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So Long, Summer

Summer Barbecue Staples

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

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.

Burger in Brioche Bun

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

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.

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I wonder if all of us who have wandered far from home miss it most on holidays, when we picture our families gathering together to celebrate without us. How far removed we feel, how alone and forgotten and devoid of tradition! Most days I feel an almost home here, a happy life an ocean away from the one I used to know. But so it always is that on one summer day in July all I crave is my backyard and family and fireworks and food. And so it was that we took to the grill yesterday with a mission: to combine a bit of the tradition we’ve left behind with a bit of gluten and dairy-free fare for another displaced American and Rick Bayless fan, our good friend, BL. The following is a sampling of our holiday meal, complete with an English classic thrown in to commemorate the losing side of this red, white and blue holiday. It may not be home, but it sure tastes good.

Traditional (or Not So Traditional) Pimm’s No. 1

Fill a jug or glass with ice. Mix one part Pimm’s No. 1 with 3 parts chilled ginger ale (traditional, according to our resident expert, RB) or lemonade* (not so traditional, but my personal preference). Add a sprig of mint and slices of cucumber, orange and strawberry.

*Note: English lemonade is a decidedly different beast than its American counterpart, namely in that it’s clear and fizzy.

Creamy Potato Salad with Lemon and Fresh Herbs
(from Bon Appetit, July 2007)

This has become a summer/4th of July staple and one of King H’s specialties (stay tuned for his other speciality, deep dish pizza) – I’m going to go out on a limb and say it is the finest I’ve ever tasted!

3 pounds (roughly 1 ½ kgs) baby red potatoes
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
¾ cup mayonnaise
3 medium green onions, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, cut into ⅓-inch cubes
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 ½ teaspoons finely grated lemon peel

Bring potatoes to boil in large pot of water. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 17 minutes. Drain; let stand until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes.

Cut potatoes into ¾-inch pieces. Place 1 layer of potatoes in large bowl; sprinkle with some of vinegar and salt and pepper. Continue layering potatoes with vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add all remaining ingredients; toss. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill (Note: this can be made up to eight hours ahead – the flavours meld together beautifully in the fridge).

Yield: 8 servings.

Hickory House Baked Beans: Rick Bayless Style
(adapted from Saveur, Issue #76)

½ large red bell pepper
2 15 oz. cans, drained or 3-3 ½ cups,
drained cooked pinto beans (don’t forget to soak these overnight!)
1 cup (430 grams) barbecue sauce
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Stem and seed bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch pieces, and put into a 2-quart or 8″ x 8″ baking dish. Add beans, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, and ½ cup (120 ml) water to dish and mix well.

Bake until top is glazed-looking and browned, the beans start to peek up from the liquid, and the liquid is bubbling vigorously around the edges, 45-60 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

Yield: 4-6 servings.

Pork Ribs with Orange and Smoked Paprika Sauce
(adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2008)

1 cup (165 ml) sweet orange marmalade
¼ cup (60 ml) white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon smoked paprika plus more for sprinkling
1 ¼ teaspoons ground cumin plus more for sprinkling
8 meaty pork ribs

Prepare barbecue (medium-low heat). Blend first 3 ingredients, 1 tablespoon paprika, and 1 ¼ teaspoons cumin in medium bowl. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Transfer half of sauce to small pitcher and reserve.

Sprinkle ribs on all sides with paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper. Grill 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Brush ribs with some of sauce from bowl. Grill until slightly charred and cooked to medium-rare, brushing with remaining sauce in bowl, about 15 minutes. Transfer ribs to platter. Drizzle with some of reserved sauce in pitcher and sprinkle with salt and pepper; pass remaining sauce. Serve with sour cream or tomatillo salsa.

Yield: 3 servings.

Grilled Pineapple and Blueberry Lavender Ice Cream with Hot Fudge Sauce

For the pineapple:

Peel and slice one pineapple and coat both sides of each slice with honey. Grill for 5 minutes on each side.

For the Lavender Blueberry Ice Cream:
(adapted from the New York Times Dessert Cookbook)

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 teaspoon culinary lavender
½ cup (100 grams) sugar
6 egg yolks
1 cup (240 ml) heavy/double cream
1 cup (roughly 200 grams) blueberries, pureed in a food processor
2 teaspoons vanilla

In a small saucepan, bring the milk and lavender to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat immediately and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan or in a double boiler, whisk the sugar, eggs, heavy cream and lavender milk mixture together. Heat on medium, stirring constantly until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Be careful not to let it boil or the eggs will curdle. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. Then pour it into a metal bowl, place a piece of saran wrap on the surface of the liquid and refrigerate until cool, about one hour.

Strain the lavender out. Fold in the vanilla and blueberries. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

For the Hot Fudge Sauce:
(from Smitten Kitchen)

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 tablespoons (45 grams) butter, unsalted
⅔ cup (165 ml) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) sugar
6 tablespoons (90 ml) corn syrup
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate and butter very slowly in a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring frequently until combined. Meanwhile, heat the water to boiling in the small, heavy saucepan. When the butter and chocolate have melted, stir the mixture into the boiling water. Add the sugar, corn syrup and salt and mix until smooth. Turn the heat up and stir until mixture starts to boil; adjust heat so that sauce is just maintained at the boiling point, stirring occasionally. Allow sauce to boil for nine minutes.

Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract and serve warm over ice cream.

Yield: 2 ½ cups (600 ml).

P.S. I can attest to the fact that the hot fudge tasted delicious on not only the ice cream and pineapples, but also on any other fruits I could scrounge up in the house to test it on:


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