COOKING IN summer is as capricious a sport as sailing. When you're up for it, the weather doesn't cooperate or your family (or guests) aren't willing. $ the old truisms still hold true, to some degree- Lighter foods, smaller portions and an increased emphasis on fresh vegetables and fruit of the season all are appropriate. It is wise, also, to think about foods that taste good as leftovers and may not require reheating; perhaps even to cook enough so that only a small amount of the dish be it a roast or a ratatouille, is eaten the first night. Summer is a wonderful time to compose main course salads or blender soups from leftovers. It is also a time to think of exotic colors and flavors to help stimulate the heatprostrated appetite.
Let it be understood, however, that the concept of appetites taking summer vacations is -- in part at least -- a myth concocted by food industry home economists trying to sell more canned tuna and by cooks who prefer the sun to their Sunbeams at this time of year. People do become hungry in summer. Just ask some friends to stay for dinner on the spur of the moment. You'll find out.
The following are half-a-dozen dishes I've served with considerable success. The first is a delicious, French-Oriental way to prepare chicken for company. The recipe by 3-star chef Alain Senderens was part of a promoto ion book done by leading French chefs for Ricard, the anise-flavored liqueur. Another brand of pastis, such as Pernod, could be substituted.
CHICKEN FRICASSEE WITH RICARD (4 servings) 1 chicken, weighing approximately 3 1/2 pounds 1 tablespoon olive oil 5 tablespoons butter 1 bulb fennel, chopped 1 onion, chopped 5 tablespoons ricard 2 teaspoons mild curry powder 1/4 cup white wine 2 cups anise plus 4 star anise to garnish Salt and pepper
Cut the chicken into eight pieces and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons butter and the olive oil in a frying pan, add the chicken, and brown over moderate heat for several minutes.
In a second frying pan or sauteuse, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, add the fennel, onion, and curry powder. Stir and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes.
Use two forks or a slotted spoon to lift the pieces of chicken out of their frying pan and place them in the pan with the onion and fennel.
Add the Ricard and white wine to the pan with the fennel, and stir to deglaze the pan. Cover and simmer slowly for a total of 20 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time, a little more Ricard or white wine can be added if the liquid has evaporated too quickly. Once they cooked, remove the pieces of chicken from the pan with a slotted spoon, cover, and keep warm in the oven.
Use a large spoon to remove as much fat from the pan as possible. Do not remove any of the vegetables. Add the cream and star anise to the pan, and simmer uncovered over very low heat until the sauce begins to thicken. While simmering the sauce, stir it occasionally with a wire whisk. Once the sauce begins to thicken, add the remaining tablespoon of butter and pour the sauce through a strainer. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
Place the pieces of chicken on a serving platter, spoon the strained sauce over them and garnish with 4 whole star anise. Serve immediately. The chicken can also be served in the pan in which the sauce was cooked.
Is it ever too hot for pasta? Maybe for the cook, but seldom for those called on to eat it.
Ellen Rosenthal of New York City brought the two recipes that follow to Washington. For a party, you might make both -- with two different styles of pasta. The guests could sample both along with bread and a tossed salad.
ELLEN ROSENTHAL'S GREEN PASTA SAUCE (8 to 10 servings) 1 cup butter 1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley 1/2 cup chopped scallions, green parts only 1 cup heavy cream 1 cup freshly grated parmesan 1/4 cup lemon juice 2 pounds linguine, cooked to al dente
Melt butter in a saucepan.Add parsley and scallions and cook until just softened. Add cream. When it bubbles, stir in parmesan and lemon juice. Drain pasta well and toss with sauce in a bowl. Serve and offer a pepper mill and extra grated cheese.
Ellen rosenthal's spicy RED PASTA SAUCE (8 to 10 servings) 1/3 cup olive oil 6 cloves garlic, crushed 2 can (1 pound size) Italian tomatoes (or 16 fresh tomatoes*), drained with liquid reserved and chopped 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar 2 or 3 hot cherry peppers, from a jar 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon sugar Salt and pepper to taste 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil 2 pounds shells or linguine, cooked to al dente
If using fresh tomatoes, cut in half over a stainer, remove seeds and chop, reserving all liquid.
Heat olive oil and cook the crushed garlic until browned, crushing it in the pan with the back of a wooden spoon. Remove garlic and discard. Chop tomatoes and add additional juice to reserved liquid. Add tomatoes to pan, stir briefly and remove from heat.
In a separate pan bring tomato liquid to a boil along with vinegar, cherry peppers and sugar to taste. Cook until a thick syrup is formed, removing pepper after 10 minutes (for medium hot sauce) or at the end (for very hot sauce). Combine with tomatoes and oil. Do not cook further. Just before serving, reheat sauce, adding chopped basil. Toss with pasta in a bowl and serve.
This is an unusual twist on a familiar appetizer.
EMIL GRAF'S GREEN PEPPER SOUP (3 or 4 servings) 1/2 cup chopped green peppers 1/2 cup chopped onions 2 tablespoons butter 2 cups chicken broth 1/4 teaspoons oregano 2 tablespoons flour 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup milk
Saute peppers and onions in butter until onions are golden. Add chicken broth, oregano and simmer for 10 minutes. Place in a blender and puree for a few seconds.In a saucepan, melt butter and add flour and salt. Cook until bubbly and remove and return to heat. Gradually add thick and smooth. Stir in green pepper mixture. Serve hot or cold, sprinkled with a little chopped green pepper.
The best salads are created from leftovers and this one is no exception. The tricky part is ending up with any leftover lobster, so I suggest shrimp as an alternative. Fresh coriander, or Chinese parsley, has a haunting flavor.
LOBSTER OR SHRIMP SALAD (2 servings) 1 cup of chopped cooked lobster or shrimp 1 1/2 cups of lettuce, preferably a mix of Boston and romaine 2 scallions, white parts only, roughly chopped 1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander 12 to 15 green beans, crisp cooked, cut in 1 1/2-inch pieces 1 carrot, crisp cooked, cut in thin, 1 1/2-inch pieces Salt and freshly ground pepper 1 hard-cooked egg, cut in six or eight wedges 2/3 cup salad dressing, made with 1 heaping tablespoon mustard, tarragon and vinegar (or tarragon vinegar) and oil
Place all ingredients except egg wedges in a salad bowl. Sprinkle on salt and pepper, and a dressing and toss well. Garnish with egg wedges and serve.
ORIENTAL BEEF AND CASHEWS (3 or 4 servings) 8 to 12 ounces steak, cut in thin 2-inch strips 1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch 1/2 teaspoon curry powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons soy sauce 1 tablespoon wine or broth 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil Oil for frying 1 bag (2 1/2 ounces) cashews 5 scallions, cut in 1 1/2-inch pieces 1/2 tablespoon garlic silvers 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger 1 cup sliced cabbage 1 zucchini, cut in small chunks 1 green pepper, seeded and cut in small chunks 1/2 cup broth
Mix together the cornstarch, curry powder, salt, soy, wine and sesame oil in a bowl. Add the beef slices and marinate while preparing the vegetables. Pour 2 tablespoons of oil into a hot wok or high-sided frying pan and fry the cashews until they have browned. (In the unlikely event that you haven't eaten some during preparation, don't use the entire bag.) Remove with a slotted spoon. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons oil and stir-fry the beef. Remove it.
Quickly clean the wok or pan, reheat and pour in 3 tablespoons oil. Stir-fry the scallions, garlic, ginger and pepper until they begin to brown. Add zucchini and toss, then cabbage. Pour in 1/2 cup broth, season wwith soy, and cover pan for 2 to 3 minutes. Add beef and peanuts and heat briefly. Remove to a serving bowl with slotted spoons. If desired, thicken pan juices with a little cornstarch softened in water and pour over vegetables.
This is another spur-of-the-moment creation. The coriander used is dried and ground and gives a quite different flavor nuance from fresh leaf coriander.
NUTTY STUFFED MUSHROOMS (Makes about 3 dozen) 1 1/2 pounds large mushrooms with stalks 3 ounces pecans, finely chopped 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 1 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped 1 medium onion, finely chopped 7 tablespoons butter 6 to 8 tablespoons bread crumbs 1 cup milk 1/4 teaspoon (scant) chili powder Salt and black pepper to taste
Wash and dry mushrooms. Remove stems and chop. Sprinkle insides of mushroom caps with salt and divide 4 tablespoons of butter among them, place a dab in each cap. Place caps in a large baking pan and heat for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and chill.
In a frying pan melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Add onion, chopped stems, garlic and ginger and simmer for 5 minutes. Add nuts, chili powder, salt and pepper and cook another minute or two. Add bread crumbs and milk. Heat and stir, mixing to make a dough-like stuffing. Fill each mushroom cap with about a tablespoon of this mixture. Serve chilled or reheat for 5 minutes at 350 degrees.
The next recipe migrated to Washington from the Caribbean, the Caribe Hilton Hotel in San Juan, by way of New Hampshire. As you will see, it is a soup that can be served either hot or cold.
MELLOW ORANGES (4 servings) 3 oranges, peeled and broken into sections 1 red delicious apple, cored and thinly sliced 1/2 teaspoon dried mint, crushed between the fingers, or 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh mint 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander 1 cup dry white wine 2 tablespoons orange liqueur, such as Cointreau 1 tablespoon dark rum
Mix mint, coriander, wine, liqueur and rum in a stainless steel or glass bowl. Add the apples slices and cover them with the orange sections. Marinate at least two hours in the refrigerator, or overnight. Serve in small bowls garnished with sprigs of mint. CAPTION: Illustration, An adaptation of Winslow Homer's "The Robin's Note"