When I think about summer, I’m reminded of classic summer picnic foods. Growing up in the 1970s in the suburbs of DC, summer meals were just basic. Occasionally we would go out, but mostly we stayed at home for dinner. (Six o’clock sharp!) Daylight lasted far longer after dinner, which meant more time to play, and more time for the folks on the back porch to talk late into the night. I’m sure it really isn’t that much different now but thinking about summertime dinners always brings back memories of simpler times, the sound of crickets as a backdrop to the evening and the vague smell of summer just hanging in the air somehow.
My favorite summer foods now are the same ones that I loved then—corn on the cob, chilled watermelon, fried chicken and, if we were lucky, steamed blue crabs covered in Old Bay seasoning. There was no butter, no cocktail or lemon—but maybe the opportunity for a swig from an unattended National Bohemian or Pabst Blue Ribbon if nobody was looking!
These days I’m thinking about how to infuse those summertime favorites with new life, creating lighter profiles and layering unexpected flavors, but still in keeping with all the best of childhood recollections. While you savor summer, I hope you’ll try and love these updated classics just as much as I do!
Watermelon and Feta Salad
Cube a very ripe watermelon (about 4 C.) and 1/2 C. feta cheese. Add 1 T. packed fresh mint leaves, sliced, a bit of thinly sliced jalapeño(about half of a small one), a squeeze of fresh lime, a drizzle of high-quality olive oil and a pinch of coarse kosher salt. Toss together lightly to combine.
Summer Grilled Corn
Grill corn in the husk until charred. Peel and cut the kernels from the cob with a sharp knife. Meanwhile, grill a red bell pepper until charred. Dice and combine with the corn kernels. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a drizzle of high-quality olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon and finish with a sprinkle of a little chopped cilantro or basil.
Crispy Szechuan “Hot” Chicken
Marinate four boneless, skinless chicken breasts for several hours in a mixture of 4 oz. honey, 12 oz. buttermilk, 1 oz. salt and 1 oz. crushed Szechuan peppercorn.
Remove chicken from marinade. Set chicken aside and add the marinade to a medium saucepan. Simmer mixture over low heat until just combined, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, dust chicken in 6 T. flour seasoned with 1 T. salt and 1/2 T. pepper. Shallow fry in 6 T. of canola or corn oil until done & crispy (about 5-6 minutes per side); drain on paper towels.
Brush the crispy chicken with the sauce or toss together for a deeper, more robust coating.
Last, but certainly not least, be sure to keep an ice-cold beer nearby (don’t take your eye off it, now!) and enjoy the best of summer. Cheers!
NAME THAT COCKTAIL CONTEST RESULTS
After tabulating votes for our 16 entries, the winning name
for the Fourth of July specialty cocktail is…
Yankee Doodle Dickel Dandy
The winning entry was submited by Sandy Wooster, who will receive
two free drink coupons to enjoy this delicious summer concoction.
Congratulations, Mrs. Wooster!