Tag Archives: summer food

Beating the Heat.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but New York is having a bit of a heat wave at the moment. My apartment wasn’t designed for maximum air-flow, and, as a result, it’s so stuffy in there that I’ve been eating most of my meals on a tray in the bedroom, as close to my sole window-unit as possible.

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The kitchen is the hottest room in the place, so I’ve obviously been doing as little cooking as humanly possible. (When that much sweat involved, it’s hard enough to motivate to eat, let alone turn on a couple of burners.) One can only stand so many makeshift meals, though, and a few nights ago I hit the tipping point. I wanted a real dinner, dammit.

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Smitten Solution.

I think you all know me well enough by now to agree that I’m not normally one for quick, decisive action, but these days, I seem to be categorically unable to carry out my preferred method of menu-planning; instead of sifting through back issues of Gourmet and long-neglected cookbooks to come up with a way-too-ambitious grocery list, I find myself flipping through my Evernote recipe collection, discouraged by all the clippings that require days of advanced planning and extensive legwork. I just don’t feel like doing any of it.

Completely uncreatively, I blame the heat. I want to make things that require as little work as possible—with one hand, preferably, so the other is free to reach for that icy-cold glass of lambrusco—so I was in the perfect frame of mind to receive yesterday’s Smitten Kitchen email. Chopped salad with feta, lime and mint. Just reading the name cooled me off a few degrees.

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Homework.

I spent a few days at the Jersey Shore last week, which presented the perfect opportunity to put my my new-found resolution to the test. In keeping with both tradition and the constricts of a sparsely populated pantry, I wanted to cook an easy meal, one that would utilize as many fresh ingredients as possible, in the simplest manner possible. Luckily, my mother had brought her food-magazine hand-me-downs, and flipping through her copy of August’s Cooking Light, I found just the thing.

It’s next to impossible to avoid seafood cravings after putting in time at the beach; combine that with gazpacho, perfectly refreshing after a day in the hot sun, and I didn’t have to think twice—this dish was practically begging to be made.

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Summer Simplicity.

As you may have gathered from my recaps, I tend to go overboard when cooking for a party or a large group. I’m the first to admit that this has always affected the timing of the meal—when running behind schedule (which, let’s face it, is almost always), I’ve roped more guests into chopping, sautéing, and grilling duties than I’d like to admit; I’ve had friends leave hungry because they had other commitments and couldn’t wait until 10:00 for dinner; and I’ve served dessert first because nothing else was ready. This approach may have made the experience a bit more frantic than would be ideal, but it never had much impact on the quality of my food until recently. Let’s go behind the scenes of my current bout of kitchen malaise, shall we?

After severely charring batches of ribs on two separate occasions (one of which would have had borderline-edible results anyway, thanks to a marinade that was too spicy for most of my guests) and making a cabbage salad so salty it required the addition of copious amounts of lime juice to choke it down, I came to the realization that my cooking mojo was seriously compromised. I finally took the hint and decided on an alternative game plan: Simplicity.

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Tailgate Tale.

It’s now mid-August. As of last week, I’d cooked for one barbecue, one baby shower and one or two dinners since June, and that’s about it. No meals of fresh summer produce, no regular trips to the farmers market or co-op, no picnics, no regular use of the grill, nada. It’s not that I haven’t want to take advantage of the season; I’ve just been more inclined toward event cooking than everyday cooking. It suited my mood perfectly, then, when I found myself in possession of tickets to last week’s USA vs. Brazil friendly at the Meadowlands.

The guys we were meeting could pretty much be professional tailgaters, so I knew I had to come with something good—tough crowd, that. Everything had to be easy to make and easy to transport; an inexpensive menu wouldn’t hurt, either. With those parameters in mind, I cracked open my Evernote clippings and dug up a few recipes I’d been meaning to try.

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