Sunday, August 5, 2007

Casserole Avoidance Syndrome

The heat makes me irritable and lethargic. There have been a few summers (in particular, balmy ones in homes where we had no air conditioning) when I've announced to Ickie in a disgruntled manner that the only things I'm "cooking" all summer long are salads and sandwiches. Certainly, there's a lot of good food that can be finagled into sandwich or salad form, but summer is also fresh fruit pie season and berry jam-making season, so I eventually end up over a steaming pot or in the vicinity of a hot oven. Usually I can send our meats and fish out the door with Ickie to the grill, and that is a relief.

Mark Bittman, the NYT columnist known as "The Minimalist" and author of one of my favorite cookbooks, just wrote an article including recipes for 101 simple meals for summer. Now, here is someone who understands what I need! Like him, I have several dinners I fall back on when the weather is oppressive. There is the occasional pot of boiling water involved, but it only takes about five minutes to get the job done. The key is to buy everything fresh the same day, and then you can spend that time in an air-conditioned store instead of your kitchen.

Shrimp Boil Picnic: I boil 1-1.5 pounds of fresh shrimp and serve with cocktail sauce, french bread, and a simple green salad. For this we put our picnic blanket on the living room floor, have it with a couple of beers, and watch BSG.

Ceviche: I use Daisy Martinez's recipe for Shrimp Cooked in Citrus Juice. I make it in the morning or evening when it's cooler and leave it in the fridge overnight. It's cold, crisp, and healthy, plus it's kind of like a science experiment to see the shrimp turning a delightful shade of pink in the acid! I like it with German Riesling.

Antipasto Picnic: Again the picnic blanket comes out on the living room floor. I fill a platter with rolls of prosciutto (or speck, which I prefer), a couple of fancy cheeses (piave is usually in the mix), olives (optional, since Ickie won't eat them), and sliced pears and/or apples or grapes. Sometimes there's an arugula salad, and always there's a loaf of fresh bread with high quality olive oil for dipping. We round it all off with an Italian red.

Grilled Swordfish: I get a couple of fresh swordfish steaks, rub them with olive oil and Cavender's Greek seasoning, and Ickie slaps them on the grill. We usually add a salad (I've been using pea shoots lately!) and bread to this too--notice a trend? And of course, a Pinot Grigio or Sav Blanc.

Gnocchi: I get the packaged gnocchi and boil it until it floats to the top (about 3 minutes). Then I toss it with olive oil, finely shredded piave cheese, sea salt, pepper, and some fresh parsley or basil if I have it. If you can't find piave, a pox on your local store, and you can substitute any hard, salty Italian cheese.


Jennifer said...

Hey Beth - do you still get the "Create" channel by PBS up there in Maine? I've been watching Mark Bittman's "Best Recipes in the World" show and it's really interesting ... and a lot of fun.

I don't know if that channel is brainwashing me or what, but it's for the best. I'm totally in to visiting my farmer's markets for just about everything now.

Watoosa said...

I just discovered the Create channel, which is great, and I watched part of that Mark Bittman show. Hopefully I'll see more of it!
Yeah, I go to like 4 different stores now for groceries--one for bread, one for fish, one for vinegar and olive oil, etc. It's a good thing I don't have a full time job!