Like I said in my last post, last weekend I had a birthday party at my house. There was a tropical theme... a sari and a grassy skirt for the table... paper lanterns overhead... and I kept an eye out in thrift stores and amassed a dozen or so Hawaiian shirts for guests to wear at the party and then take home with them afterwards -- pretty awesome party favor, yes?
The thrift stores here have alot of Hawaiian shirts, both vintage and new, because Alaskans go to Hawaii alot. We non-contiguous states gotta stick together.
I love hosting parties -- the planning, the music, the drinks, the food, the fun. And one of the reasons I like throwing parties so much is purely selfish: I love having a reason to get the house all cleaned-up and organized and, in the case of this party, I got the screened-in back porch and the backyard all ship-shape and ready for summer, which is a nice change of pace from last year, when I never really did much of anything with the back porch and it went ignored and cluttered and spider-webby for the whole season.
Ready to party:
I even treated myself to a couple of new chairs for people to lounge on:
I have visions of sitting in those chairs this summer, reading a book, but the out-of-doors is so thick with mosquitos right now that I don't think I'd last more than a few minutes before I beat a hasty retreat back into the house. Luckily, the bugs weren't quite so obnoxious last weekend and we spent most of the party outside. Alaska is experiencing something of a heat wave at the moment. We've had days and days and days of sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s and 80s. It's quite unusual. Ordinarily, we'll have a couple of days of nice weather then a couple of days of clouds and rains. Sometimes it up and decides to rain all summer. Nobody appreciates a sunny summery day better than an Alaskan. We are soaking this weather up!
We spun some tunes on the record player on the back porch:
It was a double-header party. Two friends had birthdays, one doesn't like the fuss of a birthday party, and so we focused much of the frivolity on the other party-loving birthday girl. A sure sign that you're in Alaska -- a bunch of us chipped in and got one of the birthday girls her own dipnetting net and she was so overwhelmed with gratitude that it brought her to tears. Something tells me that women in other parts of the world might not be so thrilled by the idea of receiving fishing gear for their birthday? I can't wait to take her and her new net fishing next month when it's time to dipnet for salmon!
For the other gal, I got her a box of moscato and some of these sippy glasses.
My friend Angie came over the morning of the party and helped me cook up a bunch of party dishes. Two of our favorites were this summer vegetable and barley salad and this polenta with spring vegetables. Both were excellent and because we made alot, I had leftovers for days.
The barley salad was even good for breakfast. I sauteed up a couple of big spoonfuls of it in a frying pan to cook the raw vegetables a little and then I stirred in an egg to make a eggy leftover hash of sorts.
Here are the recipes, both courtesy of The Kitchn:
Summer Barley Salad
serves 6 to 8
5 cups cooked pearl barley (from 1 cup raw)
1 cup red pepper, diced (about 1 pepper)
1 1/2 cups fresh, cooked corn kernels (from about 2 ears or use thawed frozen)
1 cup zucchini, diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup sherry vinegar or lemon juice
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 T mint, finely chopped
Toss the vegetables with the barley. Mix the vinegar, garlic and oil in a bowl and pour over the barley and vegetables. Sprinkle on salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, and the herbs and toss again until everything is combined. Taste for seasoning. Serve room temperature or chilled.
Polenta with Spring Vegetable RagoutServes 4
4 cups light vegetable broth or water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 2-inch pieces
8 baby carrots (about 4 ounces), trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
6 radishes (about 4 ounces), trimmed and cut into quarters
1/2 cup light vegetable broth or water
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 2- to 3-inch pieces
8 ounces shelled peas (fresh or frozen)
1 tablespoon each coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley, chives, and tarragon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Additional olive oil and herbs for garnish
To make the polenta, bring the vegetable broth or water to a boil in a 2- to 3-quart pot over moderate heat. Add the salt and then slowly add the polenta while whisking. Reduce heat to low and continue whisking until the polenta is thickened. Cover the pot and continue cooking. Every 10 minutes, stir the polenta vigorously, scraping the sides of the pan. Continue cooking for 30-40 minutes until polenta reaches desired thickness and creaminess. Stir in the olive oil. Serve within 15 minutes.