Summer Menus

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Summer Menus

Depending on where you live, this summer has been either hot or ghastly. And maybe it still is. Ghastly, I mean.

Although it may seem that the rest of the world is on vacation, most of us are busy as usual. A friend who is under major work stress just wrote to me about how it's a "dream" to be able to have the leisure to cook something special.

His comment stayed with me as I spent some time with a new cookbook. Actually it's an old cookbook that's new to me, one by the late great Lee Bailey called Lee Bailey's Long Weekends. It's now out of print but can be found from some of the used booksellers at Amazon and B&N. Lee Bailey would often produce books that combined travelogue, style guide, and recipes and in this volume he called it "good food and easy living" for eight weekends set in beautiful settings across the country. While there's a certain indigenous character to the menus -- crab in South Carolina and chili rellenos in New Mexico -- what Lee Bailey did was use a place to inspire tempting multi-course meals that were not monsters to make.

So thinking of my over-worked friend in Boston who misses his kitchen, and inspired by Lee Bailey, I thought I'd offer up some summer menus. Whether it's a weekday dinner or cooking for company, here are some ideas for what to make.

First, a few tips for summer cooking:

Summer Menus

Menu #1: Inspired by a Lee Bailey early evening picnic in the Berkshires from Lee Bailey's Long Weekends

Menu #2: For a weeknight dinner

Asian Coleslaw (serves 4)

1 pound cabbage, cored and shredded and 1 cup grated carrots -- or buy a bag of coleslaw mix

1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 teaspoon jalapeno or Thai chile pepper

Put the shredded cabbage and grated carrots into a bowl. Mix all the other ingredients together in a jar and shake until emulsified. Toss the slaw mix with the dressing, starting with about 1/4 cup and adding more a tablespoon at a time until coated. Cover and chill for about 30 minutes before serving. Any leftover vinaigrette will last refrigerated for about 2 weeks.

Menu #3: A summer weekend dinner

Maryland Peach Cobbler (serves 6)

1 teaspoon unsalted butter for the baking dish
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 to 8 large peaches, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices (6 cups)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Butter a 9-inch round or square cake pan or baking dish about 2 inches deep.
In a large bowl, combine 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and the cinnamon. Add the peaches and stir to coat.
Transfer the peaches to the buttered pan and dot with the 2 tablespoons cold butter.
In another large bowl, either by hand or using a handheld mixer, cream the 1/3 cup softened butter until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Add the egg and blend.
Sift 1-cup flour with the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, the baking powder, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk. Do not overmix.
Using a spatula, spread the batter over the peaches as evenly as possible so it covers the fruit.
Bake until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Serve while still warm with vanilla ice cream.

Menu #4: Easy summer supper

No one wants to cook at the end of a steamy August day and it can be tempting to dial in for sushi. But you can do that any time, like on a rainy night in November. Instead remember that we only get one shot a year at summer's best tastes -- and that's right now.





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