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Dinner Without Apron Strings – Summer Recipes

With summer technically not ending until September 23rd,  I tend to cling to recipes that paint a picture using summer’s vivid reds, greens, and yellows.  With close friends coming over for dinner and one traveling all the way from France, I pictured a menu with simple prep done ahead, so we could spend maximum time catching up over a glass of wine.  Here’s my apron-less adventure:

Isa Dinner Heirloom Tomato, Mozzerella, Peach Raspberry Salad 9 10Fresh heirloom tomatoes are still available at one of my favorite hang-outs, the Issaquah Saturday Farmer’s Market, so I picked up some meaty, sweet red and yellow Brandywines; the almost nutty Green Zebras; and my true summer love – a Cherokee Purple which is sugary and rich with a hint of smokiness to it.  While I knew the colors would play beautifully together on the plate,  what was most tempting was the idea of intermingling the distinctive flavors that only come from vine-ripened tomatoes.  They were quickly sliced and layered on top of a bed of shredded Asian cabbage, alternating with slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella.   A couple of ripe peaches on the counter-top caught my eye and became a part of the salad, as did some raspberries leftover in the fridge, along with some quickly shredded basil.  Ten minutes max and a salad was ready to go, on the counter-top (room temp brings out the flavors beautifully) and just waiting to be dressed in some peppery Spanish olive oil and a bit of balsamic.

Isa Dinner Roasted Asparagus & Patty Pan 9 1 10Browsing the stalls, I found some gorgeous, hearty green and white asparagus, as well as vibrant scallopped mini patty-pan squash.  Couldn’t decide – so typical girl-style, grabbed all.  Back in the kitchen, they were quickly rinsed, trimmed, tossed in some olive oil with salt and pepper, and pan roasted in a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.  Again, great at room temp, they were plated and set out to rest.  A loaf of crunchy artisan bread was ready to be popped into the oven to warm, leaving only the entree and dessert to deal with.  Again, sticking with a plan of no apronstrings when the company arrived, I decided that enlisting my hubby to light up the barbecue, was the way to go.

Isa Dinner Blackberry Salmon 9 10What could be more evocative of summer in the Northwest, than salmon?  We serve only wild fish at our house – no farm raised, but also no-problem.  A quick stop at any local grocery or in this case, the local seafood vendor, produced a gorgeous center cut piece – perfect for even cooking over the coals.  All I needed to make was a sauce.  Braiden Rex Johnson has one of my all-time favorite recipes in her Pike Place Market Cookbook :  Alaskan Salmon with warm Blackberry and Shallot Compote.  The fruit was literally in my backyard – wild blackberry bushes galore.  If you aren’t that lucky, this is the perfect time of year to find them in your farmer’s market or grocery.  For the 2 1/4 pounds of fish, purchased to serve 5, I used 5 medium shallots – peeled and thickly sliced; a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil; a 1/4 cup sugar; 2 1/2 cups of blackberries; and a 1/4 cup of raspberry vinegar. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the shallots, olive oil and sugar together in a bowl and then spread them on a rimmed cookie sheet.  Let them cook for 15 minutes, remove them from the oven, and scrape the shallots and syrup into a glass mixing bowl.  Then add the blackberries and raspberry vinegar, mixing them gently.  Make it ahead of time and cover.  Once the salmon comes off the barbecue – top with the sauce and voila!

Dessert?  I made tiny ice cream tarts that afternoon using 2 1/2″ ring molds.  This recipe makes enough for 6.  Purchase a half gallon of your favorite ice cream and a box of plain chocolate wafer cookies.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, while you crunch up 1 ½ cups of the chocolate wafers in your cuisinart – adding 1/4 cup sugar and a ½ stick of melted butter.  Place the ring molds on a cookie sheet or flat baking pan and press the cookie mixture onto the bottom and half way up the sides of each mold.  Bake them for 8 minutes.   Let the cookie crust filled ring molds cool completely, leaving the molds on the pan,  and place the carton of ice cream on the counter to soften for 15 minutes.  Fill the rest of each mold with ice cream and level off the top with a knife.  Pop them in the freezer for a minimum of two hours, still on the pan.  When ready to serve, warm the ring with your hands and slide out each tart onto an individual plate, pushing from the bottom of the ring mold.  Try topping them with grated chocolate, fresh berries or even chocolate sauce – whatever you have around.  Happy eating! ~Norma

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