It's Going to be an Eggcelent Summer

Dearest Libby,

Summer is officially here in Seattle.  The sun is shining (finally!), the temperatures are hitting the 90s, and the kids are all out of school.  Its rainy and grey here so much during the year – people always want to know how we stand it. But I tell you: it’s for these next three months, during which Seattle is the most glorious city. 

With June out of school, the pressure is on as an involved parent to get her out of the house and into as many activities as possible.  Why is that?  I remember my early childhood summers being spent at home, riding my bike, playing with toys, eating homemade popsicles (my mom literally just froze juice in tupperware containers but we were too dumb to know the difference).  And I've read that a little boredom is good for kids - it forces them to develop their imagination. But now, if you don’t have your kid in music, art, and x-game training by the time they are walking, somehow, you are behind.   I am, of course, so very skeptical of it all, but not so much that I haven’t fallen victim to the pressure. Hence, June’s Teeny Tennis Camp.

This is a “camp” filled with 3, 4 and 5 year olds who are “learning” to “play tennis.”  It’s a week long activity, offered 10 weeks out of the summer, with daily sessions that last 45 minutes.  Let me give you the list of reasons why this whole thing is ridiculous.

1)   Shouldn’t "camp" last longer than 45 minutes?  Isn’t the whole point to take the place of school thus giving parents much needed respite?  I no sooner drop her off than I need to pick her up again, so I have decided to just sit there and watch the whole time.  This is definitely not as useful to me as school.

2)   All of the teachers seem to love kids, but clearly not one of them has any.  Or they wouldn’t wonder why telling a three year-old to “hold the handle of your racket with your right hand and turn your palm so it is facing the ceiling while you extend your left hand out to the side” is met with blank stares.

3)   I saw a ball hit a racket 4 times.  Nine kids, five 45-minute sessions – you do the math.

4)   Some of the kids have their own racket.

5)   Some of the kids have their own racket.

6)   With color coordinated tennis outfits.

7)   Did I mention these are pre-schoolers?

8)   The water fountain with mini dixi cups draws more of the kids’ attention than anything else on the court.

I mean, it is fun to watch her as she diligently tries to figure out what the teachers are telling her to do.  And she was one of the kids whose racket actually hit the ball this week, so clearly a tennis prodigy. Plus, I took a million videos so that next year, when I feel the pressure to sign her up for this again, I can see the improvement and know that it was all worth it.  But, the whole thing does feel a little silly.

I realize this is long-winded and not at all why I initially wanted to write.  I am actually writing in response response to your potato salad thoughts from earlier in the week.  You mentioned no mayonnaise, which I completely understand because I love potato salad without mayo better, too. But, then I started thinking about how mayonnaise is so great with so many other things.  Which then got me thinking about even better mayo - homemade!!  I remember your French mother made it not infrequently and we were both shocked by how good it was.  So, I thought I would make some and see what delicious things I could add it to.

When making mayo, there is always this concern about raw eggs, one to which I paid little attention until I realized my little one would be eating it.  I have read before that you can home pasteurize  if you cook an egg in its shell at 140 degrees F for 3 ½ minutes.  But further research found equally persuasive articles that said there is no such thing as home pasteurization.  I felt I had three options: one, use a raw egg and probably perish; two, coddle the egg which at leasts lessons the risk and is no worse than eating eggs-over-easy; or three, make a sabayon-based mayo.  A cleverer person would have realized that you can actually buy eggs pasteurized and save yourself a whole lot of trouble.  Too late.

I decided to start with a coddled egg yolk, for ease.  I accomplished this by bringing a pot of water to a boil, dropping the egg in gently, then cooking at a low simmer for 3 minutes.  I rinsed it in cool water then poked a large hole in the top and let the yolk drain out into a bowl.

For the sabayon style, I followed the recipe in my dog-eared Joy of Cooking whereby you combine 3 egg yolks with 3-4 tablespoons of water and whisk together over medium heat until the mixture is "frothy and beginning to stiffen and you can glimpse the bottom of the bowl as you whisk."  A little ambiguous, but strangely, it worked.

To each yolk version, I added a little lemon juice, white vinegar, salt and pepper, whisked in some oil, et, voila!!  Both were FABULOUS.

Since technically homemade mayo only lasts a day or two, having a little arsenal of things you plan to use it on is key.  Hence, my list below.

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Today was the last day of tennis camp before the holiday and at the end, one of the teachers turned to the class and asked those who had borrowed rackets to return them to this big bin in the back.  One of the kids who had actually brought his own racket turned to the teacher and said, “What’s a racket?”  Need I say more?

Homemade Mayo, served 5 ways

1 egg yolk (you can buy pasteurized eggs, use a coddled yolk or sabayon-style yolk for safety.  See above)

1 - 2 Tblsp white vinegar or lemon juice (I use a combo)

¼ C olive oil

¼ C vegetable oil

salt and pepper to taste

Place egg yolk, vinegar and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk together.  Add olive oil, drizzling very slowly and whisking constantly, allowing the mixture to emulsify and thicken (if it starts to separate, stop adding oil and whisk vigorously until it looks homogenous).  Add vegetable oil in a similar manner.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Keeps in fridge for 2 days.

Mayo 5 ways

As a spread:  Slather on toast with fresh tomatoes, salt and pepper. Yum! 

As a binder:  Add to hard boiled eggs that have been mashed to a pulp for fabulous egg salad. 

As a dressing:  Use as the base for a favorite caeser dressing.

As a dip:  Fresh steamed artichokes or radishes will find no better accoutrement!

As a sauce: Add any number of herbs or spices to make it your own.  Add garlic = aioli! Wonderful poured on fish, chicken or beef, depending on what you add!