Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer: Then & Now

And another week flies by - that always happens with summer, the days all run into one another, with no thought for the date or day of the week.  I used to think that the cause of this phenomenon was due to the fact that my schedule was broken down, giving me nothing to judge time against.  But even with the firm regularity of a full-time job, I find myself unsure of what day it is, let alone what month.  I'm glad that the endless-summer feel of my childhood has not been lost in my slow, hesitant journey to adulthood.

With the arrival of the quintessential summer, what better way to celebrate than with a family barbecue?  Now, let's just say I kinda love my family.  Like a lot.  Not only are my immediate family and I freakishly close, but I'm lucky enough to have all of my extended family living within a 20 mile radius.  My aunts and uncles have always been some of my favorite people in the whole world, but as I've gotten older I've come to know them as more than just "aunts" and "uncles" and more as people, and they are really great people.  My cousins aren't half bad either - actually, our extreme closeness is starting to become a little bit of a problem as we have begun to morph into the same person, both physically and mentally.  This past weekend was one of said twin-cousin's 17th birthday (see right).  When she was younger she would have these big bashes in her backyard - the parents up on the patio chatting and sipping drinks that my Uncle "The Daiquiri Man" Jack mixed up, us kids tearing around the yard and occasionally across the patio, one after the other, during intense games of hide-and-seek tag.  We would take a break only long enough to grab a plate of food, sing Happy Birthday, and woof down some cake.  Losing the sunlight didn't stop us either, we actually looked forward to it, because it meant only one thing: Man Hunt - the only light being the moon and stars in the country sky (which made it both fun and frightening, especially when crouched in far edges of the yard near the thick line of trees in the back, the farthest point away from the patio and our parents).  And no party was complete without a half an hour search for some unfortunate guest's flip-flops in the endless darkness of the backyard.  My cousin hasn't had one of these parties in a few years, but this year, this was the year she brought them back.  While this time I spent the day on the patio with The Daiquiri Man, the tradition and nostalgia of the day was not lost, but I got to experience them from the other side.  I loved bonding with my aunts and uncles, and especially hearing stories of when they were younger, and laughing far, far too hard.  Another great thing about being a little bit older is being able to contribute - in the form of food of course.  Since hamburgers and hot dogs were already on the menu, I decided to whip up some Salmon BurgersDeviled Eggs, and Summer Green Bean Pasta Salad (recipe below).  This pasta salad, my mother's brainchild, has been a staple during the barbecue season for years, though I gave it a little update with the addition of chickpeas and a splash of ginger-mandarin dressing.  It felt really good to be able to bring something to the party, like giving back for all those great parties of summer's past.  Plus, I got compliments on both the burgers and the salad, which is always nice.

Summer Green Bean Pasta Salad
½ lb fresh green beans, ends removed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lb rotini pasta
1 small red onion, chopped
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup ginger-mandarin dressing

+ Fill a large pot ¾ of the way up with water, salt and bring to boil.  Add pasta and cook until done, take pot off heat.  Remove pasta with slotted spoon or small strainer.  Place in large bowl and set aside.
Put the water back onto boil, and add the green beans.  Cook until soft, but slightly crunchy.  Strain and add to pasta.
+ Add the onion, apricots, cranberries, chickpeas, and dressing, then stir until well combined.  Best served right out of the fridge.

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