I may be wrong -- and Lord knows I’m wrong a lot of the time -- but I think summer may finally be here. Let me run down my check list:
n The days are sunny and warm. Well, they may be occasionally sunny, but I’m not too sure how many warm days we’ve had. I came home from work last Thursday to find the pool guys opening our pool for the season. Remember Thursday’s weather? It was windy and hovering in the low 50s. Definitely not a pool day.
My son, David and I have had a few issues with opening the pool this year. I remembered my husband hooking up a small pump and pumping the water off the cover before the pool guys came, so I had David hook it up one afternoon. We left for a few hours and came home to discover that more than half of the pool was empty. Come to find out, the pool cover is designed to catch debris like leaves, but it allows water to permeate. Guess we had replaced the cover at some point Š
The next calamity occurred when David left me at home with the instructions to refill the pool with water, add shock and turn on the pump. I did all of the above -- and a gush of water erupted from the bottom of the pump filter. Seems he had neglected to close a valve and, since I had no idea what I was doing, I watched as the water level dropped again.
But, as I sit here on the deck, the pump is doing its thing and the water is crystal clear -- too bad it’s way too cold for me to take the initial plunge.
n The rhododendrons by our front door are in bloom -- OK, not completely, but they’re getting there. They are usually in full glory for Memorial Day.
n The house smells like a wet dog -- and well it should since our Lab, Sassy (aka Esther Williams), spends most of her waking hours in the pool. Another sign is that my right arm develops some muscle from throwing the retrieving decoy for her over and over and over again. We also spell p-o-o-l and s-w-i-m-m-i-n-g. If we forget, the one who utters the word gets stuck taking her to do her water aerobics.
n The tree frogs and peepers are in full chorus every night at dusk. We had a tree frog residing in our pool until we opened it. David and I stalked it, trying to relocate it far from our house. Boy, those little critters can scream!
n I have officially swapped our regular dinnerware for our "summer china and crystal" -- plastic plates, salad bowls, glasses and wineglasses. I don’t like to use porcelain or glass on the two decks because everyone goes barefoot and I don’t want to risk broken glass shards.
n I have finally shed my turtlenecks completely and have put regular cotton sheets on my bed. The heavy comforter is washed and put away and the summer quilt is on the bed instead.
n I’m sleeping with the bedroom windows open, and I love hearing the trains that rumble through the city at night. Is it my imagination or do they sound louder and nearer if it’s going to rain or when it is raining?
n The ice cream truck is making its rounds, and I can hear the neighborhood kids running after it. My question when David was little was always: Why does the truck always come right before supper?
n I find I want to spend less time in the kitchen, so my meal plans center around dishes that require little or no cooking and salads of one kind or another become a staple. At this point of the summer, I crave macaroni and potato salad served with grilled burgers and slightly charred hot dogs. By Labor Day, I’ll be hoping I never see any of them ever again.
Yup, summer is here ...
Tonight, David and I made pizza on the grill for the first time this summer. For those who have never tried it before, It’s really easy and good.
I take a pound of store-bought pizza dough and cut it into five or six pieces that I press out into thin pizza rounds. Don’t worry if they’re not perfect -- they look rustic if they’re not. Place on a cookie sheet and set aside.
Heat the grill to a moderately high heat. Brush olive oil on the top of the pizza dough rounds. Place rounds olive oil side down. While grilling them, brush olive oil on the other side. Grill until golden brown (watch carefully because they will cook very quickly) and then flip and cook the other side of the rounds. Place back on the cookie sheet when cooked. Top with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and desired toppings. Place the cookie sheet on the grill rack and put the cover on the grill. (I usually turn off one side of the grill and put the cookie sheet on that side, letting the heat from the lit burners on the other side melt the cheese and heat the toppings through. Watch carefully. Take off the heat and enjoy!
Loaded Baked Potato Salad combines all the best flavors of an amped-up baked potato: Sour cream, bacon, cheddar and green onions. I prefer to use red potatoes that I’ve boiled, as opposed to using the baked Russet potatoes. There’s nothing like a good mealy, baked Russet potato, but to me they’re a little too crumbly for potato salad.
Loaded Baked Potato Salad
4 to 6 servings
2 pounds Russet potatoes, scrubbed and pricked all over with a fork or knife
3Ž4 cup mayonnaise
3Ž4 cup sour cream
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1Ž2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1Ž2 cup chopped scallions (green part only)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake the potatoes for 45 to 50 minutes, or until tender and cooked through. Set aside to cool completely.
Once potatoes are completely cool, cut into 1Ž2-inch pieces.
In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and sour cream. Add the potatoes, bacon, cheese, green onion, salt and pepper, and fold together gently with a rubber spatula until completely combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours before serving. Garnish with additional bacon, shredded cheddar and green onion, if desired.