Summertime and the Cooking is Easy
These unfussy recipes will help you embrace the season in your kitchen and al fresco
Try as I might, I am not a fancy cook. As I have gotten older and found myself busier with kids, restaurants, and books, I’ve accepted that fact. But not being “fancy” doesn’t mean I haven’t kept pushing myself to make delicious meals; in fact, when I let go of the idea of trying to hit the dinner table with every dish hot and perfect looking, I became a better cook. Food and cooking should be something that brings joy. I get joy out of spending time chopping, sautéing, and grilling. I get joy out of feeding friends and family big meals that end in too much wine (not for the kids) or too-loud board games (definitely with the kids). Less fuss, more time stuffing your face.
The start of summer is the time when being the least fussy has the biggest payoff. It is finally warming up, and the farmers’ markets are full of fresh veggies, berries, and fruits. I love the feeling of Maine coming alive again after sleeping all winter. There is so much around us right now that the hardest part is figuring out what to make first. And honestly, I just want to be outside soaking up the sun every chance I can get, so when I am cooking I’m thinking about what I can do that gets me outdoors the quickest to eat while sitting in my backyard.
The following recipes can stand alone or be served together as a big shareable feast for family or friends.
All the dishes are just as good at room temperature as they are right out of the oven, and most can be made ahead. If you can, pick up as much as possible from your local farmers’ market—that way you are sure to get what is truly in season and coming from your neighbors. Then, make some great food, bring everyone around the table, and dig in!
I have always wondered why we don’t see this well-known Pacific Northwest salad out here. In the Northwest, it is “crab Louis,” but you see it with crab, shrimp, or both. Here I did a few tweaks, like making lobster the star—we are in Maine after all. I always throw a few oysters on the plate, because why not?
- In a medium bowl whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook the lobster and break down the meat.
- Grab two big handfuls of leafy greens and put into a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Plate the greens on a large platter.
- Add the tomatoes to the platter and drizzle with as much dressing as you’d like. (I always lean heavy on the dressing.)
- Add the lobster meat and drizzle with more dressing.
- Take a small handful of parsley and tear it apart with your hands. Add to the top of the lobster. Garnish with a squeeze of lemon, a few shucked oysters, and more black pepper.
2 whole lobsters or ½ pound picked lobster meat
2 big handfuls of leafy greens (get whatever
your local farmer has)
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
Handful of fresh parsley
A few shucked oysters (optional)
1 cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp buttermilk
1 tbsp sweet relish
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp hot sauce, such as Tapatio
½ tsp ground cayenne pepper
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp ground smoked paprika
Salt and ground black pepper
Ignore the French name: galettes are big, easy to make, and the whole point is for them to not look perfect. It’s the ideal dish to eat by hand while sitting outside. I would pair this springtime beauty with Oyster River Winegrowers’ Morphos and enjoy it barefoot while the sun sets.
- Make the pie crust dough per directions.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil, and place the asparagus and onions on the pan, evenly spaced. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Roast for 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta, a pinch each of salt and black pepper, and the red pepper flakes.
- Roll out the pie crust and place on another sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. Place the roasted asparagus and onions over the crust, leaving about 2 inches of crust bare around the edge. Dollop the ricotta mixture evenly on top of the asparagus and onions. Fold the edges of the crust inward, over the vegetables so there is about a five-inch opening remaining in the middle.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, until the crust is golden. Remove from the oven and garnish with the lemon zest and fresh parsley. Serve hot or at room temperature.
1 pie crust dough (pick your favorite; the Joy of Cooking’s is an easy starter if you’ve never made a pie crust before)
1 large bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
1 to 2 cups ricotta cheese, depending on how creamy you want the dish to be
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Zest from one lemon
Small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
CHARRED SCALLION CREAM CHEESE + TOAST
It’s toast, but for dinner. For minimal effort and maximum taste, the cream cheese mix can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for up to a week. It is also a pretty impressive topping on bagels if you want to make it a brunch dish—just sayin’.
- Fire up your grill or turn on your oven’s broiler. Lay out the scallions evenly over a sheet pan. Drizzle with a little oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Grill or broil until the scallions are charred, but remove before they turn to ash.
- Roughly chop the charred scallions. In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, scallions, oil, cayenne, and lemon juice and stir well.
- Toast the slices of bread. Smear a thick layer of cream cheese on the toast. If you like, you can garnish with some fresh scallions, mint, or dill.
2 bunches of scallions
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil or
avocado oil, plus more for drizzling Salt and ground black pepper
4 slices of thick country bread (around
Portland, I love Night Moves and Standard Baking Company)
2 cups cream cheese, at room temperature ½ tsp ground cayenne
Juice from ½ lemon
SNAP PEAS + SARDINES
Tinned fish is one of my favorite things—straight out of the can with good crackers, some fresh herbs, and I’m all set. Add fresh, slightly sweet snap peas, potatoes, and soft-boiled eggs to super salty sardines for a combination I could eat every day. I use this dish as both a side and a main course. You can serve it hot or cold, making it hard to mess up.
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Stab the potatoes all over with a fork. Place them on a sheet pan and bake until they can easily be pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes.
- While the potatoes are baking, heat a medium saucepan of water until it is boiling. Gently place the eggs in the boiling water and cook for six minutes. As soon as the eggs are done, transfer into a bowl filled with ice water. Let cool.
- Remove the potatoes from the oven. Using a wooden spoon, gently press on the potatoes until they are flattened but not totally broken apart. Season with salt and black pepper. Pour 1 inch of canola oil into a cast-iron skillet and heat to 350°F. Place the potatoes in the skillet so they aren’t touching, and cook each side for 2 to 3 minutes, until brown and crispy with soft centers. Remove the potatoes from the skillet and place on a plate lined with a paper towel. Set aside.
- Open the tin of sardines and drain the oil into a small bowl. Set the sardines aside. Add half the parsley and half the dill to the bowl. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Whisk together.
- Place the potatoes in a single layer on a platter. Place the snap peas on top of the potatoes, then drizzle the dressing over both. Break apart the sardines and add on top of the peas. Peel the eggs, discard the shells, and tear the eggs apart over different parts of the dish so the yolk gets everywhere.
- Dollap the crème fraiche over everything. Garnish with the remaining parsley and dill. Add caviar if you want to zhuzh it up.
4 to 6 yellow potatoes
1 container of tinned sardines in oil (feel free to go with spicy if you’re feeling it)
Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Small bunch of fresh dill, chopped
Salt and ground black pepper 3 cups snap peas, roughly chopped
2 tbsp crème fraiche Optional: Caviar
MAINE BLUEBERRY SPRITZ
(makes a 32-ounce pitcher)
I love crushable drinks that you can make in big batches and keep pouring all night. And I can’t think of anything that is feels more Maine and sunshine than blueberry spritzes. Make a pitcher and just relax.
Combine the sparkling wine, liquor of choice, and soda water in a pitcher and gently stir. Add ice to fill. Pour over fresh ice in your favorite glassware. Garnish with a slice of grapefruit (or any other fresh fruit that you have) and some mint.
12 ounces Bluet blueberry sparkling wine
5 ounces of your favorite spirit (I love tequila in this, but anything not aged will be great)
8 ounces soda water
1 grapefruit, cut into slices, for garnish
Fresh mint leaves