Have A Summer Dinner Party

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The weekend is here and you’re finally free to relax, to read, to toast yourself in the sun. But here’s what I think you should do: on Saturday? Go to a farmer’s market. If you don’t have one in your town, ok, you’re off the hook; but if you do, head over there and buy a bunch of fruits and vegetables. Buy zucchini and make Clotilde’s carpaccio (as you see above); buy beets and shred them in your food processor for Mark Bittman’s raw beet salad; buy carrots too and shred them before the beets, actually, so they don’t turn red and make David Lebovitz’s carottes râpée. Invite friends over and if that’s not enough to feed you and your guests, make Luisa’s focaccia di patate which I’ve made before and can’t get enough of…

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Two Summery Meals

Here are two meals you can make this weekend: one, a meal of farmer’s market goodies that are seasonal and good for you and good for the planet and the farmers, and the second a crowd-pleaser from your local grocery store that isn’t good for you or the planet but boy is it good and easy to make. Let’s start with the angel on your shoulder meal:

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There on the plate you’ll see vegetables–sugar snap peas, beets and radishes. You’ll also see a Parker House roll (from the post below this). What I liked about this meal was that, even though it was a meal of just vegetables, it wasn’t punishing in any way. After washing and peeling the snap peas, I took butter–a few tablespoons–and cooked it in a skillet until it turned a toasty brown (make sure it doesn’t burn!) and then I added the peas and tossed them around until they were coated. I sprinkled them with salt and pepper and after a few minutes (and tasting one to see that it was just cooked enough) I put it on the plate. The beets were prepared with the knowledge that raw beets are better for you than cooked beets, so I peeled them and cut them thinly into strips and tossed with a simple vinaigrette of mustard, red wine vinegar and olive oil. And they were fantastic–I think I like beets better raw, now, than cooked!

So that was a relatively healthy dinner, rounded out by the rolls which helped fill us up. On the flip side was this:

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This is a meal I hope all of you make at some point this summer. It’s like an instant picnic, and even if you eat it at home after a long day of work (as Craig did having come home from a full day of teaching high schoolers how to make movies) it transports you instantly to a sunny bench in the park.

The components are simple: fried chicken, biscuits, and watermelon feta salad. All of these are recipes I’ve posted on the blog before. For the fried chicken recipe click here; for the biscuits click here; for the watermelon/feta click here. It’s guaranteed to please a crowd or just a grateful significant other. And you’ll really impress if you serve the biscuits with your homemade red currant jam, as I did:

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We’re eating well this summer, aren’t we? Let me know if you give any of this a try….

Hush Puppies

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Brooklyn Fish Camp is a restaurant built for summer. And yesterday, before it got gray and cloudy (though not quite rainy), Craig and I adopted the summer spirit and sat outside on the Fish Camp benches, benches that reminded me of summer camp (minus the bullies). The sun beat down on half our table, and I angled my body to stay in the shady half. I was pretty sure I wanted mussels, a nice light lunch because I knew I was having a big dinner, and Craig wanted his usual trout BLT on focaccia bread. But then the waitress went and told us the specials and one of the specials was a side of hush puppies served with a lemon aioli. How could we say no to that? So we ordered those too.

The picture you see above is what she brought out. Hush puppies are basically corn meal fritters; a dough made from corn meal, eggs and milk. The lemon aioli was a nice touch, but the hush puppies were terrific on their own. I can’t think of a better beacon for summer: these should be an obligatory treat on Memorial Day. If you have a recipe, please share it in the comments!

An Elegy For Summer with Dead Lobster

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Alas

the summer

will pass

and autumn will soon descend.

Gather ye lobsters while ye may

and tomatoes too,

my friend.

And make a Pearl lobster roll

like Rebecca taught on the vid;

a final summer love affair

that won’t produce a kid.

Tomato Art

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It’s September and tomatoes are at their juiciest, and according to many food gurus, their best. More importantly, heirloom tomatoes are so prevalent everywhere these days that you can compose a gorgeous salad like the one you see above with very little effort. Just slice the tomatoes in half or quarters, drizzle with olive oil, spot with balsamic vinegar, shred some basil over the top, sprinkle with salt and pepper and crumble on some feta. That’s it. Make it as pretty as you can. If you make an extra pretty one, link to it in the comments–I’d love to see it.

Corngasm

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If all of the scientists in the world got together with all of the chefs and brought a giant pile of corn to a mystical temple of food and drink, with muses and angels dancing around them, they could not produce a more rapturous dish than the dish you see above: Jasper White’s Corn Chowder (click those words for the recipe). It has bacon, it has butter, it has cream. It has tumeric, which turns it that gorgeous golden color. A pount of Yukon Gold potatoes makes it hardy, but it’s the corn (fresh from the farmer’s market) that shines in this dish. I served it with a simple tomato salad–bright red tomatoes, red onion, basil–and then a peach plum cobbler for dessert. Summer doesn’t get better than this–make it while you can!

Squash Blossom Serenade

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I’ve always been afraid of squash blossoms. I knew you could cook them–stuff them with cheese and fry them–but somehow that seemed difficult. Plus you have to search inside each flower for bugs and who wants to take a chance that you might miss one? “No thank you,” I used to say to myself. “No squash blossoms for me.”

But then on Saturday at the farmer’s market I’d purchased the obligatory heirloom tomatoes for an heirloom tomato salad when I passed $5 packages of squash blossoms at the stand near the subway stop. They called to me and this time I didn’t run away in fear: I purchased a box and brought them home. And boy am I glad I did, as you will soon learn…

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Hey Muchacho, Make Gazpacho (and Parmesan Grilled Cheese!)

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Hot? Hungry? Have I got a solution for you. It comes courtesy of Suzanne Goin and her “Sunday Suppers at Lucques.” It’s her recipe for Yellow Tomato Gazpacho and you can read it here. It’s INCREDIBLY easy, and INCREDIBLY rewarding. All you need are yellow tomatoes, a jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Oh, and a cucumber. I leave the cucumber for last because there’s a funny story about me buying the cucumber that involves a FOOD CELEBRITY from TV, but you’ll have to click ahead.

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