It seems as though it took forever this year, but according to my calendar, “summer is a-comin’ in,” finally.
Of course, we all know that the calendar may be the only real indication that summer is just around the corner, because all too often true summertime doesn’t make an appearance in these parts until sometime after the 4th of July. But that standard, summer arrived a bit early this year. Still, I do recall an occasional rare day or more in June in years past when we reveled in record temperatures and watched breathtaking sunsets at nine o’clock.
It has always been hard for me to understand why the first official day of summer, June 21, is also the day on which the daylight hours begin to dwindle, only a very few minutes each day but nevertheless an omen of approaching fall even as we celebrate the summer solstice. I won’t spend a lot of time worrying about that, however.
It’s time, now, to think seriously about all the special foods, summery dishes, warm weather treats and frosty desserts that we’ve been missing and pining for all winter and even during this less than promising spring. Summer, around here, can be short and sweet, so you do need to haul out any and all of your family’s favorite summertime recipes and get started on them before you wake up one morning and feel that first unmistakable chill in the air, and find yourself thinking “soup tonight.”
Come summer, now that July 4 is over, I’ll be ready and waiting to make the first batch of our favorite Lemon Ice Cream. Sure, I can make ice cream any time during the year, but this particular lemon ice cream is always our traditional welcome to summertime dessert. I’ll make a double batch to be sure I’ll have enough to share on the 4th of July.
If you didn’t ready your grill for Memorial Day, now’s the time to get it done. After all, one of the best things about summer meal preparation (as far as I’m concerned) is having someone else do a big part of it on the grill, which doesn’t typically happen during the winter months. And then there are the salads, piled high with the freshest of greens and slices of plump, truly ripe tomato and cucumber, perhaps sliced or shelled snow peas, and maybe a bit of grated kohlrabi, all fresh from the garden or the farmers market, and nothing at all like the tired, over-the-hill produce of winter.
No, we won’t want to waste a day of our always too short summertime, nor a chance to feast on out-of-the-water Dungeness crab, tender just-picked corn on the cob, fragrant raspberries picked that morning, blackberry cobbler oozing juice from the berries you picked that afternoon, and need I go on? My mouth is watering as my fingers hit the computer keys.
Remember, as Shakespeare wrote in one of his many sonnets, “…summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”
In a banker’s box labeled “Summer” there are fat individual files labeled by such names as “Cobblers and Pies,” “Potato Salads,” “Fruit Salads,” “Zucchini,” and so forth. I can’t stop collecting yet another summertime recipe whenever I eat something different and delicious, even though I know there will never be enough summer days to use the ones I’ve already gathered. But, I sure do love trying.
About four years ago, I was served a stunning, cold dessert that was as deliciously different as it was beautiful, and got the recipe from our hostess. If you’re looking for a knockout end to your summers eve’s meal, this is it. NOTE: FOR ADULTS ONLY.
BERRY PROSECCO GELEE
2 cups fresh raspberries (or other fresh berry of your choice, but raspberries look like jewels in this dessert)
¾ cup plus 2 T. sugar, divided (using superfine sugar helps, but regular is OK)
2 T. fresh lemon juice, divided
1 bottle (750 ml.) chilled Prosecco, divided (it’s an Italian sparkling wine, also excellent before dinner with appetizers)
3½ t. unflavored gelatin (you’ll probably have to use 2 envelopes to get the right amount)
Place berries, ¼ cup sugar, and 1 T. lemon juice in a med. bowl and toss gently to combine. Let stand at room temp. until berries release their juices, tossing occasionally, about a half hour.
Pour ½ cup Prosecco into a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over and let stand 5 min. to soften. Bring 1 cup of Prosecco to a boil with remaining ½ cup plus 2 T. of sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; add gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved. Be sure it is completely dissolved.
Transfer gelatin mixture to a large pitcher; add berries with juices, remaining Prosecco, remaining 1 T. lemon juice, stirring to dissolve any sugar. Using a slotted spoon, remove berries and divide them equally among 6 clear, wide, shallow glasses. Divide the Prosecco mixture equally in the glasses over the berries, probably about ¾ cup each. Refrigerate and chill until firm, about 3 hrs. These can be made ahead and kept refrigerated and covered up to 2 days. Serve with another berry or two or a small sprig of mint on top. Makes 6 servings.
Here’s one for both adults and kids. If you have kids, you probably own a popsicle mold; if not, get one for this treat. It’s worth having one around just for this (and adults only margarita pops, perhaps?)
BLACKBERRY YOGURT POPSICLES
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
3½ to 3¾ cups fresh blackberries
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt (I use Greek yogurt; you use whichever you prefer)
5 t. honey
4 t. fresh lemon juice
10 popsicle or lollipop sticks
Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over med.-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Transfer this simple syrup to a small bowl and chill until cold (about 1 hr.)
Put blackberries in a food processor and puree until smooth. Pour the puree into a strainer set over med. bowl. Using a rubber spatula, press on solids to extract as much puree as possible. Discard seeds from strainer. Measure 2 cups blackberry puree for the pops and place in another med. bowl, reserving any remaining puree for another use. Add chilled simple syrup, yogurt, honey, and lemon juice to the puree, whisking to blend. Divide mixture among 10 popsicle molds (about 1/3-½ cup capacity each), top with mold cover, if there is one, and insert stick into each. If your mold(s) has no cover, cover top with plastic wrap, pulling it taut, and freeze until partially frozen then insert stick into center of the plastic wrap into the popsicle mixture. Freeze pops until firm, at least 8 hrs., or overnight. Makes 10.