It doesn’t take much: a trip to the farmer’s market, a spin on the web, a dream of a fabulous dinner… Let’s face it, I think about food. A lot. A WHOLE lot. Here’s the funny part: When I was young, I loved to watch my Grandmother cook…I also LOVED to eat (Alright, lets be honest here: when I was younger, I was referred to as ‘The Black Hole’….and this was solely based on the amount of food I could consume….) Though as much as I loved to eat…I never wanted to be caught dead cooking. In addition to my Grandma, I enjoyed following the culinary creations of my Dad. There was that one time that my Dad made ‘fish tacos’ or some unidentifiable shit, and it smelled (quite simply) like assholes poached in asshole juice…no offense, Dad, but it was awful…. But, you know, that’s the price you pay for good food sometimes, right? For instance, I never attended culinary school (nor did my Dad) we are simply adventurous in our cooking (something I eventually learned to love), which has lead us to some awesome discoveries…and perhaps a few disasters (ie. assholes in asshole juice). Basically, you are either willing to take chances, or you aren’t…and this is precisely what guided me to discover most of the components in my all time favorite, quintessential, midsummer night’s dream menu.
Before we get to the recipes, let me clarify that these are ‘summer’ recipes…. This means that they are made from ingredients which are in their prime during the summer months (where I live), and that you should not aim to make them during the winter months. 1. It just won’t be the same. 2. See #1. So, to give you a description of what I dream about in the winter months: tuna pate with fresh basil pesto. corn salad, over baby mesclun with fresh lemon juice. balsamic skirt steak. grilled peaches with almond crumble topped with fresh basil cream. seriously….it’s one of the best meals I’ve ever had, and it’s at it’s best during the hot summer months. It was only recently that I started to dream of this succulent, summer meal. We have a pretty hearty selection of meals to get us through the colder months of the high mountain winter. However, it’s always about this time of year that I start to dream of the abundance of summer, the endless possibility of meals. This year, it was over Valentines Day (when we made fresh strawberries, hulled, stuffed with fresh basil leaves, and dipped in dark chocolate) that made me crave the flavors of summer… So, this week I couldn’t help but post my favorite recipes for my absolute all time favorite summer meal (so far)…. I sincerely hope you enjoy!
Tuna Pate with Basil Pesto: (Serve as an appetizer: basil pesto spread over cracker, topped with tuna pate)
1 lb fresh tuna filet
1/4 c fresh lemon juice (or more)
2/3 c finely diced red onion
1 c mayo (sometimes I choose to omit mayo and add extra lemon juice)
1/2 c chopped sundried tomatoes
1/4 c fresh basil ribbons
Crackers of choice
Place tuna on oiled baking tray and cover with foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 mins or until done. Remove and cool. Mash filet with a fork, add remaining ingredients, mix, and chill.
1 c fresh basil leaves
1/4 c parmesan
3 T pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 c olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process to a paste. Add more olive oil as needed/desired. Keep in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Clip baby greens from your home garden
Purchase at the Farmer’s Market/Supermarket
Serve greens naked with a fresh lemon wedge to squirt over greens just before eating…if Yucca are in bloom near you, pick some petals and add them to your salad, they range from slightly sweet to mildly spicy, a great addition to this simple salad.
Corn Salad: (can be served several different ways: on top of naked greens, by itself as a side dish, as a salsa over the steak)
4 ears fresh corn, shucked
1 poblano pepper, whole
2 fresh tomatoes, diced
1/2 c diced red onion
1/3 c chopped fresh cilantro
juice from 1/2 lime
salt and pepper, to taste
Grill the ears of corn, making sure to turn them so as not to burn any one side. Also place the pepper on the grill to roast, turning it as well. (The corn will get some blackness to it, so will the pepper’s skin.) Remove from grill and let cool. (You can put the pepper in a ziploc to help steam the skin off, if you wish.)
Once the corn has cooled, stand each ear up on end and cut the kernels off by starting your blade at the top of the ear and cutting your way down to the bottom of the ear. Place corn in a bowl, set aside.
Peel the skin off of the poblano and remove the stem, seeds, and ribs. Chop the remaining pepper and taste, add all (or only a portion) of the chopped pepper depending on the amount of heat desired. (If you are cooking for children, you can remove a portion of the corn salad prior to adding the pepper so as not to burn their little tongues.)
Combine the remaining ingredients in the bowl with the corn, mix, and chill.
Balsamic Skirt Steak: (this can also be done with a Flat Iron steak if Skirt steak is not available.)
I prefer to leave my meat as a single cut for this meal (and this particular type of steak). Marinate steak in 1/2-1 c balsamic vinegar (depending on size of steak) and 2 T olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. (Note: I do not submerge my steak in this marinade, nor do I marinate it for very long. Balsamic is a very strong ingredient, so I suggest marinating for 5 mins per side, not worrying if your steak isn’t entirely covered in the marinade.)
marinated Skirt steak
2-3 portobello heads (optional)
butter, mmmmm, butter….
Grill steaks over high heat to desired doneness. (A few notes here: Charcoal grills will give you the best outcome here (in my opinion), however, gas grills are also perfectly acceptable. The amount of time you grill each side will vary depending on the size of your steak, the thickness of the cut, and your preferred doneness….experiment!)
Remove steak from grill and set aside covered with a sheet of aluminum foil to rest.
Clean and slice portobellos, saute in butter with a splash or two of balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
When steak is ready, slice across the grain, top with a small slice of butter and portobellos.
Grilled Peaches Stuffed with Almond Crumble and Topped with Basil Cream: Yum!
Grilled Peaches: (PLEASE try to find a Local Peach Orchard. Supermarket peaches are, quite frankly, shit. If you live in CO, make the trip to Palisade, fill up your entire vehicle – save a little space to see out through your windshield, and eat peaches until you simply can’t stand it anymore. Trust me, it really is the only way.)
3-4 peaches, halved and pitted
1 orange (zest 1/3-1/2 of the orange prior to halving and juicing it, and reserve zest for almond crumble)
Mix orange juice and powdered sugar to make a light glaze (not too runny or too thick), brush glaze over peach halves (inside and out), set aside.
Almond Crumble: (I have to admit, I hardly ever use a recipe to cook, so this may take some experimenting on your part. The amounts I’ve listed are guesstimates since I combine all of my ingredients by eye and taste.)
3/4 c toasted, slivered almonds
orange zest (I will usually zest 1/3-1/2 of the orange skin prior to cutting and juicing it.)
1/4 c brown sugar
1 T softened butter
Combine ingredients in a food processor and pulse until fine and mealy. You may find it helpful to squirt a little bit of the orange juice in as well.
Basil Whipped Cream:
1 c basil leaves, divided. 3/4 c chopped, 1/4 c ribboned (stack leaves, roll up, sliver thin strips off of roll)
1 c heavy whipping cream
1-2 T sugar
Steep chopped basil leaves in heavy whipping cream by slowly heating the two in a heavy saucepan, stir to avoid burning. (This doesn’t need to get very hot, just warm enough to assist in the steeping process.) After a few minutes, strain the cream to separate the basil leaves out and chill.) Combine heavy whipping cream and sugar in a mixing bowl and whip with a wire whisk until stiff peaks form. Chill until ready to use.
To Assemble Peaches:
Grill the flat side of the peach first (the inside) being careful not to let the flames get too high as the sugar in the glaze will burn. Flip peaches over and fill wells with Almond Crumble, turn heat to low, close grill lid and let the peaches ‘bake’ for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat, top with Basil Whipped Cream and fresh basil ribbons.
That’s it. Simple to do, easy to prep ahead of time, easy enough to multiply to feed a crowd. Also, it is entirely conceivable to grow almost EVERY ingredient needed for this meal (minus the tuna and citrus for me) right in your own backyard. How awesome is that? Now that February is almost over, we are another month closer to an abundance of veggies and fruits, large dinners with close friends, and late nights by the campfire gazing at the stars…..Perfection.