…And the Living’s Easy
Gansie’s recent post about avocados, citrus trees, and Hollywood celebrity sightings had me envious of all that is SoCal, including the seemingly perpetual 75 degrees and sunny forecast. I woke up this morning and it was 49 degrees outside! You see, I live in a part of Pennsylvania where it also snows or flurries every day from December to March, so my envy was coming from the fact that summer is quickly coming to an end.
School buses are beginning to pop up on every block, some leaves are becoming slightly tinged with yellow, and political ads are everywhere. Fall does have its culinary benefits; things like pumpkin pie, green chicken chili, agave and cinnamon acorn squash, pumpkin ravioli with sage butter, fresh orchard apples and the roast chicken with sausage and apple stuffing that I make with those apples….OK so maybe fall’s not all bad, but I am getting off track.
It is still summer and in the hopes of filling the remaining weeks of it with delectable meals for all those in ES nation, I thought I would post my top 3 “summer” dishes. Summertime food to me does not have to be complex or have exotic ingredients.It is quick, simple, fresh, can often be cooked outside and pairs well with any adult cold beverage (my favorite lately has to be Flying Dog brewery’s Classic Pale Ale). Take a look and feel free to shout out your top summer dishes in the comments.
3. Grilled Sweet Corn with Chili-Lime butter
Variations of this have popped up more and more on many a cooking show, but for good reason; it may be one of the simplest and tastiest sides out there. Corn’s flavor doesn’t last long. As soon as it is picked, the sugars in each kernel start turning into starch, so the key is to get it fresh. Whether it is a farmers market or a roadside stand, you can find it almost anywhere during the summer. I have seen recipes suggest that you should soak the husks in water and other such steps, but I firmly believe that down and dirty is the way to go. Husk the corn, toss it on a hot grill and turn regularly until the kernels have a slight char. While the corn is cooking begin melting a stick of butter and add the juice of 1 lime. I leave the chili powder for everyone to sprinkle on themselves because some like it hot and some don’t. If you are feeling up to it, you can always make your own chili powder, which far outshines any store-bought option. For this dish, I recommend toasting dried chipotle peppers (smoked jalapenos) in a skillet for a few minutes on medium heat until they become nice and fragrant. After that, just grind them up, sprinkle and serve. If the citrus and heat doesn’t do it for you, make your own butter. Some ideas for flavors to incorporate could be roasted red pepper, green goddess, raspberry, almost any herb….the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
2. Grilled Tomato and Onion Salad
There has been quite a bit of talk about tomatoes on ES recently so I will share one of my favorite uses. Fairly self-explanatory…hot grill+ olive oil+ your favorite tomato varietal+ vidalia onion= sweet, fresh, juicy deliciousness. Really all that is needed is to slice the tomato and onion, then lay them on a hot grill for a few minutes per side. Try not to mess with them too much but if you lose a tomato or two through the grates, just chalk it up to gaining experience. To up the flavor even more, a quick dressing can be made with: 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 3 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 3/4 tomato sauce and 1 tsp black pepper. (If needed you can substitute agave nectar or any other sweetener for the sugar.) Mix everything together, put it in a small pan until it simmers and then whisk in some olive oil until you reach the consistency you want.
1. Crabtacular Faux Crab Cakes
So the wifey is from Southern Pennsylvania, near enough to Maryland that crabs were a regular part of her life growing up…she may hurt me for the way I phrased that, but it is staying in! However, now that we live in the Pa mountains, it is an ongoing challenge to find quality seafood. Because of this, in the summer we often utilize a great recipe for faux crab cakes, using fresh zucchini. It is a great substitute for the majority of us who may not be able to get fresh and reasonably priced crab meat. The ingredients and prep are simple.
Take the following: 2 1/2 cups zucchini (peeled and grated), 1 beaten egg, 1 tbsp melted butter, 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning, 1/2 tsp prepared mustard, 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs, 1 small onion chopped fine, a few chopped scallions, salt and pepper to taste. Mix all ingredients, form loose hockey puck sized patties and then cook. You can fry them stovetop in oil or just bake at 450 until golden. Saucing is up to you but I stick with just a little squeeze of lemon.
So there you go, some summer dishes beyond the typical coleslaw, potato salad, hot dogs and beans that are often pictured on checkered picnic tablecloths. With all of the fresh produce and cooking options in the summer, this list could be endless…so what are your faves?