Summer is easy. It’s easy to be inspired by the vibrant rows of produce lining the crowded stalls at the farmer’s market. Flipping through the summer issue of my favorite food magazines it’s easy to create dinner plans for tonight, tomorrow and the weeks to come. Walking down the aisle at the grocery store it is easy to grab a half flat of strawberries on a whim as their perfume intoxicates to the point of near delirium. With no solid plans for them and paying no mind to the fact that I just used up a flat the day before, it is easy to get blindsided by the charms of this season.
The sun keeps us outside for as long as it decides to linger. There are lemonade stands to run, new bikes to ride and a small garden to painstakingly tend to. I’m called in only briefly to quickly assemble a simple summer dinner, one that requires little more than a hot grill (grill pan) and loads of fresh vegetables. It’s easy to be deemed a great cook in this season as much of the work is done for you in the freshness of the produce. The sun sweetens, the earth gives depth and heft and all that is left to do is assemble.
As the weather slowly warms up and the activities of summer take full swing it is the meals that don’t require an oven, that come together in a moment’s time and with each bite taste of summer itself that I turn to. Few ingredients brought together in creative ways served family style at the table or better yet, on the grass – this is the food of our summer. Easy.
Grilled avocado and Corn Salad
It was the latest Bon Appetit that brought my attention to grilling avocados and for that I can never thank them enough. If I could I would grill a stick of butter but since that seems improbable avocados are the next best thing. Their flesh softens under the heat giving them the texture I dream of when thinking on grilled butter. The smokiness from the grill does them well.
2 avocados, halved and removed from their skin (I find a spoon works best for this)
1 Tablespoon buter
2 cups fresh or frozen corn
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2 scallions, chopped
1 Tablespoon diced jalapeno (more or less)
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup crumbled feta (optional)
Add the butter to a hot skillet. To that add the corn, cumin and a pinch of salt. Saute until corn is just cooked, 2-3 minutes then turn off heat. Toss in the scallions, jalapeno and cilantro. Taste and add more salt if needed.
On a very hot grill or grill pan place the avocados on the grill. Let sit undisturbed for a couple of minutes. Flip the avocados over and grill the other side. Salt the avocados and place on a platter with the corn salad.
Grill some thinly sliced bread that has been drizzled with oil. Brush the grilled bread with a garlic clove. Served alongside the salad.
1 ½ cups heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
¼ cup honey
4 egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
In a saucepan combine the cream, milk, vanilla seeds and bean. Bring to a simmer. Then turn off the heat and let stand for at least 15 minutes to infuse the cream with the vanilla.
In a medium bowl whisk the yolks, honey and a pinch of salt.
Bring the cream back to a simmer then slowly pour that into the bowl with the yolks while whisking. Pour everything back into the saucepan and continue to cook on low until it thickens slightly (170-175*F). It should just coat the back of a spatula or wooden spoon.
Strain this mixture into a clean bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Pour warm, if the weather is gray and clouds cover or cold, if the sun persists over the clouds, over a bowl of sliced strawberries.