Showing posts with label summer meal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label summer meal. Show all posts

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rise and Shine - Cooking as the Sun Comes Up

There are great pleasures in getting up early and cooking for friends coming for lunch or dinner.
In the summer, getting up as the sun is rising avoids the day's heat. In the winter, I love early morning cooking because the kitchen heats the house with fragrance as baked good come out of the oven and bacon sizzles in the sauté pan.

Before everyone else is awake, the house is quiet. A freshly brewed cup of coffee and NPR's Morning Edition gets me going as I organize my ingredients and pull out the few pots and pans I'll need to make a fun meal.

For a summer brunch, with the weather forecast saying temperatures will top 90 degrees, rising early means the chance to do some light cooking and then spend the rest of the day enjoying the cool of a shaded deck.

Easy-to-make dishes give a big return.
Grilled vegetables, eaten as an appetizer or turned into a simple salad, are light, refreshing and take only a few minutes to prepare.

Or the simplest meal starts with hardboiled eggs cooked in the morning and chilled, then served with remoulade or 1000 island dressing and good cold cuts and cheese.
An omelet takes minutes to make.  Prepared ahead, the fillings can be any combination of sautéed vegetables, meat, fish or poultry with whatever cheese you enjoy.
Gnocchi prepared in the morning, come together with farmers market fresh vegetables or thin slices of prosciutto, dusted with parsley.
A simple baked custard flavored with fresh or cooked fruit, topped with caramelized nuts, served with fresh fruit from the farmers market is the perfect dessert.
Biscuits for strawberry shortcake, baked as the sun is coming up, appear in the afternoon, cut in half and topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
In fall and winter, bacon sautéed chicken with vegetables is perfect to drive away the cold or pork belly roasted with Vietnamese style vegetables and cooked overnight in a 225 F degree oven. The tender, ginger flavored meat adds spice to a simple tossed pasta.
Cooking early in the morning frees the rest of the day to relax, go for a walk and read the Sunday newspaper. Then when it's time to eat, the food is ready and you are a guest at your own table.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Turkey Isn't Just for Thanksgiving: Turkey Stew with Dumplings

Usually on Thanksgiving between 20-25 people come over for dinner. Serving turkey is part of the holiday tradition but there's a practical side as well: one turkey serves a lot of people.

Turkey is a food so rooted in a holiday--think egg nog and New Year's Eve--that most people wouldn't think of using it at other times of the year.

Roast turkey in the summer is a practical solution to serving large amounts of food for backyard parties without an excessive amount of work.

Sweet, moist breast meat, perfect of sandwiches, can also be tossed in salads. Thigh meat is also good in sandwiches with a bit of mayonnaise, thin slices of red onion and arugula leaves. Or, teasing flavor out of the legs and thighs by boiling them in a large pot of water creates delicious turkey stock and several pounds of meat ideal for salads, soups and stews.

Turkey Stew with Dumplings and Vegetables

Yield: 4-6 servings
Time: 45 minutes

4 cups cooked, shredded turkey dark meat
6 cups turkey stock (fat removed)
2 carrots (washed, peeled, ends removed, chopped into thick rounds)
2 sweet potatoes (cooked, skins removed, roughly chopped)
1 medium yellow onion (peeled, ends removed, roughly chopped)
1 ear of corn (kernels removed) or 1 cup of canned or frozen corn
1 celery stalk (washed, ends removed, roughly chopped)
1/2 cup brown or shiitake mushrooms (washed, thinly sliced)
4 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped)
1/2 cup Italian parsley (leaves only, finely chopped)
1 small bunch spinach (washed thoroughly, stems removed)
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 - 3/4 cup half and half
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper


In a dutch oven or a frying pan with tall sides, sauté the carrots, garlic, celery, mushrooms, onions, corn, and parsley in olive oil until lightly browned. Season with sea salt and pepper. Add the shredded turkey, cooked sweet potatoes, and turkey stock. Simmer. Drop in the spinach and cook for 10 minutes or until the spinach has wilted. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
To make the dumplings, mix together the flour, baking soda, sugar, season with sea salt and pepper in a bowl. Finely chop the butter, add to the flour and mix well. Slowly pour in the half and half, stirring until the batter has a thick consistency. Using 2 spoons, make dumplings and ease them them into the hot liquid.

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with a salad and a baguette.


Add 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions or Italian parsley to the dumplings.

Add 2 tablespoons finely chopped roasted red peppers to the dumplings.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Summer's Perfect Dessert: Vanilla Rice Custard with Raisins

Because our house and backyard are shaded by three large trees, we make it through summer's hottest days without air conditioning. It helps that a cooling ocean breeze comes our way in the afternoon.

Eating outside on the deck is a great way to beat the heat. Easy-to-make dishes, relying heavily on salads and grilled vegetables, fish and meat are the way to go. No need to suffer inside in front of the stove when there's a barbecue outside.

Shopping at our local farmers markets--Pacific Palisades on Sundays and Santa Monica on Wednesdays--keeps us happy, with freshly picked fruits and vegetables.
Carrots full of sweetness and crunch, cherry tomatoes that dive bomb your mouth with sweet-acidic juice, flat and spicy leaves of arugula tossed in salads dressed simply with a reduced balsamic vinaigrette dressing, split lobsters on the grill topped with caramelized onions, bread crumbs and butter, Italian sausages poked with a fork to release the steaming juices as they grill on the barbecue....
Sooner or later, the meal comes to an end but before that happens, a closer needs to make an appearance.


The simpler the better, in my mind. Summer is no time for heavy confections. Perfectly ripe grapes or peaches and nectarines bursting with flavor. Figs so sweet you imagine wasps can sense their sweetness from miles around. Grilled fruit. Ice cold melons. Simple sorbets.

For a dinner last week, I prepared an easy-to-make vanilla custard with raisins. For variety I used both regular and golden raisins with a few dried cranberries thrown in.
Serve the custard at room temperature or slightly warmed (250 degrees for 10 minutes).

For a festive addition, try serving the custard with a variety of toppings: bowls of heavy cream, ice cream, whipped cream (there's a theme here) and fresh berries--whichever ones are ripe and sweet--blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or blackberries.

Vanilla Rice Custard with Raisins

Yield: 6

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 45-60 minutes


2 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup cream
2 tablespoons raisins
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cooked rice
2 tablespoons raw whole almonds


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the almonds on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove, let cool and roughly chop. Set aside.

Beat together the eggs and sugar until well-blended. Add the raisins, cream and vanilla. Let the raisins soak in the custard for an hour or overnight.

Use any kind of rice you like. Add the rice and chopped almonds to the custard-raisin mixture. Pour into an oven proof bowl.

I like to use a shallow baking dish so there is more of the delicious crust that forms around the edge of the dish.  The shallower baking dish, the shorter the cooking time. And, conversely, the deeper the baking dish, the longer the cooking time.

Create a water bath by putting 1" of water into a baking dish 4" larger than the baking dish you are using the for the custard. Put the baking dish into the water bath and into the oven.

Cook until the custard sets or doesn't jiggle if the baking dish is shaken.

Rotate every 30 minutes for even cooking. If the top of the custard is getting too brown before setting, gently lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top.

Serve with ice cream, whipped cream or fresh fruit.


Instead of one kind of raisin, use golden as well as dark raisins.

Instead of all raisins, use dried cranberries or any other dried fruit, roughly chopped.

Instead of almonds, use whatever roasted nuts you prefer.

Add a touch of cayenne powder for a hint of heat.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Labor Day Meal: Salmon with a Citrus Glaze Tangos with Mango Salsa

On holidays like Labor Day, the best dishes to serve friends and family are the ones that take very little effort to prepare.  That way you can spend your time enjoying the day not laboring in a hot kitchen.

Versatile salmon can be grilled, sauteed, baked, and braised. More often than not the preferred approach is to simply grill the fish--whole or filleted--with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, the Italian way. But there are times when a little more seasoning accents salmon's natural flavors.

Spanish style preparations saute the fish with fresh tomatoes, pitted olives, peppers, onions, and parsley. American barbecue relies on sweet-heat. Another approach, one borrowing from South American and Caribbean recipes, marries citrus with honey and garlic in a simple sauce.

Serve the roasted fish with a side of reserved pan drippings and a mango-grilled corn salsa and you'll have the perfect summer meal to be enjoyed with a glass of chardonnay or an ice cold beer.

Mango Salsa

Make the salsa ahead and keep refrigerated in a sealed container

Serves 4

Time 15 minutes


1 ear corn, husks and silks removed, washed
1 large mango, washed, skin removed, meat cut into small pieces, pit discarded
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, skin on, charred in an open flame
1 tablespoon olive or safflower oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Sea salt and pepper to taste


Grill or oven roast the corn in a 400 F oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool and remove the kernels. Discard the cob. Clean off the charred skin from the garlic, finely chop, add to a bowl with the corn kernels, mango, onion, parsley, olive oil, and lemon juice. Toss well. Taste and season with sea salt and pepper.

Roast Salmon with a Citrus Glaze

Buy a fillet that has skin but not bones for easy serving.  The fresher, the better.

Serves 4

Time 45-60 minutes


1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet with skin on, washed, pat dried
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 garlic clove, skin removed, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes or cayenne
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, finely chopped


Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cutting across the fillet, score deeply into the flesh about half way. Place the salmon on a Silpat or other non-stick material like parchment paper placed on a rimmed baking sheet.

Mix together the juices, honey, garlic, olive oil, cayenne, and parsley until the honey is well dissolved. Pour over the fillet.  Roast in the oven 30 minutes.  Remove and clean away and discard any pink solids.

Raise the temperature of the oven to 500 F. Baste the fillet with the pan drippings. Return the salmon to the oven and cook another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, baste, bake another 5 minutes being careful to brown but not burn the skin.

Transfer the salmon to a serving plate. Use a rubber spatula to collect all the pan drippings and place in a small bowl.

Serve the salmon with the pan drippings, mango salsa, and a green salad or freshly steamed rice.

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