Five Ideas for Low Key Backyard Summer Fun
Here are a couple of my ideas for getting together with friends and keeping things chill, spontaneous and fun without leaving your own backyard.
There is nothing in the world as beautiful as Oregon summers. It is 80-90 degrees and sunny every single day – weather paradise, if you ask me. We can drive 20 minutes and pick our own fruit, pay a ridiculously small amount for it, and bring it home and eat it in so many ways. We can leave windows open all day and just enjoy the summer breeze. Air conditioning is not common in stand-alone homes.
Every time I think about fall approaching, it makes me genuinely sad. I know that in most of the country, the arrival of fall is a welcome break from sweltering heat, bugs and thunderstorms. Rustling leaves, layered clothing and whatnot. Well, here, it’s also the arrival of the rain, which won’t stop again until the following June. Given the choice, I’d choose August forever, without a second thought.
Truthfully, the cool, rainy weather is nice in the fall, but not as nice as the summer. I don’t want to think about it while I’ve got peaches, blackberries and tomatoes grown less than 50 miles from my house, or while I can stay in my backyard sipping wine until however late I please, just enjoying the sounds of the city and the smell of my tomato plants.
So as long as I’m in Oregon, summer will always be my favorite.
We made these pancakes with our guests from a week ago. The six of us took the scenic drive up to Sauvie Island and picked peaches, strawberries and blackberries. When I think back on how much local summer fruit I’ve eaten in the past two weeks… well, it’s fruit right? It’s good for you.
This recipe is a riff on my mom’s amazing pancake recipe. We had some really great success with the rise on these pancakes because of a good idea from Dave, to whip the egg whites separately and fold them in last. I also want to emphasize – please do sift your dry ingredients! I started doing it for real a couple weeks ago, and it honestly makes for a better end result.
Here’s what you need:
For the Pancakes:
1 1/4 cup AP flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg, separated
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
For the topping:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cups blackberries
Start the syrup about half an hour before you want to eat pancakes. Stir the three ingredients together in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to medium, but keep it high enough to maintain a full simmer. Crush the blackberries a little with a spoon or potato masher. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes, remove from the heat (put in the freezer if you’re in a hurry). As it cools, it will get thicker, like a pancake syrup or something.
For the pancakes, sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar and salt) into your favorite pancake-making bowl. Whip the egg white until it is at the soft peak stage. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolk, milk and oil. First, add the yolk/milk/oil mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Next, fold in the egg whites.
With a little bit of oil in the pan (not even enough to cover the bottom), heat a skillet on medium-high. When it is hot (it’s important to wait until it’s actually heated!), drop the pancakes onto the pan (1/4 cup makes a pretty large pancake, so use somewhat less than that). They are ready to flip when about 50-75 percent of the top surface area is covered with little bubbles – you’ll also know because they should separate easily from the bottom of the pan. Flip and cook for about half the time on the other side. Both sides should have a nice amount of browning.
Stack and top with the blackberry syrup topping.