Summer Food

by Jane Wangersky | May 1st, 2014 | Cooking Basics

file000250766038Summer’s coming — really — and it’s not too early to think about classic summer foods. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years about enjoying summer eating while we can:

Even those ready made frozen burgers, yes, even the store brand ones, taste pretty good barbecued. So do veggie burgers, sausage patties, almost anything, in fact.

Speaking of barbecuing, you can cook homemade pizza that way.

Wilted lettuce will crisp up, except for maybe the edges, if you leave it in cold water for a while — but it does take a while. It works best if you put it the lettuce and water in a covered dish in the fridge overnight. This literally puts ice water in its veins. It can also make the lettuce translucent at spots, so don’t be surprised.

Potato salad doesn’t have to be cold and doesn’t have to be covered in creamy mayonnaise dressing either. Try tossing freshly cooked, cut up potatoes with vinaigrette, served at room temperature.

On the subject of vinaigrette salad dressing, you can make your own. The ratio is three parts oil (use a higher-end oil, like olive, rather than canola or “vegetable”) to one part vinegar. Remember, the expensive stuff is what you use more of. Throw in any spices you might like and shake well before using.

Add croutons to salad at the very last minute, or they’ll get soggy. You may want to substitute uncooked stuffing mix for croutons; the flavor is much the same and the pieces are smaller.

Aspic — non-sweet gel — hasn’t been trendy for decades, but it’s still great with dinner on a hot night. Look up a recipe and try making it with tomato juice or beef, chicken or vegetable broth. If you have less time, you can make cold soup — for example, gazpacho — instead. Just be aware who you’re cooking for; to some people, all cold soup tastes wrong, while to others “Jello” in the main course feels wrong.

Fresh berries usually shouldn’t be washed in advance, which can make them soggy. But if you know you’re not going to have time to wash them later in the day, or the next day, do it now, dry them as much as you can, and sprinkle a little sugar on them. Strawberries can be sliced before you put on the sugar. Berries will keep this way in the fridge for a day or so.

It’s been a long winter, so let’s enjoy the summer foods.

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