Summertime and the living is easy

by Lonnie Sussman

I love summer in Michigan. Summer means no school, summer camps, shorts and t-shirts, outdoor swimming, blue skies, and memories of summers past. It does not mean long hours in the kitchen or planning meals, but fun trips to the farmers’ markets to see what fruit or vegetable is in season.

Summer means going to our garden to water and harvest our own home-grown fruits and vegetables. At the time of this writing the strawberries are turning red, the raspberries are close behind, and the rhubarb just keeps on coming. Okay, let’s return to the time in the kitchen or in the backyard on the grill. The meals need to be simple, nutritious, and tasty, but that’s easy given the wonderful choices we have in our markets. Since I’m not a grill master and would rather have vegetarian or fish choices, I focused on cool soups and interesting salads. I invite anyone to send me their favorite summertime recipes for the August issue. Sure, they can be for meat meals.

Iced Cucumber Soup

The Kosher Palette by Kushner Yeshiva High School

Serves 6

This cookbook was published as a fundraiser for the Kushner Yeshiva in Livingston, New Jersey. Harlene Appleman, (z’’l) gifted me the book and Ari Axelrod reported his mom, Robin, made the brisket recipe from the book, and, I quote, “It was the best brisket ever.” Susie Fishbein was the lead editor for this project, and this became the start of her career writing a series of cookbooks starting with the name “Kosher by Design.” I have them all and they are great.

2 tbs butter or margarine

3 leeks, sliced

2 cups diced cucumbers, unpeeled

½ cup diced potato, uncooked

¼ cup chopped spinach

¼ tsp pepper

¼ tsp dry mustard

2 sprigs of parsley

4 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)

1 cup heavy whipping cream or nondairy creamer

Heat the butter in a large soup pot over medium high heat and add the sliced leeks and sauté until tender. Add the cucumber, potato, spinach, pepper, mustard, and parsley and sauté for another 5 minutes. Stir in the stock and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Let the soup cool long enough to transfer to a blender or process directly in the pot. You will want the soup to be smooth. Return to the pot and add in the cream. Correct the seasonings to your taste. Refrigerate until well chilled.

Strawberry Soup

The Kosher Palette by Kushner Yeshiva High School

Serves 4

This is another recipe from The Kosher Palette, though it is more of a smoothie than a soup.

1 pint fresh strawberries, stems removed (I think this seems obvious)

1 ripe peach, peeled and chopped

1½ cups pineapple juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

5–6 tbs sugar

4 oz vanilla or plain yogurt

Combine everything and blend together in a food processor. Serve chilled.

Cold Lettuce and Zucchini Soup with New Onions and Fresh Herbs

Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous, Joan Nathan

Serves 6–8

Leave it to the French to use up the outer, bitter leaves of lettuce and turn it into a classy soup. My sister-in-law, Chris, makes a similar soup with lettuce and peas that is also simple yet elegant. Try this soup when you are tired of gazpacho.

2 tbs olive oil

4–5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1 bunch of spring onions or scallions (about a pound), diced

4 cups of the outer leaves of Romaine lettuce or mature Arugula, roughly chopped

1½ pounds small zucchini (about 4 or 5), roughly chopped

2 stalks of celery with leaves, chopped

½ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

4–5 cups vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbs chopped fresh cilantro, chives, fresh basil to add when the soup is served

2 cups Greek yogurt (a dollop on each bowl)

Heat the oil in a big soup pot and add the garlic and the onions or scallions, stirring occasionally. When the onions are translucent, add the Romaine lettuce, zucchini, celery, parsley, salt, pepper, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes, or until the zucchini are cooked. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Purée the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. The soup can be served warm or chilled. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs and a dollop of yogurt.

Tomato Salad with Crème Fraîche and Olive “Granola”

Bon Appétit Magazine, Summer Issue, 2023

Serves 6

I thought this recipe seemed weird when I first read it, but I’ve rethought and decided to try it. It’s a very typical Bon Appéetit recipe, meaning high quality ingredients and interesting twists and combinations.

½ cup salt cured black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

¼ cup raw sunflower seeds

2 tbs sesame seeds

1½ tsp fennel seeds

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

1 tbs pure maple syrup

½ tsp soy sauce

2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

2 lbs heirloom tomatoes, sliced into ½ inch thick rounds

Kosher salt

1–8 oz container crème fraîche

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Dill sprigs for serving

Flaky sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss the olives, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes with the maple syrup, soy sauce, and 2 tbs olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange in an even layer and bake until golden brown, about 14–16 minutes. Let the “granola” cool. Arrange the tomatoes on a large plate and drizzle with the oil and season with the kosher salt. Mix gently to coat the tomatoes all over. Stir the crème fraîche and lemon juice in a small bowl to combine with a little more salt. Spread crème fraîche mixture across a serving platter, then top with the tomatoes but leave the remaining tomato juices on the plate. Scatter the “granola” and dill sprigs on top and sprinkle with a little more salt.

White Beans with Green Peppers in Spicy Dressing

Jewish Cooking by Marlena Spieler

Serves 4

I’m not sure how this cookbook arrived at our house. It’s oversized, with lots of photographs and lots of explanations of Jewish history, ingredients, traditions, and techniques, as well as recipes. I love the author’s short explanation of history and tradition as it relates to food. Here is her quote: “The food of the Jewish table is inextricably linked to the history of its people … Each time they were forced to flee they reestablished their community in a new country, taking on new foods found there, always in keeping with the basic laws of Kashrut.” This recipe was brought to Israel by the Jews of the Balkan lands, such as Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece.

1⅔ pounds of tomatoes, diced

1 onion, finely chopped

½–1 fresh chili, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

Pinch of sugar

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 14-oz can cannellini beans, drained

3–4 tbs olive oil

Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

1 tbs cider vinegar or wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

Use a large bowl and add the tomatoes, onion, chili, green pepper, sugar, garlic, cannellini beans, salt, and plenty of ground black pepper and toss until well combined. Make the dressing either in a separate bowl or simply add it to the large bowl. Add the olive oil, grated lemon rind, lemon juice, and vinegar to the salad and toss lightly. Refrigerate before serving and garnish with the chopped parsley when ready to serve.

Carrot and White Bean Burgers

Makes 6 large burgers

Here’s another bean recipe that I found in two different places. The first was on the Smitten Kitchen site. The second is from another website, I baked these burgers in the oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes on each side rather than frying in a pan. In my opinion the tomato paste and apple cider vinegar really turned a sort of bland veggie burger into a delicious veggie burger. It is more delicate than a burger made from meat or poultry, but it could go on a grill, just be gentle. Try it this way or add spices like cumin and cardamom. If you put the blend in the refrigerator for a few hours or even overnight, they firm up even more. We ate them without any bun or bread, added a little mayonnaise as well, and ate them on top of a simple green salad.

2 tbs olive oil

½ cup panko-style breadcrumbs

3 shallots or 1 small onion, diced

1 tbs tomato paste

1½ tsp kosher salt (carrots and beans need some salt)

1½ tbs apple cider vinegar

2 15-oz cans of cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed

1 large egg, beaten

Freshly ground black pepper

Add 1 tbs olive oil to a large skillet over low heat. Add the panko and cook, stirring often. The goal is to lightly brown and crisp up the breadcrumbs. It will take 3–5 minutes. Then remove the breadcrumbs to another bowl. Stir in the tomato paste, salt, and carrots and stir frequently until the carrots are softened and even a bit blistered. This may take another 8–10 minutes. Add the vinegar and scrape up all the browned bits until the pan is dry. Remove from the heat and add to the bowl with the toasted breadcrumbs. Add the beans and use a wooden spoon or spatula to coarsely mash the mixture. You don’t need to mash every single bean, just mash until the mixture starts to stick together. Add in the beaten egg and mix again. You can either shape the burgers into 6 large burgers or into 8–10 smaller burgers. I recommend smaller ones as the big ones are too big to make it easy to cook them. Heat another layer of olive oil in the skillet over medium heat and carefully cook until browned and slightly firm to the touch. This should take 3–5 minutes per side.

Skillet Cakes with Either Caramelized Pear and Cornmeal or Berries and Buttermilk

Susan hosted our book club and served this delicious, caramelized pear cake. She generously shared the recipe. Then I saw a second cake recipe in Food and Wine magazine that featured mixed berries. The technique for making these cakes is similar. Here is the recipe for the caramelized pear cake and the suggestions for the berry cake.

4 ripe but firm pears, peeled, halved, and cored, then sliced lengthwise into 4 or 5 slices

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup stone-ground cornmeal (good quality cornmeal)

1½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature plus 4 tbs for the pears

1½ cups sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

½ cup sour cream or soy milk

Use a large ovenproof skillet (like cast iron) to heat 4 tbs butter until melted, then stir in ½ cup of the sugar. Put one pear half, dome side down, in the center of the skillet and add the rest of the slices in a fan shape around the center. Let the pears cook, untouched, over medium heat until the sugar turns a deep, golden, caramel color.

In a bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In a stand mixer or medium bowl, beat the stick of butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and beat again until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time until each is well incorporated. Then add the vanilla and the sour cream or soy milk. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients. Spoon the batter over the pears in the skillet. Place the skillet on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 40–45 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 30 minutes. Then run a knife around the edges of the pan, put a serving plate on top and carefully invert the cake. Serve dusted with powdered sugar.

For the mixed berry version of the cake use 2 cups of fresh berries with 2 tsp of lemon zest. Melt ¼ cup of butter then stir in 1 tbs fresh lemon juice, ½ cup of sugar, and ½ tsp salt. Stir and cook until the mixture is bubbly and sugar is melted, about 2 minutes. Arrange the berries evenly over the sugar mixture. Make the cake batter but add 2 more tsp of lemon peel to it. Use ½ cup buttermilk instead of sour cream or soy milk. Then spoon the batter into the skillet and bake. Flip the cake onto a serving plate and serve with powdered sugar.

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