Early summer is a perfect time to utilize fresh from the garden produce for light soups that are as lively and colorful as they are delicious. Freshly made soups are ideal for easy summer meals that celebrate the season’s ever evolving bounty. A beautiful soup accompanied with a crusty loaf along with a freshly made pesto (see recipe here) is a perfect summer meal in and of itself!
Summery Vegetable Soup with Chicken Serves 4
- 2 ears sweet corn
- 2 quarts water
- 2 bay leaves
- handful of celery leaves
- 1 cup diced onions, divided
- 8 black peppercorns
- 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 jalapeno chile, seeded and finely diced
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1 cup celery diced
- 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
- sprig of Italian basil leaves, finely sliced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
- ½ teaspoon saffron threads
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- whole basil leaves as a garnish
First thing you want to do is cut the corn kernels off of the cobs and set them aside to use later. Then holding the cobs vertically in a small bowl, scrape the cobs with the back of a knife to extract the corn milk and set the milk aside to use later. Reserve the scraped cobs.
Fill a large pot with 2 quarts of water and add the bay leaves, celery leaves, ½ cup diced onions, peppercorns, the scraped corn cobs, and the reserved corn milk scrapings. Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.
Add the whole chicken breasts to the pot and simmer for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and set the pot side, covered, for about 30 minutes. Then using tongs remove the chicken breasts and set them aside in a bowl to cool.
Remove the corn cobs from the pot and discard them. Then pour the contents of the pot into a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Press all the liquid out of the solids. Discard the solids and set the broth aside.
Rinse out the pot and return it to the stove top, add the olive oil, and set over a medium flame. When the oil is hot add the remaining half cup of onions, the diced yellow and red bell peppers, diced jalapeno, and saute until they soften about 5 minutes. Then add the carrots, celery, and potatoes, and continue to saute for another 5 minutes. Then add the reserved broth to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are soft, but still holding their shape. Then add the reserved corn kernels.
Gently pull the chicken breasts apart and into bit size pieces and add to the both. Stir in the sliced basil and season to taste with salt. Add the saffron threads and stir to combine and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Just before serving stir in the lemon juice.
Ladle the soup into shallow soup bowls and garnish with whole basil leaves and lemon slices.
With Cinco de Mayo fiestas well underway north and south of the Mexican border, it is Mexican food that is at the center of all the celebrations and, of course, Mexican beer and margaritas as well. So why not make a zesty margarita pie as a final flourish for the celebrations.
The recipe that follows mirrors a classic margarita made with freshly squeezed lime juice, a good silver/blanco tequila, triple sec, sugar or agave syrup, and crystallized flaked salt. These very same ingredients provide the essential flavors for a sensational chilled sweet sour margarita confection with just a hint of green earthiness from the tequila and a crisp salty after note.
As popular as a pretzel crust seems to be for a margarita pie these days, I have to say I favor a classic sweet pastry crust for this pie which allows the flavors of the margarita lime curd to take center stage. Served chilled, this pie is as bedazzling and refreshing as an icy margarita on the rocks would be on a hot summer evening in the tropics.
Needed: 1 10 inch pie dish
- sweet pastry dough
- butter for brushing
- crystallized salt
Use your favorite sweet pastry dough recipe and chill the dough for several hours before you intend to roll it out.
Roll out the dough and place it in the pie dish. Even out the edges. Transfer to the the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 f/ 180 c
Melt a small amount of butter. Remove the chilled pie shell from the refrigerator and lightly brush the entire surface of the dough with melted butter.
Then evenly press salt flakes onto the outer rim of the dough.
Line the inner surface of the dough with baking parchment and trim off excess paper so the salt studded surface of the rim of the pie is exposed. Place pie wights (or dried beans) into the parchment lined pie dough and transfer to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until the salted edges are lightly browned.
Remove from the oven and, using a spoon, remove the weights and set them aside to cool. Remove the parchment and return the pie shell to the oven and bake another 12 minutes, or until the interior crust is lightly colored and dry.
Remove from the oven, place on a cooling rack, and cool to room temperature. You can then refrigerate the crust.
Margarita Pie Curd Filling
- 4 eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 3 tablespoons silver tequila
- 1 tablespoon triple sec (or other orange liquer)
- 3 oz chilled butter, cut into small pieces
Combine the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lime juice, tequila, and tipple sec in a non-reactive stainless bowl.
Gently whisk until the ingredients are well combined.
Place the bowl over a pot of hot, but not boiling, water and gently whisk continuously until the mixture thickens and mounds onto itself.
Promptly remove the bowl from the heat and scatter the butter over the surface. Stir with the whisk until the butter has completely melted and is mixed evenly into the curd.
Remove the chilled crust from the refrigerator and, using a silicone spatula, spoon the curd into the pie shell. Spread the curd evenly and return the pie to the refrigerator to chill.
Sour Cream Topping:
- 1 cup sour cream
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
Preheat the oven to 400 f/ 200c
Combine the sour cream, sugar and lime juice in a bowl and stir until well combined.
Remove the chilled pie from the refrigerator and spoon the sour cream mixture over the surface of the lime curd. Giggle the pie to even out the surface and place in the oven and bake for or 5 minutes.
Promptly remove from the oven, cool for 5 minutes, and return the pie to the refrigerator to chill.
- 2 seedless thin skinned limes, sliced into paper thin rounds
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a wide saute pan. Cook until the liquid is bubbling, thick, and clear. Add the lime slices and cook for 3 minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat and let the lime slices rest in the syrup until completely cool. Remove the slices to a rack to drain off excess syrup.
Remove the pie from the refrigerator and carefully arrange the lime rounds over the surface of the pie.
Cover the pie with cling film and refrigerate for several hours before serving.
About 20 minutes before serving transfer the refrigerated pie to the freezer and chill for 15 to 20 minutes. This final chill gives this pie a crisp icy sensation when served.
Slice using a very sharp knife dipped into water for each slice made.
When the hot season, April- June, arrives in Thailand the last thing you want to do is spend much time in the kitchen. With temperatures tipping 40 c/ 104 f daily it is really HOT!
Being a hot country year round Thai cuisine has a unique hot weather appropriateness. Flash cooking fresh ingredients tossed together with assertive flavors and fiery spicy heat is what makes Thai cuisine so universally popular. The capsacin from fiery hot chiles stimulates the release of endorphins in the brain that instantly produces a sense of euphoria, while breaking into a sweat from the heat of chiles has a pleasant cooling effect as well. No wonder everyone loves Thai food!
The recipe that follows is a reinterpretation of a popular Thai stir fry dish; Kra Pao Moo (click here for recipe) . I have upped the ante in this recipe using a Thai rum marinated pork loin and included chayote to the stir fry that adds a fresh crisp element to the final dish.
Chayote originates from Central Mexico and widely used throughout Central and south America. Chayote was introduced to the old world during the Columbian exchange. From there it was transported through trade routes throughout Asia. Chayote is a member of the gourd family, and favored for its crisp texture and plentiful nutrients. The entire plant is eatable and often included in stir fried dishes throughout Asia. Seek it out! Widely available in Latin and Asian markets in North America as well.
Thai Stir Fry with Rum Marinated Pork Loin and Chayote serves 4
To avoid the heat of the day during the hot season I like to marinate the pork in the morning and refrigerate it for the rest of the day. Prep all the other ingredients in the morning as well and refrigerate. That way the stir frying can be done very quickly in the evening without breaking a sweat!
- 1 inch knob fresh ginger, peeled, thinly sliced, and diced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced and diced
- 3 tablespoons minced shallots
- 3 kaffir/ makrut lime leaves
- 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1/3 cup Thai Sang Som rum (or other dark rum)
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 pound pork loin, silvery membrane removed and cut into 3 pieces
- cold water to cover
Select a non reactive bowl just large enough to hold the pork loin and other ingredients. Place all the ingredients except the pork and water into the bowl and stir to combine. Then add the pork loin and, using your hands, massage the pork with the mixture until covered. Then add just enough water to cover all. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for 8 hours.
- marinated pork tenderloin, thinly sliced into medallions across the grain
- 2-4 teaspoons oil
1 onion, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, quartered, seeds and membrane removed, thinly sliced and halved
- 2 chayote, peeled, halved, pit removed, sliced lengthwise and cut into bite size pieces
- 1 or 2 jalapeno chiles, quartered, seeds and membrane removed, cut into thin strips and diced
- 1-3 Thai red chiles, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed and very thinly sliced and then diced
- reserved marinade
- ½ cup fresh Thai sweet basil leaves
- 1-2 tablespoons oyster sauce or to taste
- stock or water
- additional fish sauce to taste
- fresh lime wedges
A steel Chinese wok is ideal for stir frying food very quickly over intense heat. For more information on cooking with a wok (click here)
Heat your wok over a gas burner or charcoal fire and add the oil. Swirl the pan to coat the surface and promptly add the pork medallions and stack them all the way up the sides of the wok. Sear briefly and then turn the pork and continue searing. Once lightly browned promptly remove the pork from the wok and set aside. Total cooking time 2 to 3 minutes max. Reserve the marinade to use later.
Add a little more oil to the wok and add the onions, garlic, and red bell peppers. Toss and stir fry until softened and lightly colored. Then add the chayote and toss to combine. Stir fry for a couple of minutes and then add the jalapenos and Thai red chiles and toss until combined. Then add the reserved marinade and cook for a couple minutes. Taste the chayote. Ideally you want the chayote to retain a refreshing crispness that will compliment the otherwise deeply flavorful stir fry.
Add the basil leaves and toss to combine. Taste the broth and add additional oyster sauce and fish sauce to taste. If the broth has reduced quite a bit you can add a little stock or water.
Finally add the reserved pork and toss until just heated.
Just before serving squeeze some lime juice into the stir fry, toss, and you are ready to serve.
Serve with Thai Jasmine rice or, my favorite, Thai Jasmine brown rice. Have a bowl of lime wedges set out on the table as well.
Buttermilk marinated chicken is an old classic from the American south which,to be honest, I’d mostly forgotten about. That is until I discovered Simin Nosrat’s Buttermilk Roasted Chicken which I’ve been making almost weekly since her wonderful cookbook Salt Fat Acid Heat landed on my kitchen table. Honestly, this is a cookbook you just can’t put down. The book is as much about the joy of eating as it is about cooking. Simin’s infectious enthusiasm for food and her enlightening insights on how to cook and what to expect are gonna inspire great things happening in your own kitchen.
If you have not had a chance to see Simin’s four part TV series Salt Fat Acid Heat do be sure to do so. It is a visual feast that’s going to energizes your inner cook.
The recipe that follows is adapted slightly in that I like to divide the chicken into four parts which eliminates carving once the chicken is roasted. I’ve also included the option of adding fresh herbs to the buttermilk marinade. Otherwise the recipe is as it appears in the book. This is a roasted chicken you can count on to deliver a deeply browned crispy skin and juicy tender meat time and time again.
Buttermilk-Marinated Roast Chicken serves 4
- 3 ½ -to 4 pound chicken
- kosher or flaky sea salt
- 2 cups buttermilk
- sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme (optional)
Remove the backbone and divide the chicken into four pieces. Generously season the chicken with salt and set aside for 30 minutes.
Pour the buttermilk into a non-reactive bowl just large enough to hold the chicken and the marinade. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and the herbs if using and stir to dissolve the salt.
Brush off excess salt from the chicken and place the chicken in the marinade. Turn the chicken several times. Seal with cling film and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator an hour before roasting.
Preheat the oven to 425 f/220 c with the rack set in the center position.
Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off excess marinade. Place the chicken in a cast iron skillet or shallow roasting pan. Tuck sprigs of fresh herbs between the chicken pieces if using.
Slide the pan all the way to the back of the oven with the legs pointed toward the rear left corner of the oven and breast pieces pointing towards the center of the oven and roast for 20 minutes.
Reduce the heat to 400 f/ 200 c and continue roasting for 10 minutes. Then shift the pan so the legs are facing the back right corner of the oven.
Continue roasting for another 25 to 30 minutes until the chicken is well browned all over and the juices run clear when you insert a knife down to the bone between the leg and the thigh.
When the chicken is done remove the pan from the oven, lightly cover with foil, and let the chicken rest 10 minute before serving.
Note: If you don’t have buttermilk substitute plain yogurt.