These July days have been scorching, and it doesn’t cool down much in the evenings.
Hot dinners are not appealing, and I sometimes feel too drained to spend much time over the stove, so a make-ahead, cool supper really hits the spot!
With friends’ gardens in production mode, (as opposed to mine – more on that later), and good produce showing up, it is easy to compose my ideal summer supper!
Start with a glass of champagne or prosecco topped up with a dash of an interesting fruit nectar, like the apricot or raspberry varieties by Emmanuelle Baillard from Belinda, which are available at Lee Robinson General Store in Hatteras.
They are created in France from pure local fruit juices and artisanally crafted. They are refreshingly luscious added to soda water, too.
When Beth brought over some of her mammoth basil and vine-ripened Roma tomatoes, all I needed was mozzarella to create a perfect starter/salad. Couldn’t be simpler or tastier!
Simply slice and salt the Romas and wrap them, along with sliced mozzarella, in one huge basil leaf and sprinkle with a little balsamic vinegar. Shazam! Caprese finger food!
For the main course, I poached chicken breasts and refrigerated them until the next day. Poaching doesn’t take long, and the meat remains moist.
Poached fish, especially tile fish, would also be appealing, and we often have fish, but I had defrosted chicken that didn’t get used so I needed to cook it. It is really, really good this way! I poached three large breasts and used one for supper, and made a dilled chicken salad with the rest.
Next, I cut corn off the cob and briefly cooked it in milk and butter, just enough to cover the corn, and added just a taste of cheddar.
Notice a trend? Minimal time over the stove, and minimal work just before supper after a hot day.
When it is time to assemble, spoon the corn onto the plate and top with slices of the chicken, lightly smeared with a mixture of mayo, Dijon, and fresh French tarragon. Add sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, (since you can never have too many tomatoes this time of year), that have been salted and resting in their own juices.
Serve with fresh Rocky Hock cantaloupe from Conner’s Supermarket in Buxton, seasoned with Shaena and Brian’s new sea salt and pepper blend from Hatteras Saltworks.
For dessert, what can be better than homemade vanilla and rose water ice cream topped with a salad of assorted summer fruit that has been enhanced with a touch of Chambord raspberry liqueur?
I confess to using the Williams-Sonoma ice cream starter now after years of doing it all from scratch. It tastes better, and it takes less time and energy, since the blend goes into an electric ice cream maker. All I have to add is half and half, heavy cream, and rose water, and the machine does the work!
For the fruit salad, select as many or as few fresh fruits as you find appealing – or even just one special fruit. No instructions necessary!
However, be sure to put a little sugar on the fruit to draw out their sweet juices. You can also add a few drops of a favorite liqueur or cordial to take it to the next level! Amaretto, Limoncello, Chambord, Cointreau, and Midori are especially appealing flavors for summer fruits.
In order to be able to enjoy all the fine summer produce this year, we have all had to take measures to protect our gardens from marauding critters. Deer have been especially voracious, and although I planted in the spring, I have not been able to harvest anything.
They have chomped off entire stems before they get the chance to bear fruit and that has severely stunted plant growth. Little green fruits are finally appearing now, so action is needed.
As suggested by several Hatteras friends, I have sprinkled chopped Irish Spring soap around the plants and it does appear to be a useful deterrent – to some extent.
But I am declaring war! And, with fishing net from Michael and Claudia, I am in the process of caging my precious plants. Well, actually Ernie is! It gives new meaning to the familiar term, “Hanging Net!”
POACHED CHICKEN BREASTS
6 cups COLD water
3 large chicken breasts
1 large bay leaf
5 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- It sounds like a lot of salt but the meat will not absorb it all and this leaves it well seasoned.
- Put all in a good sized pot and turn the heat on to medium.
- As soon as you see the surface of the water start to roll, flip the breasts with tongs, remove the pot from the heat, and cover with a tightly fitting lid.
- In about 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the breast, check the breasts’ internal temperature. When they register 150 degrees, remove them from the water and place them on a cutting board to rest for at least 5 minutes.
Timing is important here so check early rather than later. You can always cook them longer but can’t uncook them!