We are lucky enough to have a swimming pool in our backyard. And here I insert, “Yes, honey–you were right.” Being the worrying mother of, at the time of purchase, one fair swimmer, one poor swimmer and one non-swimmer, I was more than a little stressed about the idea of buying a house with a pool. As a matter of fact, I said “Absolutely not!” during more than a dozen conversations. Fast forward to a backyard filled with glistening, chlorinated water.
I was focused on safety. I would lie awake at night, surrounded by moving boxes, having the nightmares that every responsible pool owner shares. Too horrific to even recount. I never even considered the upside.
And then it happened, Moving Day July 24, 2009. After hours of loading, unloading, directing, positioning, wiping and sweeping in the 93 degree heat, the whole family needed a break. Bathing suits were unearthed, a life vest secured (my youngest wore the vest outside and in for the remainder of that first summer) and into the pool we plunged. Heaven! Refreshing, yes. Invigorating, certainly. But, surprisingly, FUN! The kids were laughing, working as a team, making up games and having a blast. Gary & I were smiling, soothing tired muscles and goofing around. The stresses of the day, and even weeks prior, literally lifted. The pool offered the relief we craved and the entertainment that we (I) never even considered.
It didn’t take a lightening bolt for me to realize that this catharsis would translate to all of our summer (even late spring and early fall) entertaining. If I could restrain my need to research the perfect summer menu and prepare platters of seasonal ingredients, I could entertain kids, families, adults–close friends and new acquaintances–with a mere bag of chips. Food is an afterthought when there is water to splash and dives to judge. No whines of “I’m booored” when there are rafts to mount and sneak attacks to wage.
Of course, I still love to try out new marinades for the grill and cut thick slices of juicy heirloom tomatoes. There isn’t a salad recipe I haven’t tested, with one of my “most requested” being the Grilled Zucchini Ribbon Salad, below. This one takes advantage of the bounty of zucchini sold reasonably at every farm stand across the country. But the bottom line is, nothing beats entertaining by the pool with a big bag of Utz Salt & Vinegar chips.
- 8 small to medium zucchini, roughly 4 lbs (smaller the tastier)
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 6 cloves of minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 2 Tbls freshly chopped parsley leaves
- 2 Tbls freshly chopped basil
- 6 Tbls toasted pine nuts, optional
- shaved Parmesan, to taste
- Heat grill to med-high. Wash zucchini & trim ends. Using a vegetable peeler, thinly slice the zucchini lengthwise. Toss the slices with 1/3 c olive oil, salt & pepper. Quickly grill the zucchini slices on one side until lightly marked, about 1-2 minutes. Remove to a bowl and let cool slightly.
- When slightly cooled, toss zucchini in a bowl with the remaining ingredients except nuts and cheese. Spread onto a serving platter, top with pine nuts, if using, and shaved Parmesan. Eat and enjoy!