her from previous posts about pretzel rolls, or helping me start a sourdough mother. But she has also taken that to another level with pizza making, which she is also quite good at. And in particular, one of the pizza’s she made for us this weekend was among my favorites in recent memory. In fact, though I ate at least a piece of everything else she made, I mostly only remember the actual toppings on one of them. I do remember everything being fantastic, but my favorite of the evening was a particular pineapple and prosciutto pizza she made. It was seriously one of the best pizzas I’ve had in a while. The saltiness of the prosciutto and the sweet tanginess of the pineapple were perfect mated together as pizza toppings. I am a huge fan of sweet and savory together, especially when that involves salty and sweet together. I even ate the last few pieces myself after everyone else was full, just to make sure they weren’t wasted. Because that would have been a tragedy.
Our last day on the lake also started and finished with culinary flair. We started the morning with homemade cinnamon rolls, made by a combination of people, including Kristen, Amy and Donna. They were the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee for waking up and getting the day going. And of course, that much better for being eaten right out of the oven when the gallon or so of frosting that was put onto it was still gooey. I could easily have eaten far more than the three I allowed myself. And don’t cringe- they were small. And anyway, our lunch was far healthier, and a perfect way to end the weekend.
The lakeside bar that served as our base of operations for the weekend was where we prepared and ate our final meal of the weekend, in quintessential summer fashion, by grilling out. And this was probably the biggest team effort of the weekend, utilizing almost everyone’s skill in the kitchen, including my own. Kate made a really awesome slaw- without mayo, Amy made marinated shrimp that she grilled to perfection, and I made a Malaysian chicken/tofu satay with peanut sauce provided by Kate and Amy. And Donna added her always welcome gluten-y contribution of English muffin bread. We even served it all in little baskets with checked wax paper like we were eating at a little hot dog stand. This was a perfect meal to end the weekend on. Everything was awesome, and the ambiance of the lake and the sun just made it a completely fitting end to a fabulous weekend. And it all made it just that much harder to come back to work Monday morning, the memory of swimming in the lake and eating delicious food so fresh in my memory. I suppose the only solution is to plan another weekend of fun in the sun sometime again soon. We have only to choose a location, and a menu.