THE MENU Iced Pea and Tomato Soup Cold Roast Pork Louisette Bertholle's Cold Game Sauce Vegetables Avgolemono Strawberry-Peach Meringue Layer Cake
THE UNUSUAL and refreshing combinations of flavors in this cool, calm and collected meal are a palliative for this summer of deep doldrums. A first course of chilled pea and tomato soup is distinguished by the compatibility of sweet peas with the zing of real live tomatoes and fresh mint. Next is a perfectly cooked boneless pork loin roast served cold with a delicious game sauce, which despite its odd ingredients, or, more likely, because of them, is the perfect complement to the meat. With the pork is not the usual salad but rather cold parboiled vegetables dressed with an avgolemono sauce, that zippy Greek contribution to the table based on egg yolks and lemon juice. The meal ends with a cloudlike cake of meringue layers filled with sliced strawberries and diced peaches in a suspension of kirsch-spiked whipped cream.
The first course initially began life as a cold minted pea soup with a sweetness that cried out for modification. Home-grown tomatoes (full of flavor and found at a supermarket) reinforced by a little tomato paste and a bit of lemon juice transformed a sugary potage into a tangy, light version of a mongole soup with a tang to awaken suppressed appetites and the texture and flavor to satisfy them. The soup can be made up to four days in advance, always a boon, but especially during summer. It needs only a stir before being poured into bowls and garnished with fresh mint and sour cream.
The meat, prepared the day before the party, is roasted in the light marinade in which it has sat for an hour prior to cooking. It comes out of the oven glazed a deep brown on the outside, juicy and tender inside and permeated with heavenly flavors that manage not to be dissipated even when the meat is cold. Boneless pork roasts, which should be long, thin and tightly rolled, are simplicity itself to carve. Look for pale gray as opposed to red pork at the meat counter.
The pan juices from the roast are deglazed and then used in the sauce, which comes from Louisette Bertholle's "French Cooking For All." Only a cook of the stature of Bertholle could have led me to overcome my disbelief that a recipe would be worth making with such strange oddments as orange marmalade, chutney and ketchup. The confidence she inspires is completely justified by the result. The sauce is interesting and perfectly delicious. By deglazing the pan juices and refrigerating them, fat has the chance to congeal, so that it can be removed before the sauce is made. I used a dark, bitterish English marmalade and Major Grey's chutney.
The evolution of the vegetable dish was serendipitous. Lovely string beans, tiny zucchini and bright yellow, young summer squash were brought home from a farmer's market along with the problem of what to do with them. Dressing them with yet another vinaigrette sauce raised the specter of the cook turning into a bottle of olive oil or, worse, vinegar. Combining the vegetables with an avgolemono sauce turned out to be the find of the season. Nothing more is required than parboiling the string beans and zucchini and squash sticks and making the sauce with liquid reserved from cooking the vegetables. The dish can be made a day or even two in advance and brought to room temperature before serving.
The meringue layers are made on the day they are to be eaten to avoid as much as possible any exposure to humidity, the great enemy. If the kitchen is nicely air conditioned, the layers can sit on a counter for a few hours, but it is much safer to hold them in a turned-off oven with a pilot light, where they stay crisp and dry. The layers are baked on a large jellyroll pan lined with parchment paper or, lacking this most useful kitchen help, with paper cut to the size of the pan from large brown bags that some supermarket chains are intent on making obsolete. The paper is brushed with melted butter after which a thin layer of cornstarch is sifted on. Such precautions avoid the misery that comes when meringues turn stubborn and want to stick to the surface on which they have been baked. A cake pan pressed onto the prepared surface leaves circles within which the beaten meringue mixture is spread. Two layers can be made on one jellyroll pan. Superfine sugar can be made by grinding granulated sugar in a food processor with the steel knife for a few minutes.
The meringues are baked for an hour in a very slow oven and then left in the turned-off oven for half an hour to dry. The layers are then peeled off the paper and, if desired, returned to the pan and held in the cold oven until needed. The fruits are cut up a few hours before assembly, but to keep too much liquid from being drawn out of the fruit, sugar is not added until just before you sit down for the first course. Just before serving, the cream is whipped, with the fruits folded into half of it. A layer is placed on the serving dish, spread with the fruit mixture, topped by the second layer and covered with the reserved plain whipped cream. This can be done in five minutes and the presentation is as breathtaking as the taste. ICED PEA AND TOMATO SOUP (8 servings) 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 large onion, minced 1 clove garlic, minced 6 large ripe tomatoes, unpeeled, sliced 1 tablespoon tomato paste 10-ounce package frozen peas 1 large sprig mint, stripped (about 18 mint leaves) 1/2 cup water 3 cups milk 13 3/4-ounce can chicken broth 1 tablespoon lemon juice Salt and pepper to taste For the garnish: 1 large sprig mint, stripped and leaves minced 1/2 cup sour cream
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion and garlic in it for about 7 minutes, or until soft and transparent. Add the sliced tomatoes and the tomato paste and simmer, covered, on low heat for 15 minutes. Add the frozen peas, the mint leaves and water, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. Pure'e, in two batches if necessary, in a food processor with the steel blade, and rub through a fine strainer. Place in a large bowl and stir in the milk, chicken broth and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, ladle into small bowls or mugs, sprinkle with minced mint leaves and dollops of sour cream. COLD ROAST PORK (8 servings) 1/4 cup vegetable oil 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme 1/4 teaspoon dried leaf sage 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano 2 1/2 pound boneless pork loin roast 1 cup beef bouillon Watercress for garnish (optional)
Combine the oil, lemon juice, thyme, sage and oregano in a roasting pan and mix well. Place the pork roast in the pan and roll it around to cover it with the marinade. Allow the meat to stand at room temperature for 1 hour and turn it frequently in the marinade.
Place the pork in its pan with the marinade in a 450-degree oven for 20 minutes to sear it. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and roast for another 1 1/2 hours turning the meat twice. Remove the meat from the pan, allow to cool and cut off the strings. Refrigerate, loosely covered with plastic wrap, until needed. The pork can be cooked a day in advance.
Add the bouillon to the roasting pan and cook over medium high heat, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge all the brown bits. Pour the deglazed juices into a bowl and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Remove any fat that has solidified on top of the juices and discard. Reserve the degreased juices for the cold game sauce.
To serve the pork, slice thinly and arrange down the length of a long serving platter. If desired, garnish with watercress. Serve with cold game sauce alongside in a sauceboat (see recipe below). LOUISETTE BERTHOLLE'S COLD GAME SAUCE (Makes about 2 cups) Julienned rind of 1 orange Deglazed, degreased juices from the pork (about 1 cup) 1 tablespoon orange marmalade, preferably dark English marmalade 2 tablespoons red currant jelly 1 tablespoon chutney 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce 1 teaspoon ketchup 2 tablespoons cognac Salt and pepper to taste
The sauce should be made at least a few hours before it is to be served.
The rind can be removed from the orange in a fine julienne with a citrus zester. Bring a quart of water to the boil, drop in the julienned rind and cook for 5 minutes. Turn into a strainer and run cold water over the rind until the water runs clear. Pat dry on paper towels.
Combine the rind, the juices from the pork, marmalade, red currant jelly, chutney, worcestershire sauce and ketchup in a small saucepan. Place the cognac in a kitchen soup ladle, hold the ladle over low heat until it is warm and set it afire with a match. When the alcohol has burned off, add the cognac to the saucepan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cool and refrigerate. Serve in sauceboat separately with the pork. VEGETABLES AVGOLEMONO (8 servings) 1/2 pound string beans 3/4 pound young, thin zucchini 3/4 pound young, thin yellow summer squash 3/4 cup cooking liquid from the vegetables 2 egg yolks 2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
Wash the string beans, trim the ends and set aside. Soak the zucchini and summer squash in a large pan of cold water for 15 minutes, wash them under cold running water, rubbing the skins gently to loosen any grit, and drain. Trim the ends and cut in half lengthwise. Cut each half lengthwise into thirds or quarters to make sticks more or less the same size and shape as the string beans.
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, drop in the string beans and cook for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and squash strips, rapidly bring the water back to a boil and cook for another 2 minutes. Ladle off 3/4-cup of the vegetable water and set aside. Turn the vegetables into a colander and drain thoroughly.
Combine the egg yolks and lemon juice in a small saucepan and whisk. Slowly whisk in the hot vegetable liquid. Place over medium-low heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture becomes foamy and the sauce thickens slightly. Do not let it boil.
Turn the hot, drained vegetables into a bowl and add the sauce. Toss the vegetables to coat them and let sit at room temperature, tossing them every 15 minutes or so, until they are cool. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving and arrange on a flat serving platter. STRAWBERRY-PEACH MERINGUE LAYER CAKE (8 servings) Parchment paper or paper cut from a brown paper bag cut to line a 11 1/2-by-16 1/2 inch jellyroll pan About 2 tablespoons melted butter About 3 tablespoons cornstarch For the meringue layers: 4 egg whites 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar 3/4 cup superfine sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla For the filling: 1 large ripe peach 1 pint strawberries 2 tablespoons sugar 1 cup heavy cream 1 tablespoon kirsch
Prepare the pan by placing the parchment paper or brown paper on it and brushing the paper with melted butter. Turn the cornstarch into a sieve and tap it over the paper to make a light coating. Press the rim of an 8-inch cake pan on the prepared pan to mark two circles, starting at the upper left hand corner, as close to the edges as possible, and then moving to the lower right hand corner. Set aside.
Beat the egg whites at medium speed until they foam. Add the salt and cream of tartar and continue to beat at medium speed until stiff peaks are formed when the beaters are removed. Add the sugar, continuing to beat at medium speed, 2 tablespoons at a time. When all the sugar has been incorporated, add the vanilla, turn the motor to high and beat for 3 more minutes, or until the mixture is stiff and shiny.
Using a spatula and a knife, divide the meringue mixture between the two circles, staying within the lines demarcating the circles. Smooth the tops. The meringue layers will be about 1/2 inch thick.
Bake the meringues at 200 degrees in a preheated oven for 1 hour. Turn off the heat and allow the meringues to sit in the oven for 30 minutes longer to dry. Remove the pan from the oven and peel off the paper. If the kitchen is humid, return the layers to the pan and keep in the turned-off oven until needed. The meringues can be made in the morning of the day they are to be eaten.
Start to make the filling about 3 hours before the dessert is to be served. Drop the peach in boiling water for 10 seconds, remove to cold water, peel the peach and cut it into a 1/4-inch dice. Place in a bowl. Wash the strawberries quickly, dry them on a kitchen towel and remove the hulls. Slice the strawberries, placing the slices on top of the peaches to cover them and prevent them from browning. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Just before sitting down to the first course, stir 2 tablespoons sugar into the fruit, cover and leave at room temperature.
Just before serving, beat the cream in a cold metal bowl with cold beaters. When the cream is stiff, beat in the kirsch. Set aside one cup of the whipped cream. Stir the fruit into the remaining cream. Place one meringue layer on a serving plate, spoon on the fruit-whipped cream mixture and cover with the remaining meringue layer. Cover the top layer with the reserved cup of whipped cream.