A Summer Menu in the Springtime

Posted on June 3, 2012

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While Summer is coming later this month, in the 90+ degree heat of Tampa, it is hard to remember that technically it is still Spring and has been for a good while now. So when I chose a summer menu for the adoption celebration I went to last weekend, I was not taking into account the actual season, but the weather. This made the chosen dessert entirely impossible to pull off, so an alternate was prepared, and did not, in fact, make it to the party at all, but just our bellies here at the house.

Perla Meyers’ book “The Seasonal Kitchen: A Return to Fresh Food” is a great cookbook circa 1973 that I acquired from Mojo’s Used Books with some store credit I had. As I am not the smartest cook and am unable to properly interpret what flavors actually are paired well together without tasting them, recipes are my friend. But I like to try recipes that turn me into a tornado in the kitchen. This is not a difficult task, as I am usually a tornado in the kitchen as long as more than 2 things are happening at the same time.

I chose Scandinavian Cold Cucumber Soup and Plums in White Wine for the party. As I said before, the dessert didn’t make it. Despite the fact that grocery stores carry all manner of non-seasonal things (since hardly anything is actually local at the local Publix), plums are 100% not in season at the end of May. I went to Whole Foods and then to Publix and neither store had any plums. Despite being disappointed about not being able to make the dessert, I was somewhat pleased to find that there are actually things that a grocery store simply cannot carry at whim anytime of the year.

Scandanavian Cold Cucumber Soup

Soup is a lie. It appears to be a great deal of food, and sometimes (most times?) is not. I do not dispute this fact, but we make a lot of soup in this house. It’s a good way to make meat go a long way, and if you’re ok with drinking a lot of broth, the standard soup veggies are cheap if you’re buying them, and relatively easy to grow (except onions. Onions hate Florida). One whole chicken can provide several whole meals for a pair of hungry people because once you strip off the first meal of chicken, you can toss the carcass in a pot of water or crock pot and simmer away marrow and what bits of chicken are left for a healthy second meal.

I digress. Soup. Cold Soup. Some people despise that idea even more than the idea of soup itself. But it is, as I said above, really hot this time of year, and only getting hotter, so cold soup sounds great. This recipe was beautifully easy, though the one complaint I have about this cookbook – and most cookbooks for that matter – is that they don’t include the “and let sit for 30 minutes” in the prep time, which severely damages the planning period for recipe prep if you’re like me and manage to always miss that part of the recipe.

I was supposed to de-seed the cucs and let them sit, salted, for 30 minutes, but that didn’t happen since I was already running late. The salt draws out water from the cucumber so you can drain it off. Despite only sitting for 10-15 minutes, there was a decent amount of water to pour out of the little boats.

Recommendation: make sure you chop the cucumbers well before putting them in the blender. I’ve never made soup in a blender, and don’t have a food processor, but I assumed that because of how soft cucumber is, that I wouldn’t need to chop it into smaller pieces. This was a mistake and just caused an extra mess for me to clean up. As long as you make sure to chop them finely, this recipe can be made in a regular blender. We have a Black & Decker, and I had to split the soup into 2 halves to do it since there was so much, but I made 2 batches, poured them in a big bowl and just stirred that together. The recipe also recommends to “chill” the soup, but doesn’t specify how long. I stuck the bowl in the freezer for maybe 5 minutes, since a large percentage of the ingredients were already cold, so the soup didn’t need much extra help.

Plums er, Peaches in White Wine

I replaced 2 lbs of fresh purple plums with 2 lbs of not-so-fresh store bought peaches. Something I would recommend is that before serving, you actually stone and remove the skin from the peaches, because peach skin is great on a peach you’re eating fresh or fresh-ish, but it is not that great when it becomes a somewhat slimy but fuzzy edition to a somewhat soupy dessert. The texture is displeasing when combined with the syrup and the cream (or creme).

Due to choosing the recipe at the last minute, I opted to take heavy whipping cream and create my own whipped cream and slightly sweeten that rather than create the Creme Fraiche that the recipe called for. My mom used Cool Whip for whipped cream, but I strongly recommend you just get some heavy cream and create it yourself as long as you have an egg beater or an electric mixer – I say this with the caveat that I would not with it upon anyone in this day and age to hand whip their cream unless you’re the hulk or just have that kind of time and energy to spare.

wine

A note regarding your wine. This recipe calls for a Sauterne. I am no wine connesouier by any means. I go to Total Wine and ask a salesperson where they have Sauternes. They point me to the right place and show me my options, and I refrain from giving them any indication as to what I will do. But I do not buy a Sauterne. I buy the bottle in the same section that says, “An excellent alternative to a Sauterne with similar flavor but for 1/3 of the price!” Because even that slashed price is $10.99, turns out to not be a sufficient quantity for the recipe (I had to supplement with a nice Muscat that I had in the fridge), and this recipe is marked as “inexpensive” in my nice seasonal kitchen cookbook. I wonder whose definition of inexpensive this is, because typically one ingredient at $10.99 would not meet my idea of inexpensive. It’s no saffron, I know, but it’s not exactly store brand box of cocoa powder either.

I’m not sure if it’s because I used peaches, but the compote did need to cook longer than the recommended 5-8 minutes because the peaches were still quite firm after 8 minutes. I probably cooked them for closer to 15-20 minutes, though not on a very high temperature.

We all loved this recipe and probably added more white rum than it called for since we weren’t eating it all at once and ended up just adding a small splash of white rum to each bowl as we dished it out and stirred that in.

 

Cucumber Soup

Ingredients
5 cucumbers
Salt
1/2 cup chopped parsley (I purchased a whole plant since it was just slightly more than fresh herbs)
6 scallions, chopped (I used one large leek)
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped dill (store bought as our dill has gone to seed and is full of aphids now)
1/4 cup lemon juice (to be honest, I remember buying this, but don’t recall adding it to the recipe)
1 quart buttermilk
1 pint sour cream of Creme Fraiche (google this – I used sour cream due to poor planning)
Freshly ground white pepper (store bought already ground)

Garnish with 1/2 cup finely sliced radishes, 1/2 cup cucumber finely cubed, and fresh mint leaves.
I did some finely cubed cucumber and mint. I found that the cubed cucumber only sank to the bottom of the soup. Some people like that, but I would think that maybe only a very thin slice would stay at the top, or my soup was somewhat more watery than it should have been due to the cucs not sitting salted for the alloted time. In any case, this was not a necessary garnish and I skipped the radishes altogether. The mint was good though. My husband expressed his appreciation of that.

Directions
Peel cucumbers. Cut in half lengthwise and remove seeds.
Sprinkle with salt (I did a liberal sprinkle) and let stand for 30 minutes.
Drain off accumulated water and chop cucumbers coarsely. Place in blender with chopped parsley, chopped scallions, dill, lemon juice, buttermilk, and sour cream. (I found that adding only half of the ingredients was best so I could add half the buttermilk and sour cream and mix that and then do the other half in a second batch. It will not all fit in a standard blender)
Blend at high speed. Add salt and pepper and chill. Pour into large tureen and garnish before serving.

Peaches in White Wine

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups Sauterne Wine
1 3-inch piece of cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
2 lbs. fresh (or not) peaches – cut in half and stoned, remove peels after stewing
2 slices lemon
3 Tbsp. white rum

Sauce:
1 cup Creme Fraiche sweetened with 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar (or slightly sweetened homemade whipped cream)
Lemon Rind (1 Tbsp. finely grated)

Directions
In large saucepan combine sugar, wine, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Bring to boil and cook over high heat until sugar is dissolved.
Add peaches and lemon slices. Reduce heat and cook, partially covered, until peaches are soft and (15-20 minutes?)
Remove lemon slices and let peaches chill in syrup. Just before serving add rum.
Combine 1 cup Creme Fraiche with powdered sugar and grated lemon rind (I just grated some rind on top of the cream as a garnish).
Serve in a glass bowl with Creme Fraiche on the side (We served ours all together)

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