Summer vacations rank at the top of our lists of the best times of our lives. And those times have been shared with groups of friends – friends who can cook like nobody’s business. Now, whether we choose friends because they like food, or luck just prevails, well, who’s to say. But it has resulted in some memorable meals.

Memorable doesn’t mean fancy or haute cuisine, or time-killing preparation. Because, hey, it’s vacation. Time spent on the porch with a frosty drink is the only real goal after a long day of fun. So things stay simple, with produce from roadside stands, and always, good bread.

The women I vacation with are smart enough to know they don’t want to cut beach or mountain time short every night to head into the kitchen. So we take turns planning and cooking dinner. OK, sometimes the men pitch in with grill work, or shrimp shelling, but without the women thinking ahead, everyone would be eating peanut butter sandwiches every night.

Even though we keep things casual and breezy, we always gather everyone at the table at the end of the day. Stories get exchanged as the day’s adventures are recounted. And, of course, there’s always time to make fun of certain people’s lack of prowess at paddling a kayak, rock climbing or boogie boarding.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention the best part. As you can see from the photo of a trip to Tybee Island, the men are in charge of setting  the table and clean-up. Now, that’s a real vacation.

A trip to Maggie Valley yielded some excellent new supper ideas  – suitable for high or low elevations –  from our friends Terri, Sheila and Lisa.

You don’t have to be on vacation to enjoy these dishes. If  you can get the guys to clean up afterwards, well, you can almost hear the waves, can’t you?

All of the recipes feed eight people ravenous from playing outdoors. Adjust accordingly to couch potatoes.

 

 

Lisa’s Turkey Burgers

Don’t think bland hockey pucks. These burgers have two key ingredients to add moisture and flavor.

2 pounds ground turkey

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped fine

2 Tbsp. fennel seeds

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 Tbsp. salt

1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper

In a dry skillet over medium heat, lightly toast the fennel seeds until they start to release their odor.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Shape into patties, cover tightly with plastic wrap, refrigerate.

Go outside and play.

Later, grill patties about eight minutes a side.

Leftovers burgers are great when broken up and sauteed in a little olive oil, then folded into scrambled eggs.

 

Sheila’s Asian Steak Salad

2 pounds flank steak

2 Tbsp. Asian fish sauce

2 Tbsp. Asian chile paste

2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

Salad greens

1 bunch green onions, sliced

2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced matchstick style

4 carrots, cut into matchsticks

8 radishes, sliced

1 bunch cilantro, chopped roughly

1 cup dry roasted peanuts

juice of two limes

Olive oil

Combine fish sauce, chile paste and lime juice in a gallon ziptop bag. Place steak in bag and turn to coat in marinade.

Marinate steak for at least 2 hours in refrigerator.

Go outside and play.

When ready, grill steak until medium rare. Let rest for 5 minutes. Then slice on the bias into thin strips.

While steak is grilling, toss greens, green onions, cucumber, carrots and radishes in a large bowl. Drizzle with lime juice and olive oil to taste. Place peanuts in a ziptop bag and crush them with a mallet or sturdy coffee cup into large pieces.

Place salads on plates, top with steak, cilantro and peanuts.

 

Terri’s Chicken Salad

Well, it’s not so much a recipe as a brilliant mix of ingredients.

Prepare your chicken the way you like. Use the mayonnaise you like, then in a large bowl, combine with:

chopped celery

chopped green onions

dried cranberries or cherries

toasted pecans

chopped fresh parsley

chopped fresh basil

celery salt to taste

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Go outside and play.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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