We hosted a dinner party the other night in honor of Independence Day. The town nearest the lake house has a fireworks display with the rockets being launched from a hilltop, and people with boats head out onto the lake after sundown and watch the display at anchor. It's always fun, but when a critter like a chipmunk or squirrel sneaks aboard beforehand and chews through your wiring, you're better off watching the show from your dock. That's what we decided, anyway, so our guests wouldn't be stranded in the middle of the lake with a dead engine.
Despite that small setback, dinner was a delight. I served gazpacho and cucumber/honeydew melon soup in shot glasses alongside herbed shortbread as the appetizer. The entrée was filet mignon baked in a filo crust, sautéed carrots, and a salad brought by one of the guests. One of the others brought dessert. Since the shortbread was such a hit, I'll give you all the recipe. It comes from Gourmet, the September 2005 issue.
Scarborough Fair Shortbread
Makes 16 cookies
1 cup flour
1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon superfine sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon each finely chopped fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme*
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 egg white, lightly beaten
16 small parsley leaves
16 small sage leaves
16 rosemary leaves
16 1-inch thyme sprigs
Preheat oven to 375˚ F. Stir together flour, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, and chopped herbs in a bowl. Add butter and stir with a fork until mixture forms a dough (I mixed the ingredients in a food processor instead). Divide dough in half and pat each half into a 6 1/2 to 7-inch round on an ungreased baking sheet. Crimp edges of rounds and cut each into 8 wedges with a sharp knife. Lightly brush with egg white and arrange 1 leaf of each herb on each wedge. Brush herbs lightly with egg white and sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Prick each wedge with a fork.
Bake until golden, 15 to 17 minutes. Recut wedges while shortbread is hot, then cool completely on sheet on a rack.
Cookies will keep in an airtight container for five days. *You can opt for only two herbs, if you prefer.