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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

SUMMERTIME

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I love entertaining in the summer - mainly because you can be outdoors and food tastes better outdoors! But, the food needs to be right - lighter, cooler and full of vibrant color. This menu is perfect for any meal during the summer whether you're at home or on vacation.  We are having friends over in a couple of weeks and will be dining outdoors under the stars.

LUNCH:
GAZPACHO
SALMON SALAD

DINNER:
APPETIZER - SUN-DRIED TOMATO DIP with crackers
MAIN:
GREEK GRILLED GROUPER
ARUGULA WITH WARM BACON VINAIGRETTE
CORN SALAD
WHITE CHOCOLATE KEY LIME PIE
BEACH CONDO COSMOS

GAZPACHO
(Adapted from Ina Garten)


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I think summer = gazpacho and vice versa.  It's great as a first course, but also it's amazing poured into a thermos and taken on a boat or outside on the beach for a picnic!  Add some French bread (and perhaps some good white wine) and you've got a luscious lunch!

I grew up enjoying my Grandmother's version (which included cans of tomato soup and chicken gumbo soup) which she'd serve with bowls of croutons, cucumber, tomatoes and green peppers to add to your bowl.  This version is fresher and still simple and delicious and much healthier than sodium filled Campbell's soup. And the best part?? It needs to be made in advance, so you have less food prep the day of your dinner party.

1 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
4 plum tomatoes
1 red onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
24 ounces tomato juice (3 cups)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup good olive oil
1/2 TBSP kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
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Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes.
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Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not over process; you want it to be a bit chunky, not pureed!

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired.
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Mix well. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

SALMON SALAD
(Adapted from Ina Garten)
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2 lbs. fresh salmon fillets, with the skin on (preferably wild, not farm raised)
Extra virgin olive oil, for grilling
Kosher or sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 cup celery, chopped finely (~ 3-4 stalks)
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2 TBSP minced fresh dill
2 TBSP capers, drained
2 TBSP raspberry vinegar
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/2 tsp pepper
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Cut the salmon fillets crosswise into 4" wide slices.  Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
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Brush the grill with oil to prevent the fish from sticking.  Cook the fillets on the grill for 5-7 minutes on each side, until they are rare.
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Be sure they are still rare on the inside.  Remove to a plate, wrap in plastic, and chill in the fridge till cold and very firm.
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When the fillets are cold, remove any skin that hasn't come off during grilling.  Break the fillets into very large flakes and put them into a bowl, adding any juices that have collected at the bottom of the plate.
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Add the celery, red onion, dill, capers, raspberry vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
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Mix well and serve cold or at room temperature.


Sun-Dried Tomato Dip
(Adapted from Ina Garten)
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Great with veggies, crackers or chips - this oh so simple dip is packed with flavor!

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
8 oz cream cheese, softened (I use neufchâtel - 33% less fat)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Hellman's mayo
10 dashes Tabasco sauce
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper
2 scallions, thinly sliced, green and white parts
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Puree the tomatoes, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper in a food processor.
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Add the scallions and pulse twice.

GREEK GRILLED GROUPER
(Adapted from Southern Living)
thefishermanswife
This dish is especially great if you can get fresh fish while at the beach!  But if not, get the freshest you can find somewhere like Whole Foods or Fresh Market. It's a simple preparation (just olive oil and Greek seasoning), which I think is the only way to prepare this delicious fish.  And then accompanied with this homemade yummy tartar sauce - it doesn't get much better! This recipe feeds a crowd - adjust accordingly.

12 (8-oz.) grouper fillets
1/4 cup olive oil
1 TBSP Greek seasoning
24 (1/4-inch-thick) lemon slices
Dot's Tartar Sauce
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Rub fish fillets with oil; sprinkle evenly with Greek seasoning.
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Top each fillet with 2 lemon slices. Place a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil (sprayed with cooking spray) over grill grate. Arrange fish on top of the foil.
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Grill fillets, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350 - 400 degrees) 15 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.
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Serve with Dot's Tartar Sauce.

Dot's Tartar Sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
2 TBSP dill pickle relish (I used sweet since it's all I had - and it was fine)
2 TBSP drained capers
2 TBSP chopped fresh chives
1 TBSP chopped fresh tarragon
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp black pepper
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Stir together all ingredients until blended. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
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ARUGULA WITH WARM BACON VINAIGRETTE
(Adapted from Southern Living)



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4 bacon slices
1 shallot or garlic clove, minced
4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
1 (5-oz.) package arugula or mixed greens
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
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Cook bacon until crisp.
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Remove bacon, reserving drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon. Sauté shallot or garlic in drippings 2 minutes or just until tender.

Transfer shallot/garlic and drippings to a small bowl. Whisk in oil and next 3 ingredients.

Toss arugula with vinaigrette on a platter or bowl. Top with goat cheese and bacon.
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FRESH CORN SALAD
(Adapted from Ina Garten)
foodnetwork
5 ears corn, shucked (Ina says not to, but, in a pinch, you CAN use frozen IF it's really good - I use Fresh Market's Silver Queen corn, and it's outstanding - very sweet and flavorful)
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
3 TBSP cider vinegar
3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
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In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the corn (I used Silver Queen since I had it on hand) for 2-3 minutes until the starchiness is just gone. You don't want mushy corn!  Drain and immerse it in ice water to stop the cooking, and set the color.


When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob.  Toss the kernels in a large bowl with the red onions, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
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Add basil just before serving.

Adjust seasonings to your taste.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

WHITE CHOCOLATE KEY LIME PIE
(Adapted from Coastal Living)
coastalliving
I'm excited to try this version of a key lime pie.  Key lime pie to me is synonymous  with summer - it's light and cool and refreshing.  Then, to add white chocolate to the mix - yum!
1 cup whipping cream
1 (11-ounce) package white chocolate morsels
1 TBSP sour cream
1 tsp lime zest
1/3 cup fresh Key lime or lime juice (or use Nellie and Joes)
1 (9-inch) ready-made graham cracker crust or your favorite recipe
Garnish: lime slices, if desired

Combine cream and white chocolate morsels in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook 5 minutes or until morsels melt, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add sour cream, lime rind, and juice; stir well. Pour into crust. Cover and chill at least 8 hours. Garnish, if desired.

BEACH CONDO COSMOS
(Adapted from Recipegirl)
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Since I try to get to the beach as often as possible, (my happy place), the name "beach condo" was the choice! And the pinkish color of the drink screams summer!  This recipe makes about 10 small (martini sized) drinks.  Adjust ratios as needed.

4 cups prepared limeade
2 cups vodka
1 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup triple sec
12 lime slices or a spritz of lime juice in each glass
Lots of ice
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Prepare the limeade as directed on the can.
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Then mix all ingredients in a pitcher. Place in the refrigerator and let chill for 2 to 3 hours. Serve in martini glasses and garnish with a lime slice if desired.

Sunrise or sunset?  I love them both, but sunrises are my favorite - the beginning of a new day, it's peaceful (since I'm usually the only one awake!), spiritual, and at the beach, spectacularly beautiful.  A sunrise pic of my little slice of heaven:

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