Tonight, I’m visiting friends in Westchester, NY. It’s a somewhat cool night. Well, mostly and at least to me, who is used to Georgia in July. It is in the 90s in Atlanta and it’s in the upper-70s here. Indoors is too warm for comfort without AC, but dinner on the porch was quiet and comfortable. First our hostess put out some easy nibbles for before dinner. Then, we enjoyed a selection of salads from a local gourmet shop. Entertaining guests in summer doesn’t have to be difficult. A nice loaf of ciabatta and a chilled white made a simple summer supper.
Earlier today, we enjoyed a casual business lunch and even in the middle of the day, the breeze was nice. I served fresh lettuces and arugula from our garden mixed with handfuls of parsley, basil, tarragon, and chives. After the rain last night I was able to harvest our 1st yellow squash. It was so sweet, I didn’t even want to cook it. I very thinly sliced it and tossed it with the salad in a sherry dressing with extra virgin olive oil. On the side we had cucumbers, Vidalia onion, and radishes in rice wine vinegar with chervil and dill. I also served cold roast chicken from a large hen I cooked last night with spicy Dijon mustard.
Simple, simple, simple.
Both meals were enjoyed al fresco and both meals were exceedingly easy. I commented as we sat watching the fireflies in the twilight that the meals today reminded me of eating in France.
Everyone thinks that French food is so fanciful, but I think the French revel in simple summer suppers. The honestly of the food and good ingredients, the concept of doing as little to something as possible so as not to mess it up, is what the French do best.
Truth is, sometimes that simplicity can be unnervingly hard to achieve. My life isn’t that perfect all the time, believe me. Sometimes it’s one of Jared’s sandwiches from Subway, not simple.
But – the thing, or at least my thing – is to try. I don’t have a garden in Atlanta, but I do try to go by the Grant Park Farmers Market to buy fresh, local produce. To find a farmers market in your area, check out localharvest.org. I find the vegetables are so much fresher they last longer.
It’s about sharing food with friends and family, and not the drive through. It’s about asking that seemingly sisyphean question, “What’s for dinner?” and being able to answer with good, simple, food — for both everyday and when entertaining.
Two friends and colleagues of mine, Meredith Deeds and Carla Snyder have released a great new book, Everyday to Entertaining: 200 Sensational Recipes That Transform from Casual to Elegant. It’s seasonless, and while I am certain it will be great anytime of the year, it also seems perfectly suited for summer. I am enjoying it immensely.
I love their approach to the recipes. They’ve organized their cookbook in a strategic way that makes “everyday” simple to navigate, and “entertaining” easy to accomplish. Each section has side-by-side instructions for everyday and entertaining. They come equipped with supplies, cook time, start-to-finish time, and how many it will serve.
It’s dead simple and the recipes are delicious. I’m sharing some of their recipes here I think you’ll enjoy with farm-fresh summer produce. I’m also including their super easy recipe for salmon. (Make sure to only buy sustainably sourced salmon. For more on that, check out what Seafood Watch has to say.) And, we’ll finish up with classic chocolate mousse.
What’s not to like about classic chocolate mousse? I’ll take that everyday OR entertaining!
Bon Appétit, Y’all!
PS. This may seem antithetical to shopping at the local farmers market, and it is to a great extent. But it’s good news for Costco shoppers. The US farm-raised Steelhead Trout at Costco is rated by Seafood Watch as a Best Choice and would be excellent, here. Suburbanites can be sustainable, too.
Corn, Zucchini and Basil Fritters
Adding zucchini to these corn fritters takes them to the next taste level. And it gives you another use for the proliferation of zucchini that land on your porch, aka the surplus from ardent neighborhood gardeners. Thank heavens for the many uses the zucchini inspires, from sweet zucchini bread to these toothsome hotcakes.
The fritters can be made up to 1 hour ahead and kept in a warm (200°F) oven.
Makes 10 fritters
Hands-on time 35 minutes
Start to finish 35 minutes
• Preheat oven to 200°F (100°C)
• Baking sheet, lined with parchment paper
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1⁄2 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1⁄2 cup minced onion
1⁄4 cup minced red bell pepper
1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1⁄4 tsp baking soda
1⁄4 tsp salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 large zucchini (about 6 oz), grated
2 tbsp coarsely sliced fresh basil
2 tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley
1 large egg, beaten
1⁄4 cup milk
1⁄4 cup sour cream
3 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
Sour cream, optional
1. In a large bowl, combine corn, cornmeal, onion, bell pepper, flour, sugar, lemon zest, baking soda, salt, black pepper and cayenne. Add grated zucchini, basil and parsley.
2. In a small bowl, combine egg, milk and sour cream. Add to dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Be careful not to overmix.
3. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add scant 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) of the batter per fritter. Flatten with tines of a fork and tidy up the edges. Fry for about 2 minutes, flip and cook other side for 2 minutes more or until browned and cooked through. (The fritters will be a little more fragile to turn than the previous recipe, but they will also be more vegetal and less bready as a result of the added zucchini.) Transfer fritters as they are cooked to prepared baking sheet and keep warm in preheated oven. Continue to cook remaining batter in the same manner, adding more oil and adjusting heat between batches as necessary.
4. Garnish with sour cream, if desired.
Cornmeal. All cornmeal is not created equal. Though any cornmeal will do, searching out fresh stone-ground cornmeal will reap tantalizing rewards. The coarse texture and enhanced flavor of a locally grown and ground product will add pizzazz to everything that you make with it.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Salmon with Rosemary Butter
Yes, we enjoy a challenge, but what we love even more is something that’s easy but looks like a challenge. This prosciutto-wrapped salmon certainly fits into that category. The simply seasoned seafood is encased in a paper-thin slice of prosciutto, baked, then topped with a dollop of rosemary-spiked butter. By the time the savory little package reaches the table, the hot salmon has melted the butter, creating the easiest sauce ever.
Hands-on time 10 minutes
Start to finish 25 minutes
The salmon fillets can be seasoned and wrapped with the prosciutto up to 8 hours ahead and kept covered and refrigerated.
• Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)
• Baking sheet, lined with parchment paper
1⁄4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
11⁄2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 salmon fillets (each 6 oz/175 g), skin removed
6 paper-thin slices prosciutto
1. Rosemary Butter: In a small bowl, whisk together butter, rosemary, 1⁄4 tsp salt and 1⁄4 tsp pepper. Set aside.
2. Season salmon lightly with salt and pepper. Gently wrap one slice of prosciutto around each fillet. Place fillets on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until salmon is just cooked through and flakes easily when tested with a sharp knife.
3. Place a dollop of Rosemary Butter atop each salmon fillet and serve.
Paper-Thin Slices of Prosciutto. Although you can buy prosciutto at almost any grocery store deli counter, you can’t always find someone who knows how to slice it and package it. Prosciutto in most instances should be sliced nearly see-through thin. If the slicing is done correctly, stacking them together in the typical deli style will mean you’ll have to tear them to shreds trying to get them apart. The solution: single layering in sets of two or three on pieces of wax paper (or whatever paper the deli uses).
Luscious, decadent and done in a flash – we’re already in love, and we haven’t even got to the chocolate part yet. Our version of chocolate mousse is as simple as it gets. All we do is melt a generous amount of good-quality chocolate with a splash of coffee and fold it into a billowing cloud of whipped cream. How easy is that?
A higher percentage of cocoa makes for a more intense and less sweet chocolate flavor.
Chocolate Mousse can be made 1 day ahead and kept covered and refrigerated.
Serves 6 to 8
Hands-on time 20 minutes
Start to finish 20 minutes
• Large pastry bag and tip, optional
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 oz bittersweet (dark) chocolate, chopped
1⁄4 cup strong brewed coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups heavy or whipping (35%) cream
1. In a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine semisweet and bittersweet chocolates and coffee. Stir until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from simmering water and whisk in vanilla and salt. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
2. In a chilled bowl, using an electric mixer, whip cream until soft peaks form. Fold about one-quarter of the whipped cream into the melted chocolate to lighten. Add chocolate mixture to remaining whipped cream and fold gently to combine. Transfer mousse to pastry bag and pipe or simply spoon into chilled serving cups or bowls.
Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls. When a double boiler is not in your kitchen cabinet, a stainless steel bowl comes to the rescue and does double duty as a mixing bowl and an efficient heatproof container to set on a pan of simmering water.
Excerpted from Everyday to Entertaining by Meredith Deeds and Carla Snyder © 2011 Robert Rose Inc. http://www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with permission.
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