At the end of the past two weekends, Terence and I have looked at each other rather sleepily and said outloud, “that was a weekend of good eating.” It started two weekends ago with a visit to the Big Apple BBQ at Madison Square Park, where I had the best pulled pork sandwich and pickles of my life. Then there was the produce – perfect peaches, perfect berries, all consumed with the same regularity as the water I was drinking to stave off the heat. In these past two days, I’ve been the beneficiary of amazing soft shell crabs, have eaten my weight in the sweetest cherries I’ve ever bought, and composed what I believe to be my Perfect Summer Meal.
Thinking about what goes into my Perfect Summer Meal consumed my lackluster work week. I dreamed about it during subway rides, during slow periods at work, and in those few zoned out moments before I fell asleep at night. What did it entail? I knew it must include an unfussy salad that showcased summer produce at its prime; the protein had to be grilled, and preferably from the sea; fresh corn was a give-in; and dessert must feel indulgent but be a cinch to make and not involve the oven in the slightest. All with a glass of rosé, of course.
So on Saturday I set to work making a simple green bean and tomato salad, spicy grilled shrimp, the best corn soup I’ve ever had, and a dessert I remembered from my childhood that my mother always made for company – a sortof retro dish that’s a simple but rich custard called Russian Cream. All in all, this meal was a pretty great excuse to not leave the house, and I am officially in my summer prime.
So now, it’s your turn – what would your ideal summer menu include?
Summer Corn Chowder with Poblano Peppers and Tomatoes
Adapted from http://www.food52.com, recipe author Nancy Jo.
*It’s important, as they mention in the video, to use fresh corn, because you will need that milky substance that comes from the cob.
*This can easily become a vegetarian soup if you use regular cooking oil instead of bacon fat, and garnish with crispy, caramelized shallots instead of bacon bits.
- 6 medium ears of corn
- 6 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces OR 3 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 small onion
- 1 medium poblano, finely chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 small celery rib, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
- 2 medium boiling potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cubed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- Pinch of sugar
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 small bay leaf
- 1 cups cream, at room temperature
- 2 cups low-fat milk
- about 1/2 cup of vegetable (or whatever you have on hand) stock
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Chopped cilantro, for garnish
- Working over a bowl, cut the corn kernels from the cobs at about half their depth. Then, using the back of the knife, scrape the cobs over the bowl to release all the “milk”; set aside.
- In a large saucepan, fry the bacon over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Crumble and reserve. NOTE: If making this soup vegetarian, use shallots as your garnish: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Sauté until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar. Stir until brown and glazed, about 3 minutes.
- Discard all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon drippings from the pan. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the poblano pepper, jalapeno and celery and cook until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, potatoes, salt, allspice, sugar, bay leaf and the reserved corn kernels and their “milk” and stir well. Add your stock. Cook over moderate heat until mixture begins to sizzle.
- Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 35 to 45 minutes. Stir in the cream and milk and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and season with black pepper to taste. Ladle the chowder into bowls and garnish with the crumbled bacon and cilantro.
Marinated Grilled Shrimp
I was all set to try out Bobby Flay’s ginger-soy marinade, but then my blender broke and I had to make this on a whim. It ended up being a terrific, blender-free substitute.
- 2 pounds of extra large shrimp, shells on
- 2 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt (use more if using regular kosher salt)
- 1/4 cup of olive oil – add more if the shrimp isn’t well coated with oil
- juice from one large lemon
- 1/2 to 1.5 tablespoons of red pepper flakes, depending on your spice preference
- 1 tablespoon of all purpose seasoning (or 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder, 1/2 tablespoon oregano)
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and let marinate in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. On a hot grill, grill shrimp in batches, about 2 minutes each side.
Recipe from my mother. The Denver Post also had nearly identical instructions online.
Serves 4; double recipe if necessary.
- 3/4 cup of white sugar
- 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 1/2 cups sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Fresh berries and mint for garnish (optional)
In a small saucepan, blend sugar and gelatin. Add water and mix well. Let stand for 5 minutes. Stirring constantly, bring to full boil.
Remove from heat and add whipping cream. (Don’t worry; it won’t curdle.) In a separate mixing bowl, mix sour cream and vanilla. Slowly add sugar-cream mixture. Cover and chill overnight.
Serve in individual martini glasses, small parfait glasses or bowls. Eat plain or with berries and mint on top.