Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fish are jumpin' and the grass is high

It's hard to blog in the summertime. The cook in me has been on hiatus; there's always outside work to be done, fun to be had, and we're just flat tired. And hot. And sometimes irritable. Cooking has been more about using whatever we can out of the garden and avoiding the grocery store like the plague. Our refrigerator has never been so bare; for weeks on end now it's been empty with the exception of a few daily squash, zuchinni, cucumbers, swiss chard, kale, and the last few stubborn lettuces that simply refuse to give in to this oppressive heat. You go lettuce.

I never buy ice cream at the grocery store. Or any sweets for that matter. I figure that if I want something bad enough to make it, then I really want it. Ready-made treats just sitting around, waiting to be consumed without any effort on my part...well, that's just dangerous.

Last night we had a little "family date night"; all 3 of us went out on the town. It was meant to be; perfect from start to finish. The girl did beautifully at the restaurant, ate a great dinner, didn't make a bit of a mess...our food was fantastic...we walked around downtown for hours with my FAVORITE kind of weather (gray skies that threaten rain and wind that means a storm's coming in, but it's not yet raining). Perfect. Perfect enough for ice cream!
After walking by 4 different ice cream places and having some type of "criticism" for each one, Michael advised that I just pick something up at the store and take it home; he reminded me that I'm always disappointed whenever I buy from any of these shops. He was right. After considering the value for the money, we decided to make a stop at the grocery on the way home.

Kudos to whoever branded Talenti gelato and sorbet; their packaging caught my attention right away and I knew they had me. Sitting beside "Chunky Monkey" and "Half Baked", the Blood Orange Sorbet looked so clean, so fresh, so special. Yep. I woulda' paid anything for this stuff. Blood Orange Sorbet for me and Double Dark Chocolate for my orange-hatin' husband. (Well, and for me too...let me not mislead).
Yum. This was exactly what I wanted. The sorbet was refreshing, the gelato rich and creamy. Though I've gotta say...I wanted Talenti to win my heart, but it still didn't come close to the orange sorbet that Haagen Dazs used to make. Bring it back Haagen Dazs. Bring it back.

But it's good...and it inspired me to get back in the kitchen and whip something up. I had a watermelon sitting on the counter, just staring at me, and I figured I'd better try to make good use of it. For years I've been trying watermelon salads of every type; you know they kind of became the trendy thing a few years ago and one or two recipes still pops up each summer. They always sound great on paper, but have thus far, been a disappointment. I've tried them with olives and red onions, goat cheese and cilantro, mint and lime. All just...."eh".
Tonight, as I faced an empty fridge, I knew I'd need to make use of what was in the garden; lots of basil and some fresh cucumbers. I had a bit of feta cheese and THE SORBET. I made a quick vinaigrette with a balsamic reduction and blood orange sorbet...It worked. So much that Michael ate three servings. This really does scream "SUMMER"; it's so fresh and light, full of flavor, cool, fruity, and easy to make. We have a winner!
I made a quick corn chowder to go along with it, using some more fresh stuff out of the garden. Mmmm!!! Now, I know alot of people think that soup in the summertime is like some type of sin, but I'm a fan. I don't really understand why soup is supposed to make us hotter than other hot things we eat. I mean, nobody's eatin' cold lasagna or chilled hamburgers. That's another thing (while I'm on the subject)...what's up with summertime grilling? That is hot. You stand outside. Over fire. But that's supposed to be more appropriate than slow roasting something in your air conditioned house. I dunno. I think it's all backwards. I want to grill in the Fall and make the most of summertime corn while it's fresh! (Which means, a pot of soup is in order).
I don't really have an exact recipe for this, but I can give you the basics. Every time I make corn chowder it's different; it always just depends what I have on hand; sometimes with bacon, sometimes with orange zest, sometimes with cayenne, and sometimes without. I've used leeks and shallots, caramelized onions and chives. You get the picture. This one was excellent and was really set apart by the Roasted Red Pepper/Tomato garnish! I would recommend trying this with any corn chowder's the perfect accompaniment! So here's what I did with the soup, and the watermelon salad recipe is below. If you can handle soup in the summer you should give this a go. (Serve it with the refreshing watermelon salad all works)!

Soup goes something like... saute a diced large sweet onion in a couple tablespoons of light olive oil until starting to brown. Deglaze pan with a good bit of sherry (maybe 3/4 cup) and cook until it evaporates. Add a couple tablespoons unsalted butter. When melted, stir in a good bit of flour (maybe a heavy 1/4 cup). Cook a minute and then add milk (3 cups or so?). Whisk until smooth, over low heat until thickened to desired consistency. Add fresh corn, cut off the cob (2-3 cups?). Add kosher salt and pepper to taste, a few shakes of cayenne, a cup or so of grated sharp cheddar cheese, and a big handful of chopped fresh chives. Finish with another splash of sherry. Serve with a garnish of red pepper/tomato puree. (I just pureed half of a small can of tomato paste with a couple of roasted red peppers from a jar until it was smooth. You may need to use a bit of the oil from the jar or a bit of water to get desired consistency. Oh, and add a pinch of salt). Top with more fresh chives.

Watermelon Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette
  • 3 cups watermelon cubes, cut into small cubes- about 1/2" pieces
  • 1 cup diced cucumber, cut even smaller than watermelon
  • 2 tbsp. fresh basil, finely chopped
  • Drizzle of Blood Orange Vinaigrette on each serving, recipe below
  • Feta cheese, sprinkled on each serving
Gently toss watermelon with cucumber and basil. Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve. When serving, you will need to plate salad on 4 individual salad plates. Just before serving, drizzle each salad with a bit of the vinaigrette and sprinkle with feta cheese. Serve immediately.

Blood Orange Vinaigrette
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. light olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. Talenti blood orange sorbet
  • scant 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. coarse black pepper
Pour balsamic into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and simmer over medium heat until reduced by half. Allow to cool slightly. Whisk in remaining ingredients and set aside until ready to use.

1 comment:

Winelady Cooks said...

I enjoy watermelon salad during summer and I usually make a balsamic vinaigrette. The blood orange dressing sounds great, I will have to give it a try.

Thanks for sharing,

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