As the summer draws to its inevitable close (the trees in the Fields are already turning yellow and I’m spending a significant amount of time daydreaming about a long weekend Autumn respite at home), we have taken it upon ourselves to fire up the mini-grill out front for the almost last time and, in doing so, I’ve been reminded of all the now summer staples I’ve accumulated over the past few months. Aside from the Pimm’s (which have been documented here and are an English summer staple in themselves), it’s been the brioche burger buns found in the New York Times which have been the most reliable and the biggest hit (particularly for the nibblers/carb-lovers amongst us). I could be (and have been) perfectly happy eating these on their own, without a piece of meat in sight. They are light and moist and oh so simple – so simple, in fact, that they make you wonder why you ever bought burger buns in the first place. As with all bread-baking, don’t let the rising time deter you. If you have the time, I implore you to make these a few hours before your barbecue. You’ll never think the same way about buns (at least in burger form) again.
And those homemade chips/fries, how happy they have made me this summer. Taken from a cookbook FDW fell in love with at Williams Sonoma during my visit home in May (and, fittingly enough, first made by FDW to perfection when he came to visit me in foggy Londontown), the secret to these crisp and golden potato wedges is in the double fry method. Well, that and the sea salt and the mayonnaise and the Old Bay and the new addition of cheddar cheese, inspired by a trip to Polperro in Cornwall, where cheddar is brought in fresh from the Cheddar Gorge and piled high on everything from chips to fish pie. These are downright addictive and will linger in your mind long after the fire in the grill has died and all the blankets have been brought back in from the Fields. And, speaking of lingering, this first recipe has stuck with me all summer long. It’s simple and fresh and perfect for guests – almost like a greener version of my mother’s antipasti. You can throw in just about anything (prosciutto, peppers, fresh basil) and let it speak for itself. While Fall will always be my favourite season, it’s recipes like these that make it hard to say goodbye to Summer.
Summer Composed Salad
(adapted from Orangette)
1/2 of a small ripe cantaloupe, seeds and rind removed, cut into rough 1-inch chunks
1/2 cup shaved Parmigiano Reggiano
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into six slices
About 4 ounces baby arugula
1 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for serving
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice, plus more for serving
Crunchy salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel
Freshly ground pepper
Divide the melon, Parmigiano Reggiano, and mozzarella between two plates, arranging each item in its own little pile. Set aside.
Put the arugula in a medium bowl. In a small cup, whisk together 1 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Drizzle the dressing over the arugula, and, using your hands, toss very gently. Put a handful of arugula on each plate, alongside the melon, prosciutto, and mozzarella.
Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper over the mozzarella. Splash a bit of lemon juice over the melon. Drizzle the melon and mozzarella with olive oil. Sprinkle a bit of parsley over the plates, if you like.
Yield: 2-3 servings.
Light Brioche Buns
(from the New York Times)
3 tablespoons warm milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened.
In a glass measuring cup, combine 1 cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, beat 1 egg.
In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Using a dough scraper, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto clean, unfloured counter and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.
Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using dough scraper, divide dough into 8 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange 2 to 3 inches apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let buns rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours.
Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center. Beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Yield: 8 buns.
Polperro Chips/Boardwalk French Fries
(adapted from The Summer Shack Cookbook)
I can’t say enough about The Summer Shack cookbook and so I’ll leave it at this: go out and buy it! Thanks to Jasper, I found myself clearing out the local fish market in my small town in upstate NY, lugging home 10 pounds of cherry-stone clams to make the most delicious clam chowder I’ve ever tasted.
2 pounds Idaho or russet potatoes of uniform size and shape (about 6 to 8 ounces each), washed
About 7 cups peanut, canola or other vegetable oil for deep-frying
Sea salt, such as Maldon or fluer de sel
Old Bay seasoning (optional)
Cheddar cheese (optional)
Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Heat 3 inches of oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit in a 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven over medium heat or in a deep fryer.
While the oil heats, slice the potatoes lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick planks. Stack the planks 2 or 3 high and cut them into 1/2-inch-wide fries.
Drop all the potatoes into the oil and swirl them with tongs. Fry until the middle of a fry is hot when tested and doesn’t snap when broken in half, about 3 minutes. The fries should not pick up much colour at all – do not let them brown. Using a wire-mesh skimmer, lift up the fries and drain them over the pot, then transfer them to the lined baking sheet and allow them to cool completely at room temperature, at least 20 minutes (or up to 3 hours). Let the oil cool as well.
When ready for the second frying, line a second baking sheet with paper towels. If you want to keep the first batch of French fries warm until they are all cooked, preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Add additional oil as needed to come 3 inches up the sides of the Dutch oven or deep fryer and heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Drop half the potatoes into the hot oil and swirl them with tongs. Transfer the fries to the lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt (top with grated cheddar cheese if desired). You can serve them immediately or keep them warm in the preheated oven. Fry the remaining potatoes, making sure to let the oil come back to 375 degrees Fahrenheit before adding the second batch. Drain on the lined baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and Old Bay seasoning (and top with second half of cheddar cheese, if desired), and serve hot with mayonnaise (or Ketchup, for those who haven’t seen the light).
Yield: 4, as a side dish.