As far as I can remember, I had only one friend who was actually born and raised in Summit, the small New Jersey town where my husband and I raised our children. Like many New Jersey towns, the population is relatively fluid, with families moving in and out according to the whims of corporate America or the ups and downs of Wall Street.
But it turns out that, in spite of the shape-shifting nature of the populace, these small towns have a remarkable knack for building community. The Memorial Day service on the town green, with high school musicians playing Sousa marches and military tributes; the bicycle parade on July 4th; the Halloween parade, with children of all ages marching along in their costumes down Springfield Avenue; the free outdoor concerts in summer. Even the pristine town dump, where you can recycle almost anything and where everyone who’s anyone can be seen on a Saturday morning, plays a role in bringing the citizenry together to enjoy life on a personal scale.
So it was not a surprise when I showed up for the farmers’ market last Sunday to find that the town had also closed off the streets near the train station for an arts and crafts fair.
The first tent I noticed had an adorable collection of knit hats in a lively range of colors to make any child happy.
Further down the street, I almost squealed with excitement at the chairs and benches produced by a remarkable young artist named Lindsey Shevkun, who refinishes second-hand furniture with paint, photos and tile, then shelacks them to a high-gloss finish. The look reminds me of artists in Mexico – in fact, many of the pieces pay overt homage to Frida Kahlo.
And here’s the charming artist herself.
There was more to see than I have room to show, and eventually I found myself at the center of attention, which was the zeppole tent. These Italian doughnuts, deep-fried and covered with powdered sugar, are so popular they disappear faster than shooting stars. My feet were begging me to stop, so I grabbed this photo before buying a small sack of the lovelies, and heading for...guess where?
For those of you who'd like to try your hand at zeppoles, here's a recipe I found that seems pretty simple. If you try it, let me know how it goes. The web has a million variations on the ingredients – with or without cinnamon, with or without yeast, with or without ricotta. From what I tasted, this looks like the real deal.
Zeppole (yield 35)
vegetable oil for frying
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 pinch salt
1½ teaspoons sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup ricotta cheese
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup confectioners' sugar for dusting
In a medium saucepan, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Stir in the eggs, ricotta cheese and vanilla. Mix gently over low heat until combined. The batter will be sticky.
Meanwhile, pour enough oil into a large frying pan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat to 375º F.
Drop by tablespoons into the hot oil a few at a time. Zeppole will turn over by themselves. Fry until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Drain in a paper sack and dust with confectioners' sugar. Serve warm.
Kitchen Goddess note: To reuse the oil, let it cool, then strain it into a clean empty glass jar through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Store in the refrigerator and reuse it (for similar recipes) up to 4 times.