A to Z Summer Cookbook
From aioli to zucchini, Food Editor Judy Allen takes you through some of the best ingredients of summer. Presented by Metro Appliances & More, Ranch Acres Wine & Spirits and TulsaPeople
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Sweet corn, juicy tomatoes and tender okra are some of this season’s sweetest gifts.
Those ingredients, plus a slew of other summer fare, are what get my taste buds excited when the hot months finally roll in.
Some of the best summer recipes come hot off the grill, but many can be thrown together without any heat whatsoever.
When it comes to summer cooking, it is nearly impossible for me to narrow my loves down to a few things ... so I’m not going to!
This guide should keep you busy until fall.
In my opinion, there is no better summer lunch than a tomato sandwich. And what is the best part of a tomato sandwich, besides the juicy tomato itself? A smear of homemade mayo.
Aioli is the French answer to mayonnaise and typically contains olive oil, lemon juice, egg yolks and a heady amount of garlic. I typically tone down the garlic to let summer foods shine. Aioli is simple to make at home and will last for a few days in the fridge — plenty of time to eat more tomato sandwiches.
Makes about 3 cups
2 large egg yolks
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup light olive oil
1 cup vegetable or safflower oil
In a blender or a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the egg yolks, garlic, salt and lemon juice. Pulse until well combined. In a measuring cup, combine the olive oil and the vegetable oil. With food processor running, add the oil mixture in a slow, steady stream. The egg mixture will become thick and creamy.
Editor’s note: Raw eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies, young children, the elderly or anyone whose health is compromised. Use pasteurized eggs instead.
Depending on my menu, I like to spice my aioli with these additions: Sriracha, harissa or another hot chili sauce; lemon zest and herbs; malt vinegar; or olive tapenade.
Serve aioli in the Provencal tradition (called le grand aioli), on a large platter with an array of dippers: celery and carrot sticks, hard-boiled eggs, blanched green beans and asparagus, boiled beets and fingerling potatoes, radishes and cooked crab meat or shrimp.
I don’t think I could make it through a summer of cooking without many handfuls of fresh basil leaves. The hearty herb grows like crazy around here and complements myriad ingredients, including those found in this classic Italian pesto.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
In a food processor, combine 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, 1/4 cup pine nuts and 2-4 coarsely chopped garlic cloves. Pulse a few times to get things chopped. Add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese and pulse to combine. While the food processor is running, drizzle in 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Season to taste with a good amount of kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
To save the pesto, transfer to an airtight container and drizzle with more olive oil to cover the top. Refrigerate for up to a week or freeze in a sealable bag for up to three months.
If your garden is overflowing with basil, as mine is prone to by the end of summer, throw basil leaves with abandon in with your salad greens, layer them on a sandwich as you would lettuce, or puree a bunch or two with a good amount of olive oil (a bottle should suffice) and strain it through cheesecloth for a super-infused drizzler.
Corn ranks high among many Okies’ favorite summer produce for good reason — some of the best sweet corn in the country is grown right here in Green Country. Look for it at local farm stands, farmers’ markets and even in some supermarkets. Steamed corn may have its place, but here in Oklahoma we seem to prefer it hot off the grill
Here are three quick and easy ways to cook your cobs:
TulsaPeople Advertising Representative Andrea Canada loves her corn grilled and topped with butter, hot sauce and lime.
Amy Haggard, TulsaPeople’s advertising services manager, loves this version of grilled ears: grab a big sheet of aluminum foil, rub a stick of softened butter on it, sprinkle the butter with fennel seed and garlic salt, top with shucked ears, wrap and grill.
Libby Auld, owner of Elote Café, makes this home version of eloté (the cheese-coated corn on the cob snacks served by street vendors all over Mexico): shuck the corn leaving the husks attached but remove the silk. Pull the husks back to cover the corn and set on a hot grill (preferably charcoal) for 5-10 minutes. While the corn is cooking, combine 4 tablespoons mayo, juice from half a lime and 2 teaspoons of your favorite chili powder. Bathe the cooked corn in the mayo sauce and sprinkle with crumbled queso fresco or finely grated Parmesan.
Elote Café: 514 S. Boston Ave., 918-582-1403, www.elotetulsa.com
With the abundance of fresh summer vegetables and herbs and a bit of pantry planning, one need not even turn on the stove or oven to make something delicious. For impromptu entertaining, or even a light dinner, dips are the way to go — serve them with chips or crackers, toasted pita wedges or sliced vegetable crudités.
There may be a debate on whether pimento cheese is a dip or a spread, but whatever the case, it is perfect for summer. Pimento cheese is nothing more than grated cheese, mayonnaise and pimento peppers, but it has made its case as one of THE essential recipes of Southern cooking. Dress it up however you see fit, with grated onion, chopped chilies, bacon or a glug of bourbon.
For the perfect batch: mix together 2 cups coarsely grated sharp yellow cheddar cheese, 2 cups coarsely grated sharp white cheddar, 1 cup drained pimentos or finely chopped roasted red peppers and 1/2 cup mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper and chill until ready to serve. Serve it on crackers, celery sticks or smeared between two slices of bread — and call it what you want.
Rosemary-Lemon Bean Dip
Makes about 2 cups
Drain and rinse a can of white beans (such as cannellini) and add them to a food processor with 2 cloves of garlic. While the machine is running, add 1/4 cup olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Puree until the mixture is smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon minced rosemary and the grated zest and juice of a lemon. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
It shows up at our farmers’ markets in every shape, size and color, from vibrant purple to faded white. What’s a cook to do with all of the choices? I say just throw them in the fire! Roasting eggplant over hot coals renders it tender and slightly sweet — delicious when paired with nothing more than spiced-up yogurt, toasted pita bread and a crisp white wine.
Editor’s note: You’ll need a charcoal grill to achieve the best results, but eggplants can be roasted on a gas grill, as well.
To grill your own: heat a charcoal grill until coals are ashy and glowing, with no black. Nestle a few eggplants (about 1 pound total) directly into the coals and cook, turning them occasionally, until the skins are charred, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly. Scoop out the flesh in large chunks, discarding burnt skins, into a colander to allow any excess liquid to drain. Add to cooked pasta, dips and soup, or serve as is, with a hefty dollop of yogurt sauce: place 1 cup plain Greek yogurt in a bowl and drizzle with a few tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with your favorite herb or spice blend (I love the Middle Eastern blend za’atar) and serve.
“Grilling fish can be such a joyful, soul satisfying, primal experience, or it can cause one to swear off seafood forever,” says Trevor Tack, executive chef at Bodean Seafood. “The outcome is usually based on the decisions made prior to firing up the grill.”
Thankfully, he offers five tips to foolproof your fish grilling:
Choose the right product. “Fish mongers are more than happy to help you choose seafood that is suitable for the grill. Dense steak-like fish (such as swordfish, mahi mahi and salmon) work very well, as do scallops and shrimp. Avoid delicate fish such as sole or flounder.”
Control your heat. “The grill should be set to medium-high. If you are using charcoal, you want to be able to hold your hand above the coals for at least five seconds. If you have to pull away before that, your grill is too hot. Chill out and drink another beer.”
Keep it clean. “It seems silly, but make sure your grill is very clean. Use a grill brush or a ball of aluminum foil to free any carbon build-up.”
Oil the fish and the grill. “Food release spray (non-stick spray formulated for high heat) is best; vegetable oil can cause flame-ups and unsightly smoke stains on the fish.”
Leave it alone. “Don’t try to turn your fish over too soon or it will stick and tear. Give it a couple of minutes and then try flipping it by lifting gently with a pair of tongs. If it feels stuck, that’s because it is — just give it another minute. The fish will release easily when it’s ready. Once flipped, it should only take a few more minutes to finish cooking.”
Tack’s best piece of advice? “Don’t over-think it. It’s just food. Grilling is supposed to be fun.”
Bodean Seafood Restaurant: 3376 E. 51st St., 918-749-1407, www.bodean.net
Whether you are a fan of gas or insist on charcoal, your grill is sure to get a workout during the summer months.
Robert Mayfield, Hasty-Bake’s resident grilling expert, shares some grilling fundamentals:
Be sure to check your grill before you start cooking for the season — this is especially important for those who let their gas grills sit throughout the winter without use. Inspect hoses and functionality: turn the gas on, ignite the grill and allow it to burn for several minutes. At this point, after the grill has warmed up, you can clean the grill and cook on it.
With charcoal grills, clean out the ashes regularly. Ash will pull moisture out of the air and cause the grill to deteriorate, so keeping your grill clean is important.
With both charcoal and gas grills, make sure all grease traps and drain systems are cleaned regularly to avoid a grease fire.
A good rule of thumb for checking doneness of a steak: touch your pinkie to the muscle at the base of your thumb on the same hand. That is what a well-done steak will feel like. Ring finger to thumb is medium well, middle finger to thumb is medium and thumb to pointer finger is medium rare.
Chicken and pork should be cooked through to the correct temperature, which is why an instant-read thermometer comes in handy. Stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. Chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees; pork to 145 degrees.
There is no need to invest hundreds of dollars in grilling tools (unless that tool is a grill!), but Mayfield suggests a few items to make cooking outside a bit easier: a good set of long tongs, a long metal spatula, grill gloves, a hefty grill brush and an instant-read thermometer. And if you use a charcoal grill, try a bag of natural lump hardwood as it provides more flavors without additives.
Robert Mayfield’s Baby-Back Ribs
Mayfield uses Italian dressing as a base, rubbing it all over the racks of baby-back ribs. He then covers both sides with a rub (he prefers John Henry’s Pecan Rub, available at Hasty-Bake). Let the racks sit out for one hour, allowing the ribs to reach room temperature; this reduces the overall cooking time. Heat the grill to 250 degrees and throw the racks on the grill, bone side down. Let them cook undisturbed for 2-3 hours. At this point, smear a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil with butter and brown sugar, set the ribs on that, and cover the ribs with another layer of brown sugar and butter. Wrap the foil tightly around the ribs and place them back on the grill for another hour. Let the ribs sit for a few minutes to cool, which makes the rack much easier to cut.
Hasty-Bake: 1313 S. Lewis Ave., 800-426-6836, www.hastybake.com