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Cooking
Volume 41 Issue 11 • July 21-27, 2011
now in our 41th season

Lighter Fare

by Jenn Farmer - Chef and Food Fancier

Finding refreshment in the summer heat can be difficult.  Not only do I lose my appetite, but I lose my patience for cooking when it gets hot and humid.  Heating up the house by baking in the oven is not an option; so everything is either cooked on the stovetop, grilled, or just plain cold.  An added irritation is when your favorite friends and family visit.  I love them all, but if I have no desire to cook, the meal never turns out well.  Love and food, both need to be approached with passion (and occasionally reckless abandon), otherwise they just seem to fall flat.  On the plus side, local produce is at its prime, and there is a dazzling spectrum of colorful, fresh foods to select from.  Sweet corn, tomatoes, melons, greens, beets, onions, fresh herb, and summer squash are all abundant.  Great ingredients make cooking an enticing meal a lot less work.  For example, try tasting some fresh melon or cherries at the beach after a nice warm salty swim.  Nothing fancy, but it is more satisfying and delicious than one can imagine.

I do still get excited when talking about the possibilities of certain dishes.  Show me a perfect fillet of tuna and some fresh beets, and I will get excited and concoct a meal around them.  Lately, I have taken to running down to the fish store (unless a friend or myself was lucky enough to catch something) to begin my meal preparations.  A perfect filet of flounder or some mussels, is all it takes to get the creative inspiration going.  Then the farmer’s market or the local produce section is a wonderful place to check out.  It usually takes me a few minutes to scope out what is really fresh, and then create a meal around it.  My best advice is purchase fresh, keep it very simple and think outside of the box.  I enjoy combining sweet and savory foods.  I like to grill striped bass and make a fruit salsa with native blueberries, and wild onions for example. 

Never underestimate the elegance of platters of cheese, fruit, pickles, olives, pates, crudite , spreads, and cold cuts.  Guests find it delightful to sample several different combinations of the above on crackers or creating their own sandwiches on fresh bread or rolls.  Some of my favorite parties have been all cold platters, paired with interesting wines and beers.  Letting people build their own combinations, also gets conversations going (though with my friends and family it is usually more difficult to get them to quiet down). Recently we had a nice layout with several cheeses, thin prosciutto, cantaloupe cubes, cocoa dusted almonds, brined olives, bread, and some cranberry jam.  It was very simple, but everyone was telling each other, “oh try that runny cheese with the jam and the red wine” or “take a slice of prosciutto with blue cheese and wrap it around a piece of melon.”  It was a surprisingly fun beginning to the evening, and it prompted stories of travels and other food experiences.  The best part was that the prep and clean-up was minimal.  The following are some of my favorite recipes for entertaining on hot summer  nights.  Enjoy the lighter fare. 

Cold Seafood Soup

  • One third pound cleaned shellfish(any combinations of  crab, lobster, shrimp, oysters, mussels, clams)
  • One  third pound squid and/or octopus
  • One third pound striped bass, or cod (or other light fleshed fish)
  • One third cup cucumber, peeled and small diced
  • One cup tomato, small diced
  • One third cup red onion, small diced
  • One quarter cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • One quarter cup basil, chopped
  • One tablespoon chervil, chopped (optional)
  • One jalapeno or other spicy pepper, minced (optional or less for milder soup)
  • One lime, juiced
  • One lemon, juiced
  • One cup tomato or vegetable juice
  • One big garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • One avocado, small diced

Cut the seafood into bite sized pieces if necessary.  Simmer the seafood mixture in two cups of water for about 6-8  minutes (make certain any raw seafood like the lobster has been cooked), drain and reserve liquid.  Chill the broth and the seafood.    Mix together the tomatoes, onions, chopped herbs, cucumbers, garlic, and jalapenos in a large bowl with the seafood mixture.  Add the lime juice lemon juice, broth, and vegetable juice and put into refrigerator to continue to chill.  When you are ready to serve it, season the soup with salt and pepper, then garnish with avocados. Delicious served with crackers or crusty bread, and an ice cold beer or very crispy white wine.   Recipe yields about 8 servings. 

Melon Salad

  • One half of a ripe cantaloupe,  seeds removed
  • One half of a ripe honeydew, seeds removed
  • One cup curly endive leaves or other similar greens
  • 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (I prefer a fruity or buttery one for this recipe)
  • 4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon, chives finely chopped
  • Nantucket Sea Salt (any sea salt can be substituted)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Scoop out 1 inch balls from both melons with a melon baller, or peel and cut into one inch pieces.  Toss together in a bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and lightly toss.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.  This salad pairs well with cold meats, like prosciutto and roast beef.  Recipe yields about 8 servings

Chicken Cobb Pitas

  • 4 pita breads
  • 2 cups chicken, cooked and small diced
  • 2 cups tomato, small diced
  • 1 avocado, peeled and diced
  • 4- 6 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • One half cup real mayonnaise
  • One quarter cup blue cheese crumbles
  • One hard- boiled egg, chopped finely
  • One tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • One tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
  • One tablespoon freshly chopped chives
  • One tablespoon freshly chopped chervil or basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 crisp lettuce leaves

Carefully cut pitas in half and open the pockets.  In a bowl combine all the ingredients except the lettuce. Place a lettuce leaf into each pita and then carefully spoon the Cobb mixture, dividing into each one equally. Great for the beach, but keep well chilled.  Makes 8 sandwiches

Wild Blueberry Lemonade Pops

  • 3 cups fresh wild blueberries
  • One half cup superfine sugar (granulated works too, just be certain to dissolve it completely)
  • One half cup water
  • One third cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Ice pop molds or small paper cups and popsicle sticks. 

Simmer the blueberries in sugar and water for a few minutes until the berries begin to burst and collapse (2-4 minutes).  Carefully puree with the lemon juice.  Taste and add more sugar if necessary.  Pour into molds or cups and freeze for about a half an hour to forty minutes.  Insert sticks and continue to freeze until solid. They keep fresh tasting for about one week.  Carefully enjoy, since blueberries can stain.  Recipe yields about 8-12 frozen pops.

 

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