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Monday, August 24, 2009

Summer Food

I'll cook in any weather. The heat in the kitchen isn't something I like, but I definitely tolerate it in order to achieve a result worth having. Eating is something else. I don't feel much like eating meat or what I would call fall/winter dishes in the summer. These four dishes are typical of the seasonal dishes I eat in hot weather . I could have them anytime, but I prefer them in the summer.

Ligurian Salad or green beans with pignolli and potatoes. The ingredients are one pound of green beans, a small red onion, a handful of pine nuts, two or three yukon gold potatoes, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, a teaspoon of dijon mustard, your best extra virgin olive oil, one tsp.of dried thyme, salt and pepper.

First, boil the potatoes in their skins starting them in cold water about an inch over the potatoes. Cook them until a knife slips easily into the potato flesh (about 20 minutes for medium size potatoes). Put the cleaned green beans in boiling salted water. Cover the pot and let them simmer for 12 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and slice the potatoes as soon as they are cool enough to handle (they should still be hot). Whisk the mustard and vinegar together and toss with the potatoes, pine nuts, thyme and the red onion sliced very thinly.When the green beans are tender, soak them in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Then drain them and add them to the potato mixture. Pour a good amount of olive oil (about twice as much as the vinegar), salt and pepper and toss to combine. Let sit for an hour or refrigerate and bring to room temperature. Before serving, test for salt and vinegar. Note: You could use fresh thyme oregano, basil or mint in place of the dried thyme.




Tomato/watermelon salad. I love watermelon. This year I've been adding it to summer salads usually with the best garden tomatoes I can find. Here's how to do a green salad. Ingredients: Bibb, Boston or Red Leaf lettuce, onion, tomato, black olives, a one inch slice of watermelon, dry spice, garlic powder, vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

First, tear the lettuce leaves (Don't cut them. A knife will cause the lettuce to wilt faster) Wash them in cold water and pick them out of the water and into a salad spinner. I think a salad spinner is an essential tool in the Your Italian Grandmother kitchen. Lettuce leaves must be dry in order to hold the dressing properly. Add the tomato and watermelon cut into bite sized chunks. Add some thinly sliced onion, the olives and a pinch of spice. Now salt the salad, add a sprinkle of garlic powder and the vinegar (Red or white wine vinegar works, but you might want to try a sweeter raspberry or other fruit derived vinegar). Add enough to coat the lettuce leaves, but not so much that you have a pool on the bottom of the bowl. Now, toss well till all the dry lettuce leaves are coated with the vinegar and spices. (My grandma used to say, the more you mix the salad, the better it will taste) Next, add the extra virgin olive oil and toss once more. (You should use a ratio of about 3 to 1 oil to vinegar.) Finish with a good turn of cracked black pepper and serve. If I am serving my salad after a meal (the way grandma always did), I cut and wash the ingredients but add the salt, etc. just before serving. The watermelon adds a sweet refreshing taste and compliments the tomatoes too. Not only that, the dish gives us guys a good dose of lycopene.



Joe's Ultimate Skillet Jalapeno Cornbread. I do occasionally look at cook books. This recipe is a combination I derived from a few different sources. I played around with the amounts and ingredients enough to call this my own. Feel free to experiment with it and add your own touches.

Ingredients: 1& 1/2 cups yellow corn meal, 1 cup a.p. flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, 1& 2/3 cups buttermilk, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 2 eggs, 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen corn, 3 medium diced jalapeno peppers.(seeds and spine removed if you don't like them too hot.)

Procedure: Heat oven to 400 degrees with a 9 or 10 inch cast iron skillet on the middle shelf. Combine corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder, corn and jalapeno peppers in a bowl. Mix buttermilk, oil and eggs together then add to the dry ingredients with a few quick strokes.
Remove the hot skillet from the oven and lightly coat with oil. Pour in the batter and bake for 25 -30 minutes. Use a toothpick to determine if done. Let cool in the skillet and serve slightly warm.




Sorbet. This recipe comes from Chef's Illustrated Magazine. I have the first 10 years (1993 to 2002) in bound editions with an index. This is one "cookbook" I highly recommend for both new and experienced cooks. I use them all the time as an encyclopedia, especially if I'm cooking something for the first time. My polenta pancake recipe was derived from their basic recipe and I make roast chicken, roast loin of pork, beef stew and several other dishes as I learned them from this excellent source. The PBS show, America's Test Kitchen (another Your Italian Grandma pick) is produced by the editors of the magazine.

First of all, the accompanying text explains, the secret to creamy restaurant quality sorbet that is soft and scoopable is the addition of an ample amount of sugar and a small amount of alcohol. This lowers the freezing point of the mixture so ice crystals can't keep forming. I made watermelon and pineapple sorbets. They were both great.

For the watermelon, peel and seed 2 1/2 pounds of fruit. Puree flesh in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon of sugar to the fruit. Process till the sugar is completely dissolved. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of vodka or Campari and refrigerate the mixture for about 2 hours (or you can use an ice bath and stir the mixture for about 15 minutes).
For the pineapple sorbet, process a medium to small pineapple that has been peeled and cored, then strain out the stringy fibers. Add 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon vodka or dark rum.

The cold mixture must be placed in the prepared bowl of a conventional ice cream maker for 20 to 30 minutes until frozen. They should be placed in the freezer for a few hours to firm up before serving.

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