My summer solstice ritual for a couple of years now has been to burn away the old and set intentions for the new, accompanied by a fine meal and mind-opening libations.
This year was the first I was able to be with my sweetheart on the longest day, so a mutual bonfire was a given (with the hope that neither of us had anything of each others’ to burn).
Plus, we had some good friends in town — fun, generous women with fiery souls who are great with food and stories. (I’m not sure how Oysterman manifested being surrounded by women — probably a bonfire some time in the past).
Beautiful things can come out of a fire…. Detail of a chandelier at Chihuly Garden & Glass, Seattle
But the best-laid mice went astray — a burn ban had just gone into effect (apparently I’ve moved from one drought-stricken state to another), so we couldn’t have the hoped-for ritual conflagration.
I decided on symbolic flames instead — I designed a fiery menu of spicy smoked oysters, seared meat, grilled vegetables, hot-sweet libations and a flaming dessert. We would keep the flames internal.
As it was the height of summer, Oysterman of course was up to his boots in oysters, mud and water. So the gals and I invited ourselves for a waterborne afternoon picnic on his boat, the Shannon Rose.
We did let him partake in a few nibbles in between hauling up loads of oysters — and unclipped a few bags ourselves to alleviate our guilt.
Dan and Lynn, working the ropes.
A few Ekone Habanero Hots smoked oysters, crackers with cream cheese and Marionberry Pepper Jelly, and the embers were lit. A bottle of Oyster Blanc (for passengers only!) cooled the fire and smoothed things out until we returned to land.
For the main meal, Oysterman had been prodding me for weeks to try Alton Brown’s technique for searing a skirt steak directly on hot coals, so it seemed like the perfect time to break out the good oak briquets and christen the new barbecue.
Bad picture of good barbecue
Someone suggested Spanish coffee, which apparently involves coffee, Kahlua, 151 rum, open flame, and coordination. It seemed like a ticket directly to the emergency room. Given that all the recipes I found recommended having a fire extinguisher handy, I decided on the less dangerous, but no less incendiary Fiery Mango Margarita.
It’s a different recipe every time I make it, but this time I sort of wrote it down. Okay, I didn’t write down how much Tabasco I put in, but a teaspoon is a good guess — just shake it in there until you find your perfect balance of hot and sweet.
You could also stir in 1/4 cup of Grand Marnier or Patron Citronge, but I like the clean flavors of the mango and lime, so I left them out. And speaking of the emergency room, I don’t recommend more than one of these until AFTER you’re done with the barbecue.
1 cup good quality silver tequila (Patron is preferred!)
3/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 cups frozen diced mango
1 tsp. Tabasco, or to taste
Chili powder & kosher salt for rim
Pour tequila, lime juice and mango into a blender and puree. Add 1-2 cups of ice and annihilate until frosty and creamy.
Mix equal parts chili powder and kosher salt on a plate. Rub rim of glass with lime and dip in salt.
Stir Tabasco to taste into margarita and pour into rimmed glasses. Garnish with lime slices and a smile.
Once we’d seared the steak and wrapped it in foil, I set the grate on the barbecue and grilled some summer veggies (zucchini, yellow squash, sweet peppers, green onions) that had been brushed with good olive oil and generously seasoned with coarse salt and cracked pepper.
Chopped up and tossed with a big bowl of Romaine, the oil and heat from the vegetables, plus a splash of red wine vinegar, is all the dressing you need.
For dessert, I’d planned on fancy S’mores, so I’d gotten a few bars of Lindt Excellence Chile Dark Chocolate, which you can pick up in most grocery stores. But, burn ban, so we ate the chocolate and had another round of margaritas.
But what about our purging bonfire? How was I going to release my bad juju?
As we watched the sun set as late as it would this year, I realized I didn’t need the bonfire after all. My past rituals had served their purpose. I had no bad juju — or maybe the never-ending summer light of the northern latitudes burned it all away without my realizing.
Summer solstice sunset, Surfside, WA.
When I later looked at my “intention” list from 2014, I realized I’d achieved 90% of what I’d set out to do after last year’s solstice — a 10% increase over 2013. So, next year should be perfect, no?
And who needs a bonfire, when you have fiery friends, a passionate partner, and most importantly, you’ve finally seen the light? (HINT: It’s on the INSIDE, and there’s never a burn ban.)
Leave the wake behind you.
But I still have to finish my novel….
FLAMING SOLSTICE MENU
Habanero Hots smoked oysters, Marionberry Pepper Jelly with cream cheese & rice crackers
Alton Brown’s char-grilled skirt steak
Grilled vegetable salad
Fiery Mango Margaritas