Friday, June 4, 2010

The Laughing Girl Goes on a Picnic

The laughing girl, dressed in a fresh white linen dress, joins her friends for a picnic in the mountains. She puts on her favorite straw hat over her long brown braid. The terrain is rugged, especially for a lady outfitted as a lady. The men are willing to help a young lady across the stream.

girl in hat 2

girl in hat 2

Part of being the only girl in a small family is inheriting the family history. These are pictures from my grandfather's photo album, snapshots from the 19-teens when he left Ohio and toured the West. The family thinks the pictures were made in Colorado.

I wish I knew who the girl was - she has such a fresh face. White linen dress, big black bow, face framed by a floppy straw hat. I imagine she has a long brown braid under the hat. The pictures are from a picnic in the mountains and these are the most interesting - which gentleman will carry the pretty girl across the river?
Imagining this grand day, I realize the romance factor has dwindled from my picnics. These days, Clark's sandals and a clean t-shirt and shorts are the order of the day. I like my straw hat, but rely on sunscreen to shield my face because I don't like hat hair.

My Picnic Menu
Pimento Cheese on Crackers
Ham Wraps with Spinach, Cream Cheese and Chives and Red Pepper Slices
Fresh Georgia Watermelon Slices
And brownies, always brownies. These are luscious, fudgy brownies, made rich with cream cheese. I intended to make a cream cheese ribbon through the chocolately cake, but ended up stirring the cream cheese into the batter for an extra-rich brownie. You need to walk an extra mile to burn off these calories, but it's well worth it. After all, you're in your Clark's and not high-button boots.

pimento cheese
Pimento cheese. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books.

Pimento Cheese
This is a boilerplate pimento cheese. There are lots of uptown recipes, and I've bookmarked Bellwether Vance's pimento cheese to try (she also has the ultimate minner cheese story).

8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup mayonnaise, approximately, (I've never bothered to measure)
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons chopped pimentos
1. Shred Cheddar cheese on the coarse side of a hand grater or in a food processor.
2. In a bowl, stir together cheese and enough mayonnaise to bind. Add salt and pimentos. Serve with crackers or on squishy white bread.

Brownies with cream cheese. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Fudgy Icebox Brownies
These brownies came about from a failed attempt to make a cream cheese marble swirl in my regular brownie. I made both batters, swirled them to perfect marbling and placed the pan in the oven. Then I saw the bowl of three eggs, waiting to be used in the brownie batter. Ooops! Out of the oven, batter dumped in a bowl, eggs whisked in to the now-combined cream cheese and brownie batter. The resulting brownies are super-rich due to the cream cheese, and as good as they are warm, they are divine cold, so place them the bottom of the cooler, and finish off the picnic on a high note.

2 sticks unsalted butter, melted

2 cups granulated sugar

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup natural cocoa powder (I use Hershey's)

2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch-square metal baking pan.

2. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Off the heat, stir in sugar, then the cream cheese, followed by the eggs and vanilla. Slowly stir in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt, until the batter is smooth and free of lumps.

3. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick or a skewer inserted 3/4 inch into the center of the brownies comes out with just a few moist clumps clinging to it, about 40 minutes. Let the brownies cool completely in the pan on a rack.

4. Cut into squares. Store the brownies in the refrigerator in a covered container.

Watermelon slices. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Watermelon. What can I say? It's Georgia in June and the watermelons are sweet and available at every fruit and vegetable stand by the side of the road. Chill the melon in the fridge, then carve into chunks and what my family calls "pie slices"- with a handy rind handle for kids to hold.

Text & images © 2010, Lucy Mercer.


Pedro said...

How does the cream cheese change the brownie texture?

Lucy Mercer said...

Pedro, they become super-fudgy, which is the way I like brownies. I'll bring some the next time I see you! Thanks for reading!