Summer Time Eating

We bought an abundance of produce at the market this weekend – peaches, green beans, scallions, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, purple beans, sweet peppers, blueberries, and watermelon. We also picked up some staples at Whole Foods – halibut, cod, salmon, soy margarine, Israeli couscous, chicken stock, steaks, andouille sausage – and even some squid and a small leg of lamb.

We used the squid and andouille sausage in paprika glazed skewers last night for dinner. Along with some cherry tomatoes, home grown roma tomatoes, red onion, mushrooms and peppers from last week we had a pretty good dinner. I think this is the best combination we’ve had so far with the paprika glaze. I even prefer the squid to shrimp (and I’m not a big squid eater), though next time I’ll use more tentacles than squid body – I like how crunchy they get over the fire. And we noticed that the flavor of the paprika glaze really comes together and intensifies if you make it ahead and keep it in the fridge – we used the last of the glaze we’d made originally about a week ago (though it’s important to portion out what you’ll use to grill and what you’ll keep in the fridge before you grill – once the glaze has touched raw seafood or chicken, you don’t want to reuse it).

I’m really excited about the leg of lamb we picked up. For Sunday night dinner we’re going to be making a raspberry roasted leg of lamb that our butcher suggested. It’s a pretty simple recipe – first you make a marinade of raspberries, a little raspberry jam, red wine vinegar, thyme and chicken stock. You pan sear the outside of the lamb, then cover it in the marinade and let it sit in the fridge overnight. You then roast the leg for about an hour and reduce the marinade to a glaze. Let the leg sit for ten minutes, carve, spoon the glaze on top and serve! I can’t wait to try it and I’m glad my butcher suggested it – I’ve never worked with a leg of lamb before. We’re going to serve the green beans we picked up at the farmer’s market – I might saute them briefly with a little bacon and then steam them until they’re just tender. It should shape up to be the perfect summer dinner, with a little glass of pinot noir alongside.

Last week for dinner I made some alder smoked salmon and realized to my great dismay that I was nearly out of wood chips for my stove top smoker. So I went onto their website to order more (the chips for the stove top smoker are actually more like sawdust or shreds) and I went a little overboard – though it did only cost me $40.00, including shipping. I decided to order their gourmet sampler pack, which is a mix-and-match of ten pints of chips (enough to last me at least a year). I chose two apple, one bourbon-soaked oak, one cherry, one hickory, one maple, two mesquite, one oak and one pecan. I am trying to be patient waiting for them to arrive via UPS. I’m anxious to do some bacon – I’d like to do one apple smoked and another maple smoked time to pull out Charcuterie so I can get ideas for the dry rub cure. I think mesquite smoked chicken thighs would also be great on skewers for the grill. I’d also like to try some of the awesome sounding recipes in the booklet that came with the smoker – Tea Smoked Duckling (with green tea and mesquite chips and a honey, sherry, soy sauce and Chinese five spice glaze; I’ll likely use duck breasts instead of whole duck since I have the smaller smoker), Rock Cornish Hen Calvados (Cornish hens marinated in calvados then smoked over apple chips and served with sautéed apples), Apple Smoked Pheasant with Herbs (an herb butter paste is rubbed under the skin and the bird is smoked over apple chips, then finished in the oven), and Hickory Smoked Ribs (I’ll serve it with my home made barbecue sauce).

Thinking of pheasant has also got me thinking of Thanksgiving – and the fact that the family has started asking if I’ll be hosting it again this year. Of course I will! And I also have to think this far ahead because I’ll really need to save my pennies over the next few months – I’ve decided to make roasted pheasant for our main course this year. They’re not cheap, and I believe I’ll need about four to six of them to serve eight guests. With a show-stopper like pheasant on the table, I thought I’d do some rustic family-style sides this year – herbed spaetzel, wild mushroom orzo (the poor man’s risotto), sautéed apples ‘n’ onions, and wilted kale or broccoli rabe with bacon and shallots. For dessert, I think I’ll serve pumpkin bread and applesauce spice cake. The simple appetizers we did last year were a big hit, so I’ll keep those the same – assorted olives, marinated mushrooms and smoked salmon. This year’s snaps recipe is on my mind – I’d like to try something new, although the cinnamon-cardamom snaps we had last year is truly phenomenal. I’m wondering how apples would work to flavor the aquavit – I might try a test batch of apple and nutmeg snaps as soon as the apples come in this fall and see what happens. I thought of doing a lemon snaps, but lemon doesn’t seem like a warm fall flavor to me. If anyone has recipe suggestions, I’m all ears – and I don’t mind doing multiple test batches. Maybe I’ll even make a trio of snaps this year and serve them all!

It’s been so hot lately that I haven’t even thought of turning on the oven to bake, but since I’ve got to use it tomorrow for the leg of lamb I may as well think of something to bake up for breakfasts this week. I’m bored of the same old things – coffee cakes, chocolate chip muffins and pumpkin muffins. Maybe I’ll do up a pound cake to serve with fresh fruit for breakfast, or some mason jar biscuits.

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