One More Camp Story & Grilled Zucchini & Feta Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette

Okay, this is it, one last camp story. I promise. At some point, either my sister Brenda or I must have uttered the words that no mother wants to hear, “Camp is boring.” It really wasn’t, but if we had one too many rainy days, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. Camp Four Winds was all about the pond – in it, on it or sunning ourselves by it.

Before we knew it, camp brochures started to slip through the mail slot. Camp Waukeela’s brochure promised a surplus of activities. Next, the husband-wife team of camp directors came to our house armed with a slide show. They were at least ten years older than my parents and had preppy names like Skip and Twig. The slide show was filled to bursting with smiling, happy girls engaged in countless sports and activities. Mom was reassured and ready to sign on the dotted line. She always said the two worst times in a woman’s life was when she was thirteen and then again when her daughter was thirteen. While I was an affable eleven, my sister Brenda was thirteen. With lots to do, we couldn’t possibly get in trouble.

Not long after the last school bell, we were on a bus bound for the wilds of northern New Hampshire. Yes, the camp was so far north, that they sent a fleet of buses down to get us. Mom was delighted to avoid an all-day drive to the White Mountains and back. Warily, we stumbled onto one of the buses with a bunch of other kids. Brenda ditched me but my best friend Joy had my back. The rest of the girls were strangers. Whether it was true or not, we felt like we were the only kids who were new to the camp.

In comparison to Four Winds, Waukeela was plush. There was electricity, hot showers and flush toilets. When it came to staying busy, Skip and Twig had not lied. The good thing about Waukeela was that you didn’t have a minute to be bored. The bad thing about Waukeela was that you didn’t have a minute to yourself. We were shuttled from one activity to the next. There was no time to find a rock to sit on and contemplate life.

Unlike Four Winds, the entire day was not spent at the lake. Sure, we had swimming lessons and free swim. Yes, there were boats to row and canoes to paddle. However, we spent a good part of the day on land. We had tennis lessons, horseback riding and archery classes, volleyball games and badminton as well as dance and arts and crafts. Fancy-schmancy or not, all camps have rope for bracelets and gimp for lanyards. It is probably an accreditation requirement.

As always, Mom sent both Brenda and I off with a collection of pre-addressed, pre-stamped postcards to fill in and send home. Mine offered vague but positive words of cheer. Brenda’s were less vague and anything but cheerful. At one point during our stay, I think she tried to talk me into breaking out of the joint.

We were both saved from a second year at Camp Waukeela. Within days of arriving home from New Hampshire, we were back on the road headed north. This time to a rickety rental near Pleasant Lake. At the end of the two weeks, Mom and Dad bought a piece of land. Our little cottage in the woods was ready in mid-January. That was the end of summer camp for the Nye kids.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Grilled Zucchini
I love zucchini. It’s easy, always plentiful and especially good when it is fresh and local. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise or on the diagonal
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the grill to high.

Brush both sides of the zucchini slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill and cook until just tender, 2-3 minutes per side.

The zucchini are perfect as is with your favorite grilled meal. Or …. Turn them into a salad!

Grilled Zucchini & Feta Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette
Serves 8

Lemony Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
4 grilled zucchini
About 4 ounces feta, crumbled
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced

Make the vinaigrette in advance. Let it sit at room temperature for an hour or longer in the refrigerator to combine the flavors.

Arrange the grilled zucchini on a platter or individual plates, drizzle with a little vinaigrette, sprinkle with feta, parsley, mint and scallions and serve.

Lemony Vinaigrette
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

Put the lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, mustard and anchovy paste in a small food processor, season with salt and pepper and process until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and process until smooth.

Cover and store leftover vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Fresh Tomato Crostini
Two Years Ago – Spicy Cucumber & Radish Salad
Three Years Ago – Watermelon Sorbet
Four Years Ago – Caramel Sundaes with Sweet & Salty Pecans
Five Years Ago – Gazpacho
Six Years Ago – Mousse au Citron
Seven Years Ago– Thai Salad
Eight Years Ago – Sweet Dream Bars
Nine Years Ago – Lobster Salad

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? Do you have a camp story to tell? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

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More Summer Camp & Blueberry Bread Pudding

Last week I wrote a little bit about my first year at Camp Four Winds. A Girl Scout camp, it offered an escape from the hot, stuffy suburbs. Four Winds was basic to say the least, little cabins and tents in the woods, latrines and a big old dining hall. I’m not exactly sure if there were showers. While I sort of remember waiting in line for a shower, it might be my imagination. On the other hand, I have a clear vision of soaping up in the pond on Saturday night. You know the drill, once a week whether you need it or not.

Our days were not packed with fancy lessons or special programs. There was no horseback riding, tennis lessons, golf, dance classes or archery. At some point, we must have made a rope bracelet or gimp lanyard. We went on a hike, maybe two. Although I’d have denied it at the time, the hikes were none too arduous. One was planned as an overnight. We wimped out and returned to our little cabins when it started to rain. However, as luck would have it, the rain stopped in time for s’mores.

Come to think of it, camp was not all that different from what we did at home. We got up, we had breakfast and did chores. Of course, the chores were more onerous than those Mom gave us. My sister and I did not clean latrines back on Jackson Road. However, we did make our beds and could yield a broom. Brenda was the neater of the two. If pushed, I would eventually pick up my half of our room.

At home, we waited impatiently for Mom to do whatever needed doing before taking us to the town beach. At camp, the counselors corralled us down to the waterfront as soon as our beds were made and cabins swept. Starting with swimming lessons, most of the day was spent in and on the pond. Rain or shine, we stayed in the water until our lips were blue and our teeth chattered. Then we rowed boats and paddle canoes.

At the end of the morning, we were hustled back to our cabins to change into shorts and shirts. Bathing suits were not permitted in the dining hall. The food was unremarkable but kids gathered on the dining hall steps before and after lunch to sing camp songs. I can still sing a couple although I might mess up a verse of two.

After lunch was quiet time. Then and now, it seems rather silly. At seven or eight or however old I was, I was well past needing an afternoon nap. However, we were expected to rest or write letters home to our parents. I guess it was okay to read a book. Mostly, we whispered and giggled.

I’m pretty sure that quiet time was invented to give the counselors a break. How much do you want to bet that they spent the hour smoking cigarettes and writing love letters to their boyfriends? After resting, we were back at the pond. The remainder of the afternoon was filled with more swimming, more blue lips and more chattering teeth followed by rowboats and canoes. If you sense a pattern, you’d be right. It was not for naught. At the end of the two weeks, there was a swim meet. My crawl was hopeless but I came in second with my speedy backstroke.

Thankfully, there were more camp songs before and after dinner because the meal was as unremarkable as breakfast and lunch. At night, there were campfires, s’mores, ghost stories and more giggling. Little girls like to giggle and I was particularly good at it.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Blueberry Bread Pudding

You can call this Baked Blueberry French Toast and serve it for breakfast. Otherwise, call it delicious and serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. Enjoy!
Serves 8-12

Butter for the pan
1 day-old* baguette (about 16-ounce), cubed
3 cups fresh blueberries
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 whole eggs
3 cups half and half or whole milk
Confectioner’s sugar (optional)

Generously butter a 13- x 9-inch pan. Arrange half of the bread cubes in the pan in a single layer. Sprinkle with half of the blueberries. Top with the remaining bread cubes and blueberries.

Put the cream cheese, sugar and spices in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Add the maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at time, beating to incorporate. Raise the mixer speed to medium and beat until smooth.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the half and half. Gradually increase the mixer speed and beat until well combined.

Pour the custard pour over the bread and blueberries. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until lightly browned and set, about 30 minutes more.

Let stand for 5-10 minutes, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve with or without vanilla ice cream.

* It is okay to use a fresh baguette. Just spread the cubes on baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes before prepping the pudding.

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One Year Ago – Crunchy Quinoa Salad
Two Years Ago – Cheesecake Brownies
Three Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Tequila-Lime Butter
Four Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Olive & Caper Salsa
Five Years Ago – Grilled Red Potatoes with Lemon-Garlic-Herb Oil
Six Years Ago – Tandoori Chicken
Seven Years Ago – Blueberry Muffins
Eight Years Ago – Peanut Butter Brownies

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? How will you celebrate the first days of summer vacation and the longest day? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

Summer Camp & Tomato & Burrata Salad with Grilled Bread

I met up with a friend a day or so ago. She was taking a deep breath after a crazy busy weekend. Her grandchildren breezed through town and stayed the night on their way to camp. It got me to thinking of my days at Camp Four Winds. For most people, summer camp was one of those things you either loved or hated. Just to be a contrarian, I was neither obsessed nor filled with fear and loathing.

I like to think that I was really very teeny tiny when I went off to camp. As a child, I was always following in my sister’s footsteps. A few years older, as soon as Brenda went to camp, I wanted in. So, while my sister was probably eight or nine when she headed off to camp for the first time, I was ready at six. Okay, maybe seven, but I know I was still a Brownie.

Of course, we went to Girl Scout Camp. It was more or less a given. A proud Camp Fire Girl, Mom went to one of their camps. Dad went to Y camp (as in YMCA). Regardless of generation or affiliation, the critical criteria were two weeks on a pond in the woods and dirt cheap. Given the givens, Camp Four Winds fit the bill but was nothing fancy.

There is a reason that I always think of myself as ever so young when I went off to camp. One of a couple of things happened and I don’t know which. It could be I forgot to tell Mom that I wanted to go to camp until the last minute. Alternatively, I told her at a time when she was busy doing a thousand motherly things all at once and she didn’t hear me. Or finally, I told her but she didn’t believe me and it took some time to convince her. Regardless of why, I must have signed up late. In spite of being one of the youngest campers at Four Winds, all the girls in my unit were at a couple of years older than me. Then again, maybe Mom got my date of birth wrong on the application.

Anyway, Brenda spent her first year at Four Winds in the cushy little girls unit. It could be my vivid imagination but I think they had flush toilets. Not only was I younger but I roughed it with the big girls. We had cold showers and latrines. We also had to walk five miles in a snowstorm to get to the dining hall for breakfast. Oops – no, wait a minute, that’s another story!

Being the youngest and smallest girl in my group did have its advantages. The other kids took me for some sort of mascot or woe-be-gone in need of a helping hand. From morning chores to an extra marshmallow on s’mores night, I suspect I got away with quite a lot during those two weeks.

It didn’t hurt that I showed up with a plethora of pink clothing. Most of the time, we wore camp uniforms. An army of girls from seven to seventeen, we were all identically clad. There were dark green shorts and shirts for everyday and whites for Sunday. However, we could declare our own true selves with our bathing suits and pajamas. It must have been some strange coincidence. Both new and hand-me-downs, from my bathrobe and fluffy slippers to my bathing suit, everything in my camp trunk, except the uniforms, was pink.

The big girls were delighted. In less than twenty-four hours, I’d earned the nickname Pinky. I was well taken care of and coddled but it didn’t last long. As soon as I hopped in the station wagon for the trip home, I was back to being Susie … and all that went with it.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Tomato & Burrata Salad with Grilled Bread
Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. It is delicious with fresh local tomatoes and warm bread. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 1 tablespoon or to taste red wine vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil to taste
2 garlic cloves
1/4-1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 1/2-3 pounds very ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8 slices ciabatta
2-4 balls fresh Burrata
1/2-3/4 cup torn basil leaves

Preheat the grill to high.

Put the vinegar in a large bowl, add olive oil to taste and whisk to combine. Mince one of the garlic gloves, add it and the onion to the oil and vinegar and toss to coat. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and toss again.

Arrange the bread on the grill and cook, turning once, for about 30 seconds per side or until nicely toasted. Remove from the grill, rub each piece of bread with the remaining garlic clove, brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.

Place the still warm bread on individual plates, top with tomatoes and Burrata, garnish with torn basil and serve.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Shrimp & Vegetable Salad
Two Years Ago – Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard
Three Years Ago – Grilled Tomato Crostini
Four Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Five Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Six Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Seven Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
Eight Years Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? How will you celebrate the first days of summer vacation and the longest day? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017