Monday, July 8, 2013


Summer is one of my favorite times of the year. The sun sets around 8:30, allowing the neighborhood to linger on their stoops and at sidewalk cafes. Gardens explode with flowers wild and cultivated. The good tomatoes start appearing at the farmers market. And friends come out of hiding, wanting to grab dinner, have a picnic, come over for brunch. As you probably know, I complain a lot about the mass exodus of our friends, but suddenly my calendar got really full, really fast. Which meant lots of cooking, of course. Here are a few standouts from the past month or so:

In the category of "fake it 'til you make it," I have a fun recipe made for apartment dwellers without access to a grill or campfire, or people who don't want to cook with fire. It's hot, I don't blame you.

These s'mores bars contain the essential components of s'mores—Hershey's chocolate (four bars!), graham crackers and marshmallows (a whole bag!)—but in cookie form. The recipe, by A Beautiful Bite, couldn't be easier. I hate this term, but it's a 'dump and stir,' or more like 'cram a bunch of stuff into a cookie batter.' It's so stupidly simple, I almost thought I was doing something wrong. But then the pan emerged from the oven, with melted marshmallows and pockets of chocolate throughout a tender, cake-like cookie that had been infused with the graham crackers. If you need a portable dessert for a picnic or party, it doesn't get much more summery than this.
Other hits: a tasty chicken salad courtesy of my employer. The original recipe calls for a homemade roasted chicken but it's July and that's not happening again until October. Maybe November. So rotisserie chicken it was. The key is making homemade mayo, not much work at all, and lots of fresh herbs. Serve with deviled eggs, a watermelon, mint and feta salad and some Pimms Cups and you'll have some very happy eaters.
But if you really, really want to inspire eternal love and devotion, you'll follow all that up with this banana pudding. Not just any old banana pudding, but bananas in a silky homemade custard topped with a buttery vanilla wafer crumble on top. It's an unexpected take on a homey dessert, and it goes down easy, too easy, on a blistering hot day. Two tips: add a generous pinch of salt to the crumble for a nice counter to the sweetness of the fruit and pudding, and replace the banana liqueur in the pudding for half of a banana, mashed and cooked down in a pan with a splash of water and a splash of rum. (Also maybe don't serve this to parents of children under a year old because it might inadvertently remind them of baby food, although they will be too polite to say this. Or do, and then eat their leftover pudding after they have left.)

I wanted to make a blueberry pie for a dinner with our downstairs neighbors but didn't feel like descending into the madness that is making pie dough. Could you make a blueberry pie with a graham cracker crust? Would that be weird? So I Googled "blueberry pie with graham cracker crust" and it pointed me to a recipe for Fresh Blueberry Pie from the blog Baked Bree. And it did not look weird at all. It looked fantastic, a mix of cooked and fresh berries suspended in a deep, dark jelly. I made the pie and it tasted as good as it looked on Bree's blog. My version, I'm afraid, was a little runny. But a little more cornstarch would probably do the trick. Everyone had seconds so who cares, anyway?

This couscous salad from The Kitchn has been in heavy rotation at our house. It makes a great side dish to grilled chicken or steak and a Tupperware-friendly lunch the next day. I like mine with the addition of toasted walnuts or chickpeas. Yum.

I mentioned it earlier, but it's summer and bears repeating: Pimms Cups. Pimms Cups, my friends.


Nathan said...

One of my fave summer salads (or anytime salads in Florida) is tabbouleh with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and chickpeas served with fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon. We usually pair with keftas from the grill.
Juliette's dad also makes a great salad with beats, potatoes and hard boiled eggs. Sounds like an odd combo but it is so good on a hot day.

Valerie said...

Wow, perfect picnic fare! I want to try all of these, especially the chicken salad with homemade mayo--yum!

Lisa said...

Nathan: That sounds so good! Can we make this the next time we're down? And keftas!

Valerie: Thanks! Hope you like it.

Anonymous said...

Time to bake some of those deadly peanut butter cookies while waiting for the Twinkies to return....


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