Summer

chimisteak.jpgGrilling, the most primal cooking method, is revered as summer sport by men everywhere. It's practically religion in one country, Argentina. This multicultural nation with a unique blend of nationalities, traditions, and customs can only have a renowned food culture. Known for tango, football, and Eva Perón among many other things, Argentina consumes the most beef worldwide and is the third largest importer. Argentinians pretty much grill anything to great effect. Steakhouses, called churrascaria, throughout the cities serve up meats straight from their spits and are sliced right at the customer's table. I can't imagine a better way to enjoy steak.

A popular cut of beef in the traditional asado (barbecue) is skirt steak, a grainy cut from the underside of the animal. In the States it's considered a cheap cut, but there is no more flavorful steak than skirt. It's appreciated throughout Latin America, especially in Argentina, Brazil, and in Mexico where it is commonly used in fajitas. Grill it just until medium-rare, it becomes tough past medium. What goes better with steak than a potent sauce? Argentina's answer to steak sauce is chimichurri, a concoction of fresh herbs, garlic, oil, and vinegar. No one really knows how the sauce got its name, but it's the most popular condiment for all things grilled. Use it also as a marinade. I can't think of a better pairing than steak with chimichurri this coming father's day.

Read more ...

peachcapreseThe classic triumvirate of tomato, basil and mozzarella is nothing short of divine. I can just imagine Michelangelo snacking on this delicacy whilst carving the David statue. The salad is such a quintessential, Italian dish yet it has become a major part of the American summer menu – especially with the resurgence of heirloom tomato growing!

My Georgia Caprese Salad has a fun origin and pays homage to the old adage “necessity is the mother of invention.” The necessity of mention was supper. A light summer supper for yours truly alone. I was hot. I was tired. I did not want to cook – the thought of being around more heat was as tempting as repeatedly running into the back porch screen – head first mind you – like the bumble bee was doing. My family was scattered with other activities, travel or who knows what and Ol’ Jimmy was home alone – and hungry!

Not only was the thought of cooking with heat unappealing, the thought of eating something hot was equally unappetizing. Enter the “necessity… invention” moment. I rummaged through the fridge and saw I had a block of Pepper Jack cheese from M&T. I said to myself, “Self, you can at least have cheese and crackers.” Then I got to thinking – a dangerous pastime.

Read more ...

img 1047 1Peas, alas, are not a spring vegetable, despite what legions of food writers would have you believe. It is wonderful to think of things like spring pea risotto and minted pea soup in May, but unless you are lucky enough to live in a really temperate climate, you’ll be waiting for fresh peas until late June with the rest of us.

I feel bad being a Scrooge about this. Actually a super-Scrooge, as, these days, I can’t really even get behind those so-called fresh peas (usually already shelled) that arrive in the grocery stores before they do in my garden. I’d rather eat frozen peas. (And I do.)

The reason is that shell peas–or English peas–lose that just-picked sweetness rather quickly and wind up tasting bland and starchy when they travel many miles to get to you.

So right now I have to content myself with staring at the squat little pea seedlings in my garden, imagining what they’ll bring me. I’m very proud of them, actually. Yesterday I noticed that they’ve started unfurling their little tendrils and have obligingly begun to grab on to the curtain of strings I hung for them. Such good peas.

Read more ...

seafoodsaladWe live in Boston. To get ourselves through winters that go from November to May, we hold dear dreaming of warm weather. Any restaurant with two feet of sidewalk sets out tables in March. They say it's to be ready for baseball season. This is wishful thinking since there are no home games until well into April. Snow plows don't disappear until May. Still.

When we think warm weather, we want fish. We get fish all year but somehow the best time for shellfish is summer. Lobster, shrimp, crabmeat, clams and oysters are at their best when we want them most. Here's a seafood recipe with lobster, shrimp and crab that brings summer to the kitchen full blast. It goes equally well at cookouts and air-conditioned dinner parties.

Read more ...

cornsoupIt's not Summer until you've eaten a peach over the sink, nibbled on cherries, and enjoyed a stack of fresh blueberry pancakes. One of the most highly anticipated Summer treats aside from all the luscious fruit, is fresh corn. When I see Brentwood corn, I buy it. It's sweet, tender and pairs wonderfully with all types of shellfish, blueberries, lime and avocado.

Corn is high in starch and carbohydrates but it's also a good source of Vitamins B1, B5, and C, folate, dietary fiber, phosphorus, manganese and protein. I use white and yellow corn interchangeably. White seems a bit sweeter and yellow a has a rounder flavor, if that makes sense. Corn should be cooked as soon as possible, after it has been picked. It's particularly good in fritters, pancakes, succotash and salads. If you eat it on the cob, try squeezing lemon or lime juice over it and dipping it in something spicy like smoked paprika or chile powder. Another way to enjoy it is with crumbled Mexican Cotija cheese. Slather the hot cobs with mayonnaise and dip it in the cheese. Messy, but good.

Read more ...