De la cuisine: Classic Elegance
Since childhood, summer has been my favorite time of year.
What better time to enjoy lolling in a hammock staring at the clouds, and maybe a having a quick dip in a cool swimming pool. In my adult life, a cold beer pressed against my cheek has always been a great reward after working in the yard. Snow-balls, ice cold watermelon and homemade ice cream are always welcome on a hot, steamy day. But perhaps the best of the summer is the seafood, and for me it’s crabs. My family often spent summer weekends at Cypremort Point on Vermilion Bay where we spent the better part of the day checking the crab nets baited with chicken necks. We usually caught enough to boil, or to pick the meat to make crab chops, or a crab and shrimp stew, and sometimes we did something a bit fancier — crabmeat Remick.
If my memory serves me correctly, I first encountered this dish at the Caribbean Room at New Orleans’ Ponchartrain Hotel in the 1970’s and thought it to be simple but elegant. When you have good jumbo lump crabmeat, there is no need to enhance it with overabundant ingredients. Culinary history tells us that the dish was created around 1920 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. It was named after William Remick, the then-president of the stock exchange.
Melon And Prosciutto Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
❶ Combine 3 cups cantaloupe balls and 2 cups honeydew melon balls with 4 ounces thinly sliced ham or prosciutto, cut into strips and 4 ounces shredded Provolone cheese. Toss gently to mix, cover and chill.
❷ To make the poppy seed dressing, combine ⅓ cup sugar, ½ cup white vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon dry mustard and 1 teaspoon grated onion in a blender or food processor. Process for 30 seconds. With the machine on, gradually add 1 cup vegetable oil or olive oil in a slow steady stream. Stir in 1 tablespoon poppy seeds.
❸ When ready to serve, arrange on a bed of baby spinach or arugula leaves in a bowl and drizzle with the dressing.
Makes 5 to 8 servings
Since the dish is rather rich, a salad of cool melon balls complemented by salty ham or prosciutto and dressed with just a tad of poppy seed dressing is a good choice.
Makes 6 main courses or 12 appetizer servings
- 1½ cups mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon tarragon
- ½ cup chili sauce
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
- Dash of celery salt
- 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
- 6 strips bacon, crisply fried
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
In a small mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, chili sauce, dry mustard, lemon juice, paprika, Tabasco, and celery salt. Mix well.
Divide crabmeat evenly into six large ramekins (or 12 small ones). Spoon sauce generously over crabmeat and top with bacon.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until sauce bubbles. If you want to brown tops, put them under broiler for 1 to 2 minutes.
Sour Cream Pound Cake
I’m not much of a baker, but I can succeed making a pound cake. It can easily be made ahead of time and stored in airtight container to keep for a couple of days.
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 F and lightly grease a loaf pan. Lightly dust pan with flour and set aside.
Cream butter and sugar together in a bowl until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Sift flour with the baking soda and cinnamon and stir half of the dry ingredients into batter. Beat in sour cream and vanilla, then the rest of the dry ingredients.
Pour mixture into pan and rap the pan sharply on the table to remove any air pockets. Bake for about one hour until the top of the cake is golden brown and lightly spongy to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool before removing from the pan.
If you make the dressing ahead of time, refrigerate it, but remember to stir the dressing before using to re-blend the ingredients. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Serve slices of the cake with fresh seasonal berries or ice cream and a drizzle of your favorite liqueur.
Summer Corn Soup
Corn, tomatoes, figs and okra are popular summer produce in south Louisiana. Here are some ideas to use our local fruits and vegetables for casual summertime repasts.
Makes 6 servings.
- 4 ears of fresh corn, shucked and cleaned
- 1½ quarts corn or chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup chopped onions
- ½ cup chopped celery
- ½ pound smoked sausage cut crosswise into ¼-inch pieces
- ¼ pound cubed ham or salt meat
- 2 cups chopped ripe tomatoes (or canned tomatoes)
- salt and cayenne pepper to taste
Cut corn kernels off cob using a sharp knife, scraping cob to get all the “milk.”
Combine corn and corn stock or chicken stock in a large, heavy pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer.
Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, celery, sausage and ham. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Add this mixture to soup pot, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 1 hour. Serve hot.
Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, and Fig Pizza
❶ Preheat the oven to 350 F.
❷ Stir together 6 ounces soft mild goat cheese (three-fourths cup), at room temperature and 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper with a fork. Spread mixture on pizza shell, and artfully arrange 6 to 8 fresh figs, trimmed and cut lengthwise into one-fourth-inch slices and ½ pound thinly sliced prosciutto.
❸ Bake until warmed through. Remove pizza from oven, top with 12 arugula leaves, tough stems discarded
Makes 8 servings
Lemon Curd with Berries
To garnish the lemon curd, use fresh mint, lemon mint or lemon thyme to add not only color but a delightful scent.
- 11/3 cups sugar
- 13/4 sticks unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 4 eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
- 4 cups fresh raspberries, blueberries or blackberries
Whisk all ingredients except berries in the top of a non-aluminum double boiler set over boiling water until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not let the mixture boil. Transfer to a glass container and let cool to room temperature.
Fill parfait glasses with alternating layers of berries and lemon curd. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
I always make fig preserves, but figs fresh from the tree are great for a simple appetizer or dessert. Serve fresh figs (sliced) over ice cream or yogurt and drizzle with honey and garnish with crumbled sugar cookies.
The fig season usually peaks around the 4th of July, but I’ve had my fig trees sometimes bear fruit in late June. If you don’t have fresh figs, you can use dried figs. Soak them in a glass of water for about 12 hours before using them.
It’s important to scrape the “milk” off the cob to add flavor and texture to the soup. Do not use canned or frozen corn.