I live on a small island in the middle of the North Atlantic. It’s a fairly temperate climate, (three cheers for the Gulf Stream!) but summers are…well…optional. There’s a lot of weather that looks like this:
BUT. Tucked in between the showers, the mist, and all of the clouds, there are little nuggets of glorious weather – days that makes you want to fling open all of your windows hang your sheets on the line, and live in the sun – which doesn’t set until nearly 10PM!
Because these days are so amazing, but also far and few between, I am always 100% ready to change course and take advantage of the good weather. Cancel those plans for paperwork & laundry. Take walks by the sea! Eat ice cream for dinner! Invite friends over for cocktails! And so…I live in hope, and always keep supplies for my favourite summer cocktail on hand because there ain’t no party like a Pimm’s party.
If you have not yet been introduced to the wonders of Pimm’s do make this the summer that you discover this fabulous gin-based, herbalicious liqeuer. It’s not like anything else in the drinks world, and there are no substitutions. There are a few variations on the classic Pimm’s Cup cocktail, and a variety of ways to serve it, but what I like to do is make a big pitcher and allow people to serve themselves at a sort of Pimm’s buffet. I mix a 3:1 ratio to fizzy lemonade to Pimm’s (I like San Pellegrino Limonata, but even Sprite or 7Up will do) and toss in a bunch of sliced strawberries & cucumbers, wedges of citrus fruit and fresh mint. I leave out a tray of garnishes, fill some glasses with ice and BOOM. Instant party. If a bottles of Pimm’s seems like too large an investment, making a pitcher of tinto de verano will do!
If the shoe is on the other foot and I’m invited to someone else’s for a BBQ, I have a collection of salad recipes on standby. My current favourite is Watermelon, Feta, and Mint. I honestly can’t remember where I first read about this salad, but I’ve been making the following version of it for a few years, and I just love it.
Watermelon, Feta & Mint Salad
1 small to medium watermelon
200g feta cheese
1 bunch of fresh mint leaves (this is non-negotiable – dried mint just won’t work – don’t even try…)
Cut the rind off the watermelon and chop the flesh into 1 inch cubes. Cut (rather than crumble) the feta into smaller cubes. Roughly chop (or, if you’re feeling fancy, chiffonade) the mint. Gently toss these ingredients together before pouring over the juice from the two limes over everything and giving a final, gentle toss. (vigorous tossing will squish the watermelon and crumble the feta into too-small pieces, so beware!) This is best made & eaten on the same day, as it gets very soggy if refrigerated over night. You could probably chop the water melon a day in advance and combine the ingredients shortly before serving if you’re stuck for time.
Other perennial favourite ‘bring along’ salads include The Barefoot Contessa’s Panzanella and Potato Salad. Ina boils and steams large potatoes, but I take a shortcut and buy the packets of baby potatoes that you can steam in the microwave, which somehow makes the whole process less daunting.
If your host requests a dessert, I have two showstoppers that are deceptively easy. The first is a really joyful recipe by Derry Clarke for Baked Blueberry Cheesecake. My husband sent it to me years ago in a hopeful e-mail, so I made it for Father’s Day that year and pretended that it had been a very complicated and fussy process in order to get maximum credit. (Shhhh…don’t tell him…) It is delicious, really simple, and very seasonal. My second go to summer dessert is Bill Smith’s Atlantic Beach Pie. Again, it is so easy that it’s almost funny, but packs a huge punch. It manages to be light and rich all at the same time, and the sweet/salty/tart combination knocks my socks off every time.
Keep these recipes in your back pocket for a day when the sun shines because you never know when it’ll pop out again!
In other foodie news…
- I cooked along with Food 52’s Community Cookbook Club this week and made Ottolenghi’s Carmelised Onion Chicken with Cardamon Rice. It was a good recipe, but next time I’ll tweak the instructions to get crispier skin on the chicken. The rice was ACE though.
- I am just loving Joy the Baker’s new cookbook Over Easy. I’m looking forward to trying a few more brunch recipes over the weekend.
- I’m seriously considering trying a round of Whole30. Am I crazy? Have you tried it? Let me know…I know that it would be good for me, but the prospect of 30 days without gin scares me!!! And as much as I love meal planning, this feels like a whole new level – eep.