About the time August is ready to become September, I'm ready for summer to be over. I've had it with high temperatures and higher humidity; I'm ready for fall to burst upon the scene with its nippiness, its freshness which fosters cravings long shelved for the doldrums of summer. There are parts of the country where autumn's tingle is only a few weeks away, but in this part of the world August is hot and September can be hotter.
Much as I love to cook and eat these last months of summer are when I would dearly love to have help in the kitchen - someone else to stand over the bubbling pots, someone else to wash the dishes. Many writers have shown a fondness of reminiscing over the great summer feasts created in grandma's country kitchen, too often forgetting that it usually was grandma who brought those ears of corn to loving doneness in the ears of corn to loving doneness in the huge pot of boiling water, along with steaming the lobsters or crabs: it was grandma who the muffins or bread or fresh fruit pies; it was grandma who cooked potatoes and bacon to make potato salad while others sat in the shade, sipping coolers and cursing the heat.
I do not have the patience nor the endurance of many cooks from yesteryear; I do not have the money to hire kitchen help. If my only task woule be to sip coolers, then I would surely starve. So I have taken to collecting easy, but greatly satisfying and appetizing dishes for the late summer months which require very little cooking but create the illusion for your guests or family that you spent the entire day selflessly brooding over a hot stove.
The first of the following three recipes came into my hands from the kitchen of Don LeBlanc. DON LeBLANC'S SUPER SALAD (4 servings) 3/4 to 1 cup mayonnaise Juice of 1/2 lemon Salt and pepper to taste 12 to 16 ounces Alaskan King Crab 12 to 16 ounces small shrimp (peeled, deveined and cooked) 2 medium-small or 1 large lobster tail (boiled and cut into bite-sized pieces) 1/2 cup chopped green pepper 1 tablespoon chopped pimiento 1 tablespoon grated carrot 1 package (8 ounces) elbow macaroni (cooked and drained) Romaine or Bibb lettuce
In a small bowl thin the mayonnaise with the lemon juice and add a dash of salt and pepper. Place the remainder of the ingredients into a large bowl, with the exception of the lettuce, and gently fold in the mayonnaise mixture, lightly coating all the ingredients. Chill for at least 1 hour and serve on a bed of lettuce. HAM AND SHRIMP SALAD WITH CUCUMBER DRESSING (4 servings) 28 to 30 extra-large shrimp (peeled, deveined and cooked) 2 to 3 cups diced ham 1/2 cup finely diced celery 1/4 cup finely sliced green onions Lettuce Dressing: 1 cucumber (peeled, seeded and cut into pieces) 1 cup sour cream 2 tablespoons minced onion 2 tablespoon mayonnaise Juice of lime 1/2 teaspoon salt Pinch garlic powder Parika
Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a blender and mix until the sauce is chinky, reserving the paprika for later use; chill the dressing for 20 30 minutes. Place the other ingredients together in a large bowl, pour the dressing over the mixture, toss gently and serve on a bed of lettuce. Dust with parika and garnish with sliced cucumber, tomato or hard-cooked egg.
A note on cooking shrimp: Once the shrimp have been peeled and deveined, place them in a large pot containing a mixture of one part beer to one part cold water. Put the pot on high heat and bring the liquid to a boil. Once the foam from the beer has started to reach toward the top of the pot, turn the heat down to medium (to keep it from boiling over) and cook for no more than 30 seconds. Remove the shrimp from the heat, drain and plunge into iced water to cool. VEGETARIAN STUFFED TOMATOES WITH AVOCADO SAUCE (4 servings) 4 large ripe tomatoes 1/2 cup chopped celery 1/4 cup chopped red onion 1/2 chopped walnuts 1/2 cup chopped green pepper 1/2 cup chopped raw mushroom Salt and pepper Shredded iceburg lettuce Sauce: 1 very ripe avocado 3/4 cup chicken stock or bouillon (chilled) 3/4 cup sour cream Juice 1 of lemon 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon white vinegar 1/2 teaspoon hot Mexican chili powder 1/2 teaspoon salt or slightly more to taste 2 drops hot pepper sauce
In a blender combine all the ingredients for the sauce at medium speed until smooth; set aside in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the tops, seeds and internal ribbing from the tomatoes to form shells and dust the inside of each shell lightly with salt and pepper. Place the shells on a nest of shredded lettuce. In a bowl combine the celery, red onion, walnuts, green pepper and mushrooms and spoon the mixture into the tomato shells, allowing any extra to cascade over the tops of the tomatoes onto the lettuce. Remove the sauce from the refrigerator and mix once more; spoon over the stuffed tomatoes.