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Summertime and the Cooking is Easy

By Judi Gallagher.

I love to cook and eat year-round, that’s no secret. But, since we’re deep in the heat of high summer, I’ve been having fun trying new recipes and paying attention to new summer food trends. My indoor kitchen and big gas cooktop have limited appeal and are on vacation this time of year.

We’ve been spending a lot of time eating in my new outdoor kitchen, experimenting with the new grill and enjoying the warm summer air and the longer days. There are some foods that joyously proclaim summer, no
matter where you are and those are the foods I’m interested in this month of July. So, without further ado, here are my top summer treats for serious cooks and talented eaters:

Popsicles. The popsicle is having a renaissance with dedicated popsicle shops in big cities like New York popping up all over the place. Not lucky enough to have one nearby? Try making your own with plastic cups, just like when you were a kid.

If you are the gourmet type and love the latest gadgets, then check out the Zoku Quick Pop Maker. Keep the base in the freezer and in seven to 15 minutes you can have a luscious treat, or as they say in the UK, a frozen “lolly.” The machine retails for about $50.00 at William Sonoma. The mixes retail for about $10.00 each. Your next al fresco dinner party could be voted best-of-the-summer if you serve homemade popsicles or a delicious batch of pastel-colored creamsicles.

Strawberry ice cream. Ice cream is a summer treat that will never go out of style, but strawberry, for me, is the cream of the crop. My favorites are not-too-sweet with big, juicy chunks of fresh strawberry mixed in.

Lemon shaved ice. Is there anything better than frosty, freshly shaved lemon ice? I don’t think I need to say more. I love it on those sweltering summer afternoons.

Blueberry cobbler. The quintessential summer dessert, with a flaky crust and just the right amount of blueberries and sugar. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. A dollop of fine-quality homemade or store-bought vanilla ice cream and you’re all set to enjoy an American classic.

Corn on the cob. Grilled corn on the cob goes with almost any summer meal. Slather it with spiced or herbed butter for an extra kick.

Watermelon lemonade. I make mine with fresh strained watermelon juice and sparkling Italian lemonade from Fresh Market.

Garlic scape pesto. Garlic scapes are the shoots that grow from young garlic bulbs, and garlic scape pesto is wonderful atop some fresh pasta with tomatoes and asparagus. Throw the scapes in a food processor with some almonds, olive oil, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper, and you’ve got yourself a gourmet sauce in no time at all.

Strawberry shortcake. What summer treat list would this be if I didn’t mention strawberry shortcake? I like to make my own, spongy shortcake and top it with fresh Plant City strawberries and homemade whipped cream with just a hint of confectioner’s sugar. Yum. I don’t even mind heating up the oven for this one.

What have you been eating lately this summer?

Pineapple Granita on Toasted Pound Cake

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups pineapple juice

4 small mint sprigs, for garnish

Preparation:

Combine sugar with 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Simmer until sugar is dissolved, stirring once or twice. Whisk juice into the sugar syrup and pour into a 9 x 9 x 2-inch pan. Freeze 2-3 hours, pulling a fork through the mixture every 30 minutes to make granules. Serve in glasses garnished with mint. Slices of toasted pound cake on the side.

Barbeque Sauce for Chicken on Skewers

This is an old southern favorite barbeque sauce with a more modern twist that calls for a splash of Dr. Pepper

Ingredients

1 cup apple cider vinegar

2 1/3 cup Dr. Pepper

3/4 cup ketchup

3/4 cup chopped onion

3/4 cup dried tart cherries

½ cup blackberries or blueberries

1/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons light molasses

1 canned chipotle pepper, drained and diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Pinch of ground cloves

Kosher Salt

Fresh ground white pepper

Preparation

Combine all ingredients except chicken in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until cherries are tender, about 20 minutes. Working in batches, purée mixture in blender. Return sauce to pan. If necessary, simmer uncovered until sauce is reduced to 3 cups and thickens. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.)

cooking tip: This sauce is great on boneless chicken, that is seasoned with a dry barbecue rub first as well as boneless duck breast and braised beef ribs for a splash of extra flavor.

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