My TU story for August, 2021. Read it here, or see below. With recipes for Blackberry + Peach Lemon Cobbler, Goat Cheese + Summer Veg Risotto and Scallop Ceviche with Fruit + Spice.
When Elliot was a baby, just a tiny nugget wrapped tightly in a blanket, I took him to a checkup and the doc had a look at him and he was weighed and checked over and determined to be fine and healthy. The doctor said something unexpected on that visit, something that’s stayed with me, for seventeen years. He told me that Elliot would be a baby for a long, long time. Enjoy him, he said. It was so different from what people usually said about babies – you know how they say it goes so fast and, you blink an eye and it’s gone, that kind of stuff. This, it was new. I think about that exchange quite often and how it can apply to most anything. Anything, really, that you want to savor. Babyhood, for sure, but also: summer.
Here we are, at a time when people are all but finished with summer. There are school supplies in the stores and even, horribly, Halloween candy (look away!) But if you hold on, just wait for a minute, you’ll see: there’s still time. From the time you read these words on printed paper until the first official day of fall, I count thirty-four days. That’s thirty-four whole days of warm mornings and dinners eaten while it’s still light outside. Thirty-four days of tomato breakfasts, of sweet corn on the cob each and every night. Of berries, eaten straight from the container at the farmer’s market. I’ll take every one of these summer days, enjoyed slowly, savored and held on to, precious as they are.
Here are a few recipes, food that feels a whole lot like summer (because we’re still celebrating summer, right?) and food that definitely feels good to eat on warm, late summer evenings.
Ceviche is a quintessential summer dish. It’s made from fresh seafood, crunchy vegetables and lots of herbs. This dish is Peruvian, though other countries have adopted it. Here, raw fish is marinated in an acid bath of orange, lemon and lime juice. The acid in the juice does something similar to what heat does to the flesh (cool, eh?) After marinating for a few hours, the fish is opaque and firm, ‘cooked’ fish. One thing though, the acid marinade doesn’t kill bacteria like heat does, so buy the best and freshest seafood you can find, and use it right away. This recipe for ceviche eats like a salad, with lots of crunchy vegetables and herbs. I threw in a nectarine, because Paul bought more than we could eat in the time it takes for them to over ripen, so it’s been nectarines in oatmeal, nectarines in salad, nectarine this and nectarine that. And still, we aren’t tired of, or finished with them. In ceviche, a sweet, firm-fleshed piece of fruit is good alongside tender, citrusy scallops and the poblano adds heat—just a touch—and plenty of crunch. Rather than the usual cilantro ceviche typically calls for, I stirred in fresh basil, giving it tons of flavor from an herb I think of as an ambassador for summer. Ceviche makes for a good light supper or a lunch on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I think it’s great food to serve to guests. One note, if you are squeamish about raw seafood, then gently poach the scallops and then toss it with the remaining ingredients, adding a few splashes of the citruses and olive oil to make a dressing. Don’t marinate already cooked fish, or it’ll get mushy.
Risotto is a dish that’s a blank canvas. Come fall, it’s perfect with butternut squash, Parmesan cheese and fresh sage leaves. In spring, bright green asparagus stalks nestle into its creamy goodness and are right at home. And you can stir in other, seasonal produce at any time of year, like tomatoes, peas, and sweet onions. Here, risotto is mixed with griddled yellow squash, a classic summer vegetable that’s brown and crisp around the edges. Here’s the deal with risotto, which is really quite simple, but has a reputation for fussiness: risotto is made from arborio rice, which is a short grain. It’s cooked in a pan with shallots and wine until it releases its starch, making it rich, creamy and flavorful. Most recipes call for heating stock and stirring, stirring and stirring. Here’s a secret: you don’t need to stir all that much, and you don’t need to heat the stock, either. Keep a quart of unsalted chicken broth close by, set the timer, and stir the broth in four turns. When the rice is tender, stir in the goat cheese, add some salt and herbs and hey, you’ve got beautiful risotto, which I like to think of as grown up macaroni and cheese. The goat cheese is a change from the usual Parmesan and is lighter and has a gentle tang. Risotto can also be gloppy, from too much cheese. There’s no gloppiness here, but if it is too thick when the rice has completely cooked, add water, about ⅓ cup, before stirring in the goat cheese.
Lastly, a summertime dessert, meant to please a crowd. There are still loads and loads of local berries and fruits to be eaten right now, and we intend to eat, bake and otherwise get into our mouths as many as possible before summer is truly over and they’re gone. In this skillet bake, pints of blackberries and two ripe peaches are mixed with a sprinkling of sugar and then topped with warm, sweet and lemony biscuit dough. You can use whichever seasonal fruits are available and satisfy your craving. There’s something about baking in a cast iron skillet that’s a little magical. Whatever goes in, always turns out right. The heavy pan is good at evenly distributing heat, turning out both the soft, juicy fruit and crisp-topped, sweet biscuit layered on top.
I do love fall, for its flavor and color and when it rolls around, I’ll be ready for it. But for now, hold my pumpkin spice latte and I’ll wait on baking with apples and butternut squash, till it’s really fall. It’s still summer around here, and will be for a long, long time.