Simple Summery Things
Cooking in the winter is entirely different from cooking in the summer. The amount of time and effort required to coax taste out of ingredients seems to be directly related to the season in which they're found. Winter is, of course, the time for long, slow braises and roasts. The kind of cooking that is very much about process and transformation, so that your ugly celeriac, for example, might become something beautiful. In the winter, your ingredients need you. And it can be so nice to be needed. It's in the colder months that I feel like my presence in the kitchen is actually necessary, that things must be prepared.
The summer, on the other hand, is a completely different story. And especially if you happen to live on the top floor of a 5 story walk up apartment in Manhattan with little ventilation. While neighbors below might turn on their ovens with abandon, when you're on the top, you become the lucky recipient of all of their hot air (in my case, since I like most of my neighbors, we're talking about literal hot air here). And some days, I just cannot bear to add to the madness by firing up my own pilot light.
It's a happy coincidence, then, that summer foods are often totally, completely content without the benefit of your fiddling around with them. The problem is, I like to fiddle. And so, cooking in the summer, for me, can be so much more about combination than about transformation. In the summer, I make things you hardly need a recipe for, but which benefit from a bit of inspiration. Sure, you could cut up that mango and dig right in, but what if you sprinkled it with a little nutmeg first? Fresh squeezing orange juice has to be one of the most obvious morning treats, but adding strawberries and a splash of vanilla? Now that's something else. Something noteworthy.
Both of those ideas come, by the way, from Angela Tunner's new book Simply Summer (which, in the interest of full disclosure, was sent to me). The idea is simple, ingredient driven food, many recipes requiring little to no heat (although that's not necessarily a requirement). At least, there won't be the kind of sauna that results from an oven fired up for hours. I've tried a few things so far. A few of the simplest things, which are interesting as ideas you may not have thought of yourself. I have a few other recipes picked out as well, which I hope to share with you soon, but first, a couple of ideas for combinations that will make your oh-so-independent ingredients remember why they need you.
Both recipes are from Angela Tunner's Simply Summer
Summer Mangos with Nutmeg
1 ripe mango, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons brown sugar
Pinch of nutmeg
Preheat the oven (or better, the toaster oven) to 350F. Put the mango pieces into a small, ovenproof dish. Dot the mango with the butter, and sprinkle the sugar and nutmeg on top. Cook the mangos for 10 minutes for more succulent mangos, 20 for a richer flavor.
Transfer the mango to a serving dish and drizzle the juices on top. You can serve with with cream, ice cream, or simply, blissfully, on its own. I, however, recommend yogurt.
Need to know how to cut up a mango? Watch this video:
Orange and Strawberry Juice with a Touch of Vanilla
12 Strawberries, stems removed
6 oranges, juiced, plus 2 more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extra or seeds scraped from 1/3 vanilla bean
Put the chopped strawberries in a blender and coarsely chop them.
Add the orange juice to the strawberries, along with the vanilla. Blend until smooth.
Cut the remaining two oranges into slices. about 1/4" thick and put them in a pitcher with along with ice cubes.
Pour the juice through a fine mesh strainer to remove any seeds and pulp, them pour the strained juice over the ice and orange sections. Serve.
* You can just peel and section your oranges for garnish, or you can go the fancy way and supreme them. Want to know how? Here's another video: