As many of you know, I am a dedicated advocate of seasonal food and this is prime time!
Summer suppers are meant to be easy and it is not hard to achieve when there is such a variety of fresh seafood and produce around.
For a dinner with some good friends, I decided to use as many fresh food items as I could reasonably fit into one meal without spending all day over the hot stove or even turning on the oven. This was as easy as it was meant to be and, if I may say so myself, the meal was filled with freshness and complementary flavors.
We began with a gift from another friend, a surprisingly delicate dip she made with eggplants from her garden in the woods up in Buxton. I served it chilled but not cold, and the warm earthiness of eggplant shone through.
BABA GANOUSH OR EGGPLANT HUMMUS
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Place eggplant on baking sheet and poke holes into the skin with a fork.
Roast for 30-40 minutes, turning occasionally until soft. Remove from oven and place in a large bowl of cold water. When cool enough to handle, pour out the water and peel the eggplant.
Place eggplant flesh, lemon juice, tahini, sesame seeds and garlic in a blender and puree. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to medium-sized bowl and stir in the olive oil. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.
Our salad was abundant with the flavors of summer — watermelon, tomatoes and mint from my porch garden, sliced green onions, and ricotta salata cheese. This cheese has the same mild flavor as the ricotta we use in baked pasta dishes but is harder and crumbles beautifully.
The salad is a refreshing counterpart to the rich chowder.
There are no precise amounts you need to concern yourself with but I suggest you use slightly more watermelon than tomatoes so you don’t lose their touch of sweetness. This is one dish where you can let the ingredients tell you how much of each you want.
I have both red and yellow little tomatoes growing, and it is lovely to add the extra color if you can. Slice a few thin green onions and slice or chop fresh mint.
Gently stir all together and crumble the cheese over it, just enough to get a taste of cheese in every bite but not so much that it overpowers the watermelon.
The main course was Best of Summer Chowder, an extravagance of summer’s abundance — sweet onions, sweet corn, sweet shrimp, sweet crab tempered with salty bacon, and celery and potatoes to absorb the creamy, flavorful broth.