Greetings from south of the Mason-Dixon line. We have arrived in Kiawah Island, South Carolina after a 13-hour drive and I fear I’ve already forgotten how to string sentences together (#vacationbrain) so let’s get right to this week’s trio dispatch…
1. I-95 South is Brutal but a Good Audiobook Helps
On the drive down to South Carolina, I listened to Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot. The only thing this absolutely gripping page-turner is more perfectly suited for than a 13-hour road trip down I-95 is maybe a lazy afternoon on the beach, which is exactly where I finished it the next day. The NYT bestseller goes down easy, but the writing is textured and observant and just excellent. There are twists within twists and plots within plots and the overarching one goes like this: A sad-sack once-promising writer steals a surefire bestselling plot from one of his writing workshop students who has died, becomes an overnight sensation, then lives with the threat of his secret being exposed. I’m not a huge audiobook listener, but when I find the right one — and this was definitely the right one — there’s nothing better.
2. Warm Summer Shrimp Salad with Butter Beans
We’ve been vacationing in Kiawah forever, and it doesn’t matter how long the drive has been, or how tired we are of being in the car (or the plane) we always stop at our favorite open-air market on the way to the island. No matter what we are in the mood for, no matter what time of year it is, this place will have something to meet the moment. Usually that mood involves shrimp, which is off-the-boat fresh and sweet and otherworldly down here. Sitting next to the cooler that held the shrimp were bags of fresh butter beans, next to those were deep, rich red heirloom tomatoes, and next to them was a beautiful corn display. In other words, the recipe for my first vacation dinner was essentially written for me…
Warm Summer Shrimp Salad with Butter Beans
1 1/2 pounds shrimp, shelled
7 red potatoes, chopped into 1-inch chunks
1 cup fresh butter beans (or frozen limas)
3 ears corn
1 medium-large beautiful summer tomato (the best you can find), chopped
5 scallions, white and light green parts only, minced finely
Place two medium-large pots of water on the stove. When one comes to boil, add the shrimp and cook exactly three minutes, then drain running cold water over them to cool. Add to a large serving bowl, keeping the strainer in the sink. In the other pot, add potatoes and cook 8-10 minutes until tender. (Test by slicing one; the knife should meet no resistance.) Using a slotted spoon, scoop them out and into the strainer. Add the butter beans to the pot, and cook until tender, about 8 minutes (less if frozen, about 5 probably). Using a slotted spoon, scoop the beans into the strainer as well. Repeat with ears of corn, simmering in water for 3-4 minutes, before straining. Run all the strained vegetables under a little cold water.
When cool enough to handle, cut kernels off the corn and add to the shrimp. Add all the cooked vegetables into the salad bowl, top with scallions, drizzle with dressing (below), and serve.
Dressing: In a small jar or measuring cup, shake or whisk 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, salt and pepper, fresh chopped herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon, dill, basil). Shake or whisk 1/3 cup olive oil into jar in steady stream until emulsified.
3. From the Picky Eater Files
Thank you to everyone who took a few minutes to take the survey I sent in last week’s newsletter. One of the big takeaways for me was that even though my girls will both be off to college in 36 days 5 hours and 10 minutes, amazingly there are still parents out there who have young kids (even babies! Lucky!) who are interested in learning how to turn them into good eaters. I was digging around for old bits of advice and I found a little nugget which I actually still deploy all the time, especially during these last few Weekday Vegetarian years of Campaign Tofu:
Never Answer a Kid When He or She Asks “What’s For Dinner?” Especially if it’s something new. Just repeat these words: “I Don’t Know Yet.” Giving a kid some time to think about a dish that they potentially hate or that is just downright mysterious gives them a window to formulate an argument against the food — and also gives them time to convince you to make them something else. Repeat: I Don’t Know Yet.
It’s from a story on Picky Eater Advice I wrote for Cup of Jo, and it also reminded me about another fun strategy I wrote about called Muffin Tin Tapas (above) which is exactly what it sounds like, and, truthfully the way I wish someone would cook for me. Lots of little bites in colorful muffin papers. I want to be a kid again! I want to have babies again! Girls! Don’t leave me!
(P.S. my second book Dinner: The Playbook is all about getting kids to flex their adventure muscles.)
Have a great week!