Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer Links


Oh, happy late July, dear ones.

We actually own our own tubes, which makes this activity #1 on the free thrills chart. Also: good beer in a can has changed my river life forever. Photo courtesy of the amazing Chris Perry, of deviled-egg photography fame.
I’m posting some summer links—the quick version because we are (seriously) tubing again today. 


Judith Frank’s big, beautiful novel All I Love and Know will make you laugh and cry. And I mean laugh in big loud snorting gasps, and also cry in the choking, snot-everywhere kind of way that makes your partner say, “What are you reading?” (Full disclosure: when I read this book, it was in manuscript form and was called “Noah’s Ark.” Because Judy’s my friend in real life.) The book has become weirdly, sadly timely, given that it starts with a terrorist act in Jerusalem, and a couple, Matt and Daniel, on their way to Israel; Daniel’s twin brother and his wife have died in the bombing, and they’re going to fetch the baby and 6-year-old they’ve inherited. It’s a political book in an excellent, stirring way, but of course the part I loved the most was the domestic: these two hip, young people returning to Northampton, Massachusetts with a pair of messy, grieving children. The kid scenes are completely hilarious and heartbreakingly real. Every detail is perfect: "At night, the upstairs hallway was lit up like an airport runway with night-lights." Perfect.


I also want to recommend one more to the grown-ups: Rufi Thorpe’s The Girls from Corona del Mar. (Full disclosure: I don’t actually know Rufi Thorpe!) I reviewed it for More magazine, and this is what I said: This is a ravishing, stay-up-all-night-reading kind of novel—a sad, funny, almost impossibly good debut about a decades-long friendship that spans decades and continents, teenagerhood and motherhood, unwanted pregnancy and addiction, dark secrets, fate, and, almost improbably, joy. How well we can ever know another person? The book seems to ask. How known can we ever be ourselves? This is rousing, high-impact prose: every sentence is like a ringing buoy or a slap in the face. Rufi Thorpe can write. Let’s just hope she can write quickly so we can read more soon.


Birdy wants to recommend Cammie McGovern’s absolutely magnificent YA novel Say What You Will. (Full disclosure: Cammie is our neighbor and one of the loveliest human beings on the planet.) “I liked the characters and the way the plot keeps changing,” she says, in what is not, I’ll admit, the most sparklingly worded review ever. That said, she basically lay in bed with the book, reading frantically and breath-holdingly, until she had finished. And then I read it too, and loved it almost as much as she did. Heads up: grown-uppy things happen in this novel about friendship, love, and ability.

Birdy also wants to recommend This Book Was a Tree: Ideas, Adventures, and Inspiration for Rediscovering the Natural World, by Marcie Chambers Cuff (a stranger!). It got the full Birdy Post-it-note treatment, and she got very busy making a terrarium, ASAP. 

She has plans to tackle many more of the lovely, sweetly illustrated projects. Meanwhile. . .

Is this too visually confusing, with the Munchkin lid? Note: you don't need the lid from Munchkin to play Qwixx. 
Our number-one game of the summer, for when we don’t have time for Catan, is the easy card/dice newbie Qwixx. It is somehow the perfect mix of strategic and untaxing, like Yahtzee crossed with Shut the Box crossed with Blackjack. We have played in clam shacks, at home, in our tent, and even at the Laundromat while we were waiting for our bedding to dry after a campground thunderstorm. On the very off-chance that the rules confuse you, here are the two issues we clarified (geek alert): 1) The active player can take the initial white dice. 2) The active player can take only one combination of white and colored dice.

Happy reading and gaming, friends! Please do weigh in with your current favorites. I can't tell you how much of your advice we've taken over the years.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mac's Mai Tais

Sorry, sorry. I know. That was mean. Here it is, right here. I would have posted it sooner, but I was camping. With a giant jar of Mai Tais in the cooler. Mmmm.

I don't know how to explain what's so good about this cocktail. I'm not even really a cocktail person, being a die-hard IPA-loving beer drinker. But these drinks. . . I don't know.

You will have to buy some weird kinds of booze, if you don't already have it. I felt nervous about posting this, and then remembered that it's because I used to food-blog for Disney.
Nobody hasn't loved them.

They're really subtle, even though they're crazy strong; you can't even figure out what's in them, if you don't know. Everyone guesses pineapple. Or cherry something. I think it's the almond mixed with the citrus. Crazy. Happy summer. xo
I've been juicing something like 6 limes to get a cup of lime juice.

Mac's Mai Tais
This is a copycat recipe that I recreated from the ingredients listed in the Mac's Shack cocktail menu, which says only, "Flor de Cana rum, orange curacao, amaretto & lime." I added simple syrup because the drink seemed both too tart and too strong without it. When I made these for a bunch of people, I used a 1-cup measure as the part, and mixed it all in a 1-quart mason jar. If you're making a single drink, you're probably looking at. . . what? Maybe 2 ounces for a part? Did I just turn your summer cocktail-making into a weird math problem?

1 part golden rum (I used Flor de Cana, because of being obedient)
1 part fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 part amaretto
1/2 part orange curacao
1/2 part (more or less) simple syrup (equal amounts of sugar and water, heated together until the sugar dissolves)

Mix together and serve over ice. Garnish with a fresh cherry, if you like.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Perfect Grilled Tofu

If I hadn’t started making copycat Mai Tais from Mac’s Shack in Wellfleet, and if they hadn’t turned out to be the best thing ever, this tofu would be my most-requested recipe of the summer.

I have been making it all the time, for groups both vast and small, and it is tangy, smoky, and perfect. Always good and always loved by all. Plus, easy-peasy. I cannot recommend it enough.

Happy fourth, my lovies. Stay cool (Ponyboy). xo

Perfect Grilled Tofu
This recipe is very easy to double, and you don’t really need to quite double the marinade: about 1 ½ times the recipe is perfect for 4 packages of tofu.

2 (12-ounce) packages extra-firm tofu
½ cup sherry vinegar (This is not the same as cooking sherry. I want to say, "Or a different kind of vinegar," but cannot bring myself to. However, if you try it with a different kind, please report back. I'm sure it will be great.)
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder (or 2 cloves garlic, pressed)
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or ½ as much table salt)
½ teaspoon cayenne (or not, if you don’t want or have)
½ teaspoon dried marjoram or thyme (or not, if you don’t want or have)
Black pepper

Begin by pressing out the extra moisture from the tofu: remove each slab from its aquarium, wrap them in a clean dish towel, and put something heavy on them. I like to use a baking sheet with a full tea kettle on it. Leave it like this for, oh, 5 to 45 minutes. Longer is better, but shorter is totally fine.

Meanwhile, mix together the remaining ingredients.

Cut each piece of tofu into 6 slabs, and put it all in a dish or Ziplock bag for marinating. Pour the marinade over the tofu, cover it, refrigerate it, and leave it to marinate for 30 minutes to 48 hours, turning it occasionally to get all the surfaces saturated. Longer is better, but shorter is totally fine; I probably average around 4 hours, but when I’ve done it for 24, it was amazing.

Oil your grill, preheat it at high, and then turn it down to medium (or do whatever the equivalent is, if you’re using charcoal or a fire-breathing dragon). Put the tofu on the grill (reserve the marinade) and cook it, turning, until it’s well browned, but before the grill marks get black (10-15 minutes total). This from Michael: “There’s a time when it goes from white to beige, but it’s still not done, even though it has grill marks. It needs to get really dark brown before it seems cooked.” (What? I don’t know.)

Now put the tofu back in the dish, and pour the reserved marinade back over it, and eat hot, warm, room-temperature, or cold. Sometimes, and I know this is annoyingly vague, I reduce the marinade a little by boiling it in a small pot, but sometimes I think that’s just so I have something to do while Michael’s cooking it. It is great either way.