Home Is Where the Coney Is

Lake Michigan’s coastline from 30,000 feet

Lake Michigan’s coastline from 30,000 feet

Great Lakes. Tigers (the baseball playing kind). “Up North.” Lemonade. Ice cream. Coney dogs.

This eclectic group of pastimes and food cravings describe summertime in Michigan, my home state. And I remembered just what makes summer so summery (besides steamy Midwest temps) in the Great Lake state during a recent visit home to celebrate my nieces Abbey’s and Allie’s graduations.

As my older niece Allie wrapped up her high school career, the primo food event that week centered on her graduation open house – when family and her parents’/grandparents’ friends would embarrassingly (but lovingly) reminisce about “how fast she’d grown up.” And memories and food go hand-in-hand.

Months ago, Allie landed on her open house theme: summer picnic. Daisies and a summer picnic. Let the picnicking begin …

Lemonade + Iced Tea

Every summer picnic’s favorite refreshing combo – as good apart as they are together. A Michigander enjoys an “Arnold Palmer” as much as the next guy.

Who doesn't love a pitcher of Arnold Palmer?

Who doesn’t love a pitcher of Arnold Palmer?

Summer Salad

Michigan builds cars. But did you know we also build a killer salad bar? A real Michigan salad never leaves off dried sweet/tart cherries (sometimes cranberries), crumbly blue cheese, crunchy pecans or walnuts and a tangy vinaigrette dressing. Toss in crisp cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, crispy bacon bits – with a side of my mom’s homemade macaroni salad – and you’ve got a picnic salad party.

Fresh Fruit

Traverse City, on the banks of northern Lake Michigan, is one of the world’s cherry capitals. Michigan also happens to grow some of the juiciest, sweetest, bluest blueberries. It’s true. If you’re ever at a Michigan summer picnic without a fruit salad heavy on the blueberries, something has gone wrong.

Essential for a Michigan summer picnic!

Essential for a Michigan summer picnic!

Sweet Daisies

Apple blossoms are Michigan’s official state flower, but daisies are a universal summer thing. This picnic sported white chocolate daisy lollipops from a local candy maker among the daisy desserts.

Daisy desserts are the perfect treat for a summer party

Daisy desserts are the perfect treat for a summer party

Not Just Any Hotdog

Hotdogs … an American summer staple. This open house picnic hotdog spread (my sister’s genius) included recipes & ingredients to tailor your ‘dog: Barbeque Bacon-style, Ballpark-style, Chicago-style. But the ultimate Michigan picnic show stealer is the Coney Island Dog (or “Coney” if you’re a local): grilled beef hotdog, with locally made Coney sauce (all meat), yellow mustard and chopped white onion. And you’ll only make the rookie mistake once of describing a Coney as “just like a chili dog.” Flint Coney? Detroit Coney? Different towns put their unique spin on their Coney secret sauce. Serious sauce business … worthy of its own blog post. (Ask Anthony Bourdain, who just scratched the Coney surface during his ‘Parts Unknown’ Detroit journey.)

Uniquely, deliciously, purely Michigan.

If you find yourself exploring Michigan, just ask where to find a good Coney and directions to “Up North” (which really does exist) … and a friendly Michigander will point you the right way.

What gives you comfort during a cold Russian winter? The bliny!

A 12-inch high pile of plain, simple, lighter-than-air pancakes, with a little piece of creamy butter melting on top, making you fantasize about all kind of fillings you could wrap it around like a Mexican tortilla – that’s a classical form of bliny (by the way, “bliny” is correct plural from “blin”) in Russian culture.

A stack of light-as-air bliny. Source: Vadim Trablin, Russian food blogger (http://trablin.livejournal.com)

A stack of light-as-air bliny. Source: Vadim Trablin, Russian food blogger (http://trablin.livejournal.com)

Bliny is one of the ancient Slavic (Slavs are the Russians’ ancestors) ceremonial dishes that became an important part of Russian cuisine with the ritual of Maslenitsa – a week in the end of February when people say goodbye to the winter.

Source: Wikipedia.

“Winter Fun” by Fedot Sychkov. Source: Wikipedia.

By their form, classical Russian bliny differ from what many call “blinis” abroad, which are really finger-thick round and puffy pancakes. For that form Russians have another word – “oladyi.” Russian bliny pancakes are close to French crepes: thin, fragile and foldable.

There are as many recipes of bliny as there are comestible liquids in the kitchen. People use plain water, milk, kefir (fermented yoghurt-like milk), and even beer as the base for bliny. My favorite recipe is included in this @ppetite post, below.

Rolled bliny with raspberry sauce. Source: Vadim Trablin.

Rolled bliny with raspberry sauce. Source: Vadim Trablin.

Russian Bliny

2 eggs
2 tablespoons (25 g) sugar
2 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons (600bg) water
1 1/3 cups (160 g) flour
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil

Beat  the eggs with sugar, till sugar dissolves completely. Add water; stir. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, then add to the liquid base. Stir clockwise till the mixture becomes homogenous. Let mixture rest for an hour. Add the oil, stir clockwise. Bake the bliny on a 22-24 cm pan (the best proportion of bliny batter for that pan is about a half of a soup ladle). Cook batter for one minute then flip and cook for one minute more. (Turning a blin can be tricky at first, but anyone can master it with practice.)

Pile them up to feed the whole family!

You can eat bliny with all kinds of traditional Russian fillings/toppings: sour cream, honey, chopped fried meat and/ormushrooms, salted salmon eggs, any kind of jam and sooo many other salty/sugary imaginable combinations.

Be creative and have fun!

Yo — It’s Super Bowl Time — Let’s Eat Jersey Style

More than 100 million people globally are expected to watch this year’s Super Bowl when the Denver Broncos face off against the Seattle Seahawks.  One of the things I love about the Super Bowl is that it’s much more than a game – it’s an entire event that brings ages and genders together.  This year the game takes place at Metlife Stadium  in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  That’s right, New Jersey, home of Frank Sinatra and Tony Soprano. It’s also known as The Garden State. Go ahead, guffaw. I know not many people outside of New Jersey really believe that New Jersey has some of the best farmland in the country (heck, some don’t believe it has anything other than highways!).  But, stop by any local farmer’s market on your drive down the shore and get yourself some tomatoes, sweet corn, and blueberries. I promise, you’ll be a believer.

A typical New Jersey Shore Farm Stand (Photo source: popoflanigan.com)

A typical New Jersey Shore Farm Stand (Photo source: popoflanigan.com)

By now, you probably gathered that I’m a Jersey girl – and proud of it. (Ok, truth be told, I now reside in New York but you know the saying – you can take the girl out of Jersey….). So, I thought it might be fun to share a few of our classic Jersey meals and show you what my family will be enjoying on game day.

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Breakfast Around the World

Food is a universal language in whichever country you call home. What is served at each meal is not always quite as universal. I remember as a child visiting family in Turkey thinking that eating tomatoes, feta cheese, olives and bread for breakfast was crazy. Well, with age comes wisdom, and I now remember those Turkish breakfasts as some of the best I’ve ever had.

Click here to view the infographic.

Click here to view the infographic.

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