Sunday, August 05, 2007

Summertime and The Cooking is Easy

It’s August, the thermometer’s been sweating it out in the 90s in New York City, and my culinary muse is taking things slow. While I’m usually an “over-achiever” in the kitchen, right now I’m quite content to wander the Farmers Market in Rockefeller Center, admire the succulent summer produce, and concoct some simple menus that allow for plenty of time to prop up my feet and enjoy a glass or two of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, lush with notes of herbs and citrus.

The Everyday Food “Great Food Fast” cookbook is a fantastic resource for the summertime chef who is looking for more time to dip his toes in a cool mountain stream, literally or figuratively. Broccoli, Chickpea and Cherry Tomato Salad assembles in minutes. The broccoli can even be steamed in the microwave, and the colors are as bright and inviting as a farm stand on a country road.

Roasted Salmon with Lemon Relish from Everyday Food pairs glossy pink salmon with intensely-sweet raisins, tart lemon zest and crunchy pine nuts. Aromas of lemon and fruity olive oil tickle the nose.

A colleague shares tomatoes, garlic and leafy basil from his garden. The tomatoes are full of savory juices and the basil tempts me with smells of licorice. I turn it all into summer pasta garnished with the raw chopped vegetables, herbs and a splash of olive oil.

The baskets of peaches at the greenmarket catch my eye immediately. The pinkish-amber fruit would make a scrumptious pie, but that just feels too strenuous. Instead, visions of peach ice cream dance through my lazy head. The peaches are soaked with sweet nectar and the recipe is simple, requiring no stove-top cooking. Just cold, crisp, sweet peaches and cream.

Summer produce is sublime and just one embellishment can be miraculous. Such is the case with the sensual combination of strawberries and balsamic vinegar. I use the exquisite Balsamic Vinegar “A La Fig” from O&CO Mediterranean Food Merchant in New York’s Grand Central Terminal. The drops of balsamic splash onto the fruit and are thick, like mahogany syrup. The liquid coats the strawberries with a dark glossy sheen until they are almost an iridescent claret color. The dessert is tangy and almost hot, with notes of smoke and black pepper and sunny-sweet floral strawberries.

Although I’ve managed to cut my kitchen time considerably, my often demanding “to-do list” is effortless – listen to classic music at the botanical gardens, feel the summer breezes, watch the clouds dance across the evening sky and admire the sunset. Ambition can wait for a while. It’s summer.

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Any or all of these dishes would make a lovely summer dinner -- especially if someone would come and cook them for me! I'll try a bottle of that balsamic next time I'm at Grand Central -- looks luscious.

Anonymous said...

Wow , I'm all for easy but delicious food! And with summer there is a bounty of fresh ingredients that make it possible!

Patricia Scarpin said...

I agree - that book is packed with delicious recipes, T.W.!

Your food looks so good, my friend!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Oh, you've made some of my all-time favorite summer dishes--pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil never fails to thrill me. And it's best when you know that balsamic strawberries are for dessert.

Stay cool!