August 17, 2005 1:12 AM | By Adam Roberts | 12 Comments

Savor The Summer with these summery dishes except for the chicken one

Summer cooking can be lots of fun if you make good choices. I made a GREAT choice last night when I chose to make Watermelon Salad with Mint Leaves from Paula Deen's show courtesy of the Food Network site. Ya know, I'm growing to love Paula Deen: she's so warm and fun and even though sometimes her food looks gross to me, I'd rather spend a day with her than an hour with some of the other Food Network Stars (cough, rachel ray).

Anyway, this salad puts me in highly-effusive mode so if you don't like it when I rhapsodize over something's deliciousness, put your earplugs in. This salad is just the best summer salad I can imagine. For starters, buy a watermelon:


Actually, I bought a quarter of a watermelon because I was already carrying a lot (I bought a scale yesterday---yes, it's come to the point where I must weigh myself and make sure I don't get fatter: all this eating takes its toll!) but a quarter of a watermelon was plenty watermelon. The recipe is super easy. Ready? Cut up the watermelon into bite-size pieces. Cut up a vidalia onion into rings. (I cut those rings in half.) In a small bowl make the dressing: whisk 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Then add 2 Tbs of freshly chopped mint (and don't skip this step, it's the best part!) (Oh, and I thought Whole Foods was out of mint but they had it in with the regular vegetables, not with the herbs, so make sure to ask.) Now combine the melon, the onion and crumble some feta in (it totally works, that feta, don't skip that step either.) Pour on the dressing (but not too much, just enough to coat everything, but taste as you go so you don't overdo it.) And that's it. Check it out!


On a scale from one to loving this dish, I give this an 11. I had a guest over and my guest agreed: "This is a 5-star watermelon salad," said the guest. When the guest left, there was still leftover watermelon salad and I finished it ALL by myself. Let that speak for itself.

Now then there's this Chicken & Rice dish from my new Southern Cooking cookbook which I bought after reading that article about Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis (I linked to it in the past but now I can't find it.) The book is great and it's filled with great pictures and stories and Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock are my new favorite chefly duo. You can buy the book here and earn me lots and lots of money:

(Actually, I've NEVER gotten any money from Amazon ever. Why is that? Maybe I gave them the wrong address?)

So anyway in the book is the chicken & rice dish that Scott's grandmother used to make for him. I liked this dish a lot but I think it's a winter dish (see post title) because it's pretty rich and hardy. First you brown a whole cut up chicken in butter:


Then you add a carrot and an onion and close the lid. 20 minutes later there's liquid, you add 5 cups of water and cover. Then you cook for like 35 minutes, lift the lid, remove the onion and the carrot and add the rice. Then it cooks yet again. What you end up with is this:


It's a really nice dish and I'd love to eat this in a cold winter month. It reminded me of Chicken in the Pot, a Jewish variation my great-grandmother ordered once when she took me to dinner at Nester's back in Florida. (By the way, doesn't the chicken at the bottom of that look like the alien from Aliens lying on his back?) The best part is that the rice soaks up all the chicken fat and butter so it gets really rich and flavorful. Again, something you'd love come wintertime.

Because there was company, I also made biscuits using the recipe from the first time I made biscuits and told you about (click here) but unfortunately I didn't have buttermilk. So I used the net and learned that you can add 1 Tbs of fresh lemon juice to 1 cup of regular milk to get the effect of buttermilk. This made my milk lumpy but I guess it did the trick because the biscuits came out ok:


They were really light, which is what you want, but the batter was wetter than I wanted. Next time I'll do it right.

Now for the final summer dish (and maybe I mistitled this post: the only summer dishes are watermelon salad and this blueberry pudding cake from Gourmet magazine) blueberry pudding cake from Gourmet magazine. You probably saw it on the cover of last month's issue. Here's the recipe from Epicurious: click here. I'm not going to go into the specifics because you can read them in the recipe. Buy 2 cups of blueberries and put them in a pot:


Simmer in water, sugar and lemon juice for 3 minutes until it looks like this.


Then you make the easiest batter ever and pour it into a 9X9 baking dish. (I only had an 8X8 dish but don't tell anyone.) You pour the berries on top and it looks like this:


"The berries will sink to the bottom," says the recipe and that they did. Here it is after baking for 25 minutes at 375:


It makes the house smell all cakey and summery and happy. Then you cut yourself a big piece and you smile:


This is what summer's all about. Take advantage before it's over!


Adam. add some black olives to that watermelon salad!

Watermelon and feta? My first reaction was "ewwwwww." But then I figure the watermelon is just a sweeter, more summery substitution for tomato. I will give this a shot.

I'm a big Paula Deen fan as well, but don't be too hard on Rachel Ray. C'mon, girlfriend can't help it if she's maniacally perky.

By the way, this dinner looks delish, especially the cake. I'm making it on Friday for sure! Maybe fried chicken would've been more summery? (But also more work and mess.)

I never use anything BUT 1c milk+1T lemon (or vinegar) -- and my recipes that call for buttermilk turn out fine. So let us know if you make the biscuits again with real buttermilk. I'm curious.

The chicken did look like it was from Aliens.

I don't wish to sound like your mother, however you really should get that cholesterol checked.

Mmmm... Blueberry Pudding Cake *drool*

I call Rachel Ray "Man Hands". I mean, seriously, look at those mitts!

1. My good friend is a producer for Paula's show, and tells me she is an absolute sweetheart, and always makes sure her crew is well fed and taken care of.

2. Sliced watermelon and feta or "bulgarian" cheese is a super common snack in Israel, where watermelon is almost always better than over here in America. Sniff. I miss Israeli watermelon. This is a completely non-political comment.

3. I've been reading for a while, and you pretty much rock. That's all.

Have you tried using powdered buttermilk? I'm so disorganized I don't even always have fresh milk in the house, but a box of this stuff lasts forever and works great in everything so far...pancakes, potato salad, biscuits...

How much rice? How long is the final

I have to second Dennis' request. I'm dying to make this, but don't yet have the book (although I understand it's worth buying). I mean, I'm glad to know it's 5 cups of water, but I could definitely put it together if I just know the amount of rice...

Adam, i don't know how this watermelon recippe bypassed me. It looks spectacular - i'll give it a try on my BF this weekend.

Yummy !! that watermelon salad sounds just perfect for the summer. I'm always lookin for summer salads and not just the same old garden variety. I can't wait to try it, now if only my mint hadn't died. I guess my green thumb turned brown from lack of water :( or was that the mint !

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