Summer on a Plate
It’s summertime, and the eating is easy – as easy as walking out into my own garden and picking my lunch and dinner. What follows is an easy and light summer meal that takes advantage of all the summer bounty we are enjoying now. It all adds up to summer on a plate!
For the croutons:
1 loaf French bread, torn into 1-inch cubes
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground salt and pepper, to taste
Heat oven to 300°. Place a baking sheet in the oven with the butter on it and let the butter melt as the oven heats. Remove pan from oven, add the olive oil, then quickly toss the bread cubes in the pan to coat with the butter and oil. Season with freshly ground salt and pepper. Bake until croutons are light brown and crunchy, about 25 minutes.
For the vinaigrette:
1 garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground kosher salt and pepper, to taste
Combine first 5 ingredients, then gradually whisk in the olive oil to form an emulsion. Season to taste.
For the salad:
3 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 bell peppers, diced into ½-inch pieces (for a pretty plate use all colors – green, yellow, orange, and red.)
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 cup basil leaves, torn
Combine salad ingredients. Pour vinaigrette over top and toss to coat. Let mixture sit at least 30 minutes. The longer it sits, the juicier it gets. Taste test and season with freshly ground kosher salt and pepper. Add in the croutons, toss to coat, and enjoy summer at its finest.
For my entrée, I’m going with local seafood – mahi mahi, or dolphin fish, in this case. A delicate white fish calls for delicate cooking techniques. I use a cooking technique called en papillote, French for “in paper” or “in parchment.”
Mahi Mahi en Papillote
4 one-inch thick mahi mahi filets (4-6 ounces each)
4 sheets of parchment paper
1 leek, rinsed, cleaned, and sliced
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Multi-colored bell pepper strips (I use green, yellow, orange, and red peppers.)
1 lemon, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper – a bare sprinkling
Old Bay seasoning
1 cup Chardonnay
Take a sheet of parchment paper large enough to hold your filet and a sprinkling of vegetables and fold it in half. With the folded side as the base, cut a heart shape out of the parchment paper.
Place each mahi mahi filet next to the fold in parchment paper, in the large part of the heart. Divide leek, carrot, pepper, butter, and lemon slices on top of the filets. Sprinkle a little Old Bay seasoning, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper over top. Beginning at the round end, start crimping the parchment paper. When you get almost to the end, pour ¼ cup of the wine into each package. Continue crimping until you reach the end, sealing the pouch.
Place pouches on baking sheet and bake in a 350° oven for about 22 minutes. Open pouches, taking time to enjoy the amazing aromas wafting out.
Cooking en papillote is a very versatile method of cooking. All you need is a basic understanding of your ingredients so you know what flavors and seasonings work together. I’ve used this method to cook flounder, cod, grouper, and rockfish, each time varying the ingredients in my package for whatever flavor combinations I want.
There’s inherent beauty in cooking “en papillote.” It’s a moist-heat cooking method in which the food is put in a folded package, sealed, and baked. The food is gently steamed and cooked in its own juices. The parchment envelope/pouch inflates as the hot air inside expands. The flavors of all the ingredients are swept up into the package, mingling and swirling all around, intensifying. Essentially, the ingredients are cooked in flavored, scented air and form a sauce of their own essence. Cooking en papillote is culinary synergism – the whole is more than the sum of the individual parts. [divider]
For dessert, I’m giving you the best of what summer offers – either a Georgia peach or a South Carolina peach. I’d be hard-pressed to pick between the two. And I have my peaches wrapped up in pretty packages. I have Peach Beehives!
Turbinado sugar (also known as “sugar in the raw”)
1 box refrigerated pie crusts, not the frozen pie shells in tins (typically they are sold with two crusts rolled up in one box.)
Let the pie crusts come to room temperature. Slice into ¼” wide lengths. Do not peel the peaches. Wash and leave peaches damp.
Starting at the bottom of the peach, start spiraling the pie dough strips, pressing in the overlapping layers. Completely cover the peach. Seal the layers. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over the pastry. Press in. Add a little cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg,
Bake at 375° for about 35-45 minutes, or until pie crust is golden brown.
Hard Rum Sauce:
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. heavy cream
1 Tbsp. rum, or to taste
Melt butter. Whisk in the rest of the ingredients. Heat and serve over peaches with vanilla ice cream. The peach has an amazing custard-like texture.
This is summer at its finest. Enjoy the bounty!
Rosie Hawthorne is a blogger, gardener, wanderluster, and mother of three. She learned to cook by watching Julia Child every Saturday afternoon on her 11-inch black and white TV with legal pad and pen in hand. For the Hawthornes, every meal is a celebration of life.