Summer Entertaining

Cool City Cooking on Hot Days

Summer Entertaining

Cool City Cooking on Hot Days

There's a dilemma to summer cooking.  Just as we have the most inspiring fresh ingredients, New York starts to sizzle and who wants to be in the kitchen?  On steamy days I'm reluctant to make dinner and instead will buy things that need only a little stove-top cooking.  Or yet another rotisserie chicken.

By the end of July my husband is approaching something called "chicken fatigue," a concept I learned many years ago in an economics class, not culinary school.  I first heard the term in a case study that in an attempt to explain supply and demand, showed how we eat lots of chicken until we get sick of it and say "basta," causing beef prices to rise when we start buying ground meat and steaks.  My summer kitchen is close to having chicken fatigue, due totally to my heat-resisting laziness. 

Then there is the challenge of cooking for friends at the height of summer.  Most of us don't have tree-shaded back yards or canvas-roofed terraces with propane-fueled grills.  We've got small kitchens that quickly get over-heated causing our Con Ed bills to spike from air conditioners cranked up high.  Still, I think it is always more pleasant to have meals with friends at home rather than a noisy and crowded restaurant.  So what to do?

I've come up with a repertoire of summer meals that don't take huge amounts of time, make the most of the bounty of summer ingredients, and keep the oven off as much as possible.  Summertime is generally more casual so leave the hors d'oeuvres simple and light, the wine chilled (perhaps a rosé), let guests serve themselves from big bowls and platters, and if you're not up for making a dessert of fruit crisp or your own ice cream, most will love a bowl of local berries, store-bought lemon sorbet and little bakery cookies. 

A few of these dishes take a bit of effort, but I know that for many home cooks, spending time in the kitchen isn't a burden but a pleasure, especially if we're not sweating into our aprons.

 

Finally, if you can't resist that rotisserie chicken, at least partner it with a platter of summer melon draped with prosciutto, or a plate of thick slices of New Jersey tomatoes and mozzarella scattered with Greenmarket basil leaves.  The pleasure of summer flavors is sure to cure any lingering cases of chicken fatigue.

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