Many recipes are great to enjoy during any season, while others are better suited for cooler or warmer weather. These amazing summer recipes are sure to whet your whistle during the heat of the summer season.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher, and today I’m here with Chef Ned Grieg, executive chef at Woodman’s and the Essex Room in Essex, Massachusetts. Today we’re talking about why some culinary offerings are better suited for summer recipes. Welcome, Ned.
Ned Grieg: Good morning.
Seasonal Fruits, Vegetables & Seafood
John: Ned, does seasonality or seasonal availability of fruits and vegetables and things like that have a lot to do with a food being particularly well‑suited for summer recipes?
Ned: Absolutely. The seasonal offerings that you get in the spring are different than the ones you’re going to get in the summertime. There’s a tremendous abundance, especially of fresh vegetables. Your fruits have turned from being rhubarb and strawberries to fresh blueberries. You’re getting the first peaches that are coming into season in the early part of the summer.
Also, you’re seeing the prices change. You go to your grocery store, you’re going to see the prices of fin fish and shellfish and lobsters coming down. In the wintertime, it’s very difficult for these people to harvest those items in inclement weather. The lobster prices alone, why they’ve gone up through the ceiling recently, was the lobstermen weren’t able to get out there to attend to their traps because of the storms. Then when they got there, they see that their traps were all gone.
In the state of Maine, you’re able to have 600 lobster traps as a professional lobsterman. A friend of mine who is a fifth‑generation lobsterman, Mark Sewell, he lost 85 percent of his traps.
John: Wow, because of the storms in the winter.
Ned: That’s because of the storms. The price to replace them, $115, $130, $150 a lobster trap, that gets expensive, and somewhere, somebody has to pay the price for it. That’s why you’re seeing lobsters at $10.00, $11.99 a pound, where last year you were getting them for three for $3.75 at The Market Basket, which is a great value.
John: But even so, in the winter, it’s generally more expensive to have fish and shellfish, things like that.
Ned: That’s correct. There’s more of an availability of the product up here on the New England section of the United States. It’s more locally grown as well, competing with the national markets that you can get your food from if you’re a catering company and a function hall like we are, though some prices and things do go up.
Transportation costs are more, because everything has to be extremely well refrigerated when it comes to a perishable protein like a piece of poultry or a piece of beef. It costs more money to send certain things certain ways.
But it is important to make your selections and make them work for your season so you can provide the best possible price for your client and to give them the best possible value for the dollar.
Foods That Don’t Work Well For Summer
John: Right. What are some foods that really don’t work so well for summer?
Ned: I just don’t feel as if having the French dish called cassoulet, which is a white bean dish with duck confit, sausage, and all this heaviness to it. You want something that’s a little bit lighter.
Personally, I don’t want to be standing over the stove in the kitchen. I’d rather be outside having a glass of white wine, putting something on the grill. It’s a little bit lighter. It’s a little more interactive. I’m outside. I want that vitamin‑D on my face. It just makes me feel better.
So you’re moving your food, you’re cooking outside a little bit more at home, though from a catering standpoint I’m still cooking inside. But if you’re doing this for yourself, you’re trying to think of things that are lighter, things that just don’t take as much time, things that are not as heavy.
We’re not doing that rack of lamb that we had at Easter time. We’re making grilled lamb chops with a fresh mint salsa on it, and you’re taking it outside. You’re lightening things up.
Replacing Items in Spring Recipes With Summer Offerings
John: OK. What would you replace your spring offerings with in the summer? Can you take us through a few options for what you’d replace a certain food with?
Ned: We still may be doing those wonderful crudités that look like Dutch gardens, where the vegetables look as if they’re growing inside of them, and serving it with a trilogy of dipping sauces, but instead of putting out a roasted red pepper dip and a tapenade, let’s go with a guacamole, fresh, bright, and green. Let’s go with an heirloom tomato salsa.
You want something a little bit lighter. Do an artichoke pesto with fresh Meyer lemon juice in it, something that’s a little bit lighter. That would work really well there.
Stationary foods, like dips and things, you want to make sure that they’re more stable. Lots of times what I try to do is anything that I put out there that’s going to be stationary, especially if it’s a dip, it has to be shelf‑stable at 85 degrees for at least three hours before it goes bad.
I adamantly try to keep dairy products out of the product, unless it’s like a hard piece of cheese ground up in a pesto. I’m not making a sour cream dip. I’m not making a green peppercorn buttermilk dip or a cream cheese dip. I’m keeping away from that.
That’s one thing, there, when it comes to the hors d’oeuvres part. I’m moving away from hot soups, and I’m doing more chilled soups, either as a passed hors d’oeuvre, or as a first course to put on them.
We just did a wedding a week ago, where we actually had a chilled soup put on a plate that was embellished with a spinach salad that was tossed in a pinot noir basil vinaigrette with roasted golden beets, candied pecans, and pickled red onions. They got a little bit of everything on one plate.
That’s something that you could do there, and it’s obviously easy to make a chilled soup in advance. You don’t have to stand over the fire on it. You can pre‑do them up in little dishes or in little cups, then put them in your refrigerator and just pull them out at the time that you want to serve your guests. That’s a nice choice there.
I like to grill things in the summertime. There’s a dish that I love to make, and I’ve always served it at Christmastime, and I also serve it at Easter, called salmon coulibiac. The French say that they made the first recipe, but I beg to differ with you. I’m quite sure it was the Russians.
It’s where salmon is baked in puff pastry with mushroom duxelles, simmered spinach, wild rice, and hard‑boiled eggs. It’s a wonderful thing to eat, but you know what? You don’t want to eat that when it’s hot. You really don’t, though it does taste quite good cold.
I just don’t want to go through the process of baking it and doing all that work. I’d rather be outside putting a piece of marinated salmon on the grill, serving it with a candied lemon vinaigrette, and definitely going lighter, so I’d be doing something like that.
John: That sounds really good.
Ned: When it comes to red meats, you’re not serving that prime rib with popovers, though I’d probably still take that. It’s one of my favorite things to eat.
John: I love popovers.
Ned: I’d be getting a really nice piece of tenderloin of beef or a Delmonico steak. I’d be dry‑rubbing it with some nice spice the night before, and I’m marking that off on the grill as well. I just think that it tastes a little bit better.
Instead of putting a warm sauce out with it, make a creamy horseradish sauce. If you want a recipe for that, call me up. I’ll be more than happy to give you a really good one. That would work a little bit better. I still like red meat. There’s no doubt about it. We do Meatless Mondays at our house. We do salmon or some kind of fish usually on Fridays.
We’re doing chicken. We’re doing different stuff. We’re lightening things up, and at dessert time, I’m not trying to eat peach cobbler. I want something lighter. I make a zabaione which is quite appropriate. It’s not made with marsala, the one that we make. It’s made with lemon and lime juice instead. We call it a citrus zabaione.
We put it in these dishes. Then we put fresh blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries in it, then a little scoop of whipped cream on top, then a French macaroon which is made out of almond paste. All of the sudden, this dessert that we’ve made, not only is it light and refreshing, it’s vegan also. I’m not vegan, pardon me…it’s vegetarian and it’s gluten‑free.
It’s become extremely popular, and it’s our dessert of choice in the summertime for all the menus that we send offsite. So you’re eating that kind of dessert. It’s a little more refreshing, plus the fact berries are very inexpensive this time of year. The strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries that you buy back in November and December wholesale is costing you $42 for a flat of them, which is basically eight pounds, even more.
This time of the year, it’s down to $12 a pound, and it will go down even more, so I’m able to give you a better product for less money.
John: Right, and you definitely see that, even just going to the supermarket in the wintertime when you’re looking at the berries. They have those tiny little containers, and it’s like $12 for a tiny little thing of blueberries or something. Then in the summertime, you get these much bigger containers, and it’s less money. You’re like, “Wow, what a difference.”
Ned: It’s like a small, affordable luxury when you go to the grocery store in the wintertime to get those. You wonder if you really should be doing that.
That’s the one thing why your choices in the summertime are governed by what is seasonably available. I think your body clock and your body is also telling you, “This is what I need to eat now.” In the wintertime, back in the old days, yes, all we did is we ate nuts and meats and things like that, to sustain our metabolism.
But as we’ve gone along, we’ve found ways to preserve things when they came up. Pepper was the first preserving unit‑agent that they had, and then they found salt. Then the French came up with this thing called “confit,” where they would cook things in oils and fat, and they’d put it in a bucket and they’d bury it in the ground. When the spring would come around, they’d pull it up, and all of a sudden, they had meat to eat.
We’ve gone through that. We don’t need the fat anymore. We’re trying to get rid of the pounds. We’re outside more. We’ve been waiting for that vitamin‑D to hit our face for a long time. Get outside and enjoy it, and just lighten things up for the summer.
John: What are a couple of other nice options for summer food?
More Summer Recipes
Ned: Let’s see. I like, when we’re doing a wedding, lots of time, especially if they have a seafood course as their first course, and then they go on to a principal plate, which is meat, you need to serve what they call a palate cleanser, or an intermezzo.
What it is, it’s like a sorbet or a sherbet, and it’s used to cleanse your palate when you go from one course to the next. What I’ve been doing recently is I’ve been making a lemon champagne sorbet with a little bit of that tangerine microgreen that just seems to be my favorite thing to eat these days.
You just put one little scoop in a little glass, and just a little demitasse spoon. It’s just something to clean your palate. Sit back and relax and wait for the next course.
John: Great. Anything else?
Ned: Bruschettas are fun this time of the year. Bruschetta is basically a nice word that’s saying it’s an open‑faced toasted sandwich. Instead of using French bread, try to find these types of bread called a ficelle. It’s like French bread, but it’s thinner and it has a little more texture to it.
What I do is I slice it thinly, and I’ll actually sauté it in a little bit of butter on both sides so it’s crispy on the outside, but still soft and supple in the middle. Then I take that fresh corn that we had, and some micro pea shoots, and I’ll put that on top of it with a little piece of goat cheese, put it under the broiler for about 15 seconds, sprinkle a little bit of pepper and salt on that and pop that in your mouth. You’re going to be eating that all summer long.
John: That’s all really great information, Chef Ned. Thanks very much for speaking with me today.
Ned: You’re welcome.
John: That’s making me hungry, so I think I’ll go home and make some great summer food.
Ned: Next time, I’ll make sure I bring some in for you
John: Sounds good.
For more information, you can visit Woodman’s at woodmans.com, or The Essex Room at essexroom.com.
Why Are Some Culinary Offerings Better Suited For Summer
- Seasonal Availability Creates More Acceptable Selections.
- Why Would You Want To Serve Spring Lamb On A Blistering Hot Summer Day?
- Or The Classic French Autumn Offering Cassoulet?
- What Would You Rather Have:
- Tapenade Or Guacamole With Those Home Made Potato Chips?
- Onion Soup Or Vichyssoise?
- Grilled Salmon W/Candied Lemon Vinaigrette Or Salmon Coulibiac?
- Seared Wagu Filet With Shaved Horseradish Or Prime Rib With Popovers?
- Citrus Zabaglione W/ Bright Berries Or Peach Cobbler?
- Simply Put Out Of Season For A Reason!
- A Fresh Micro Tangerine Scented Melon Sorbet Is A Wonderful Palate Cleanser In The Summer.
- A Summer Bruschetta Consisting Of Tender Pea Tendrils, Roasted Corn & Sheep’s Milk Cheese
- Served Slightly Warmed On Butter Brioche Croustade.