As much as I love falling leaves, fireplaces, and pumpkins, I’m not ready to say good-bye to summer just yet! I have had so many picnics at Blossom Music Center and in our beloved Cuyahoga Valley this year, that I just want to linger over a few more and pretend I’m in the south of France. Let’s create a French Country Picnic! It will be perfect for those last days of summer when the air turns just cool enough to throw on a cozy sweater, but where we can still sit outside at a table set just for us.
When I think of the foods my mom made growing up that were really of our Russian/Mennonite heritage, there is one dish that must be made in the summertime – Roll Kuchen (“rolled cookie”) and Watermelon. I know the words sound strange, but this dish is a delightful mixture of deep-fried dough, yep! and delicious fresh watermelon that is best eaten outside on a hot summer day. The origins of Roll Kuchen are not entirely known but I’m guessing it was made many times in Russia after our ancestors harvested fields of watermelon.
The dough uses simple, fresh ingredients and has just enough salt to compliment the sweet, juicy watermelon. The hot dough and cold watermelon seem to play off each other like a happy song in your head. And if you’re lucky and have some fresh strawberries or blueberries on hand, it’s also delicious to make some filled Roll Kuchen. Just mix your chopped fruit with a little sugar and include these dough pockets in your meal (make sure they are sealed or they will splatter like crazy in the oil!). When my mom and I made these last, a friend had just dropped off some fresh-picked wild northern Saskatchewan blueberries (not Saskatoon-berries like I used for this delicious pie, but also amazing!), and they were perfect for a few filled Roll Kuchen.
Mix your dough ingredients together until you can knead on the counter to incorporate all the wet with dry ingredients. Then let your dough rest for about 20 minutes. My grandma probably did this more than my mom, but when my mom and I made it last, I hopped in the shower and then came back to fry them up, and that worked well!
While the dough is resting, start slowly heating your lard in a large frying pan on medium-high heat. I know what you’re saying – “lard?!! Who eats lard anymore?! Do you want me to die of a heart attack right now, today?!” But honestly, good old-fashioned lard is making a comeback because of all the other crap ingredients in manufactured products, and my parents have found it to produce the flakiest, least greasy results. If you want to experiment with other oils, be my guest!
Now it’s time to roll out the dough and get going! Those are my mom’s beautiful hands, by the way. 🙂 Roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and then cut into long squares with slits in the middle of each – this will ensure even browning and that they don’t puff up too much. For filled kuchen, cut into square, put about a 1/4c filling in the middle and pinch edges to seal tightly.
Test the oil heat with a small piece of dough. If it bubbles and starts to brown, it’s ready. If it’s too hot, the oil will splatter and almost burn the kuchen quickly. If it’s too cold, the dough will just sink and start to absorb the oil. Slowly slip pieces into the oil and fry on each side just until lightly browned. They will brown more as they rest.
Remove your kuchen to a paper towel-lined cookie sheet to drain any excess oil. Now eat! And I dare you to not dance a happy dance as you bite into the crispy, hot kuchen and alternate with watermelon that just happens to drip all over your face. It doesn’t matter, it’s happening to everyone! Enjoy!
2 c heavy whipping cream
2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
3.5 c flour or enough to make a dough you can knead
Mix all ingredients and knead together. Let stand 20 minutes on the counter.
Meanwhile, melt lard slowly in a large frying pan – to total about 2 inches of oil.
Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness, and cut in ong rectangles with two slits in the middle.
Test the oil heat with small piece of dough. Fry until light golden on each side, and remove to pan to dry.
Summertime, grilling, Mexican food, need I say more? It’s time to throw some shrimp on the “barbie” and have a feast! Of course we could grill shrimp several ways. Right now, I love the idea of marinating the raw shrimp in lime and tequila – it’s like they’re drinking a margarita. 🙂 Add some flavors and spice, and we are in business.
If you have not tried Chipotle peppers before, you must. You can find them in your grocer in the Mexican food aisle, and they will be in a small can labeled “Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce”. They have a unique, smoky flavor without much heat and are delicious in Mexican food and chili, too. Once you open the can, you can use the portion you need and freeze the rest to chop up as needed. For these tacos, we’ll use some to create a creamy mayo-based dressing, aka an aioli.
Ok my mouth is watering, let’s get going already!
For the shrimp:
15 large shrimp, peeled, deveined
1/4 cup tequila
juice from two limes
2 TB chopped fresh cilantro
dash cayenne pepper
dash sea salt
Chipotle lime mayo:
1/2 cup mayonaise
2 teaspoons chipotle peppers (canned in adobo sauce), chopped finely
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
shredded carrot, lettuce, cabbage mix
sliced grape tomatoes
1 pkg flour taco tortillas
Combine the tequila, lime juice, cilantro, cayenne, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the shrimp and marinate for at least 30 minutes. Mix all the ingredients for the chipotle mayo and refrigerate. Prepare all the toppings and set aside. Thread the shrimp on 3 skewers and grill until opaque and cooked through. Warm the taco shells for 30 seconds in the microwave with a taco warmer or on a plate under paper towels. Assemble tacos with shrimp, toppings, and the mayo.
Pour yourself a cerveza, that’s Spanish for beer, ya know 😉 or a margarita and eat up!
Vamos a comer! (ok, that means “let’s eat” in Spanish!) I’ll stop now. 🙂