Summertime – and the living is easy…. That’s how the song goes, right? It’s true that people’s pace slows down in the summer but food still needs to be made. What to do when it’s too hot in the kitchen? Head outdoors, of course! If you’re in need of inspiration for outdoor entertaining and dining this summer, Lisa Lemke’s The Summer Table has everything you need to pull off fantastic outdoor dining with very little effort.
Lemke is a freelance food writer and consultant, recipe developer, food stylist and television chef in Sweden and this book is a collection of recipes and whole menu ideas for a variety of different occasions with an emphasis on sharing food with family and friends.
The book is organized into 11 menus for all sorts of occasions including Father’s Day, a block party, a beach buffet, a pizza party, a chic cocktail party and an end of summer picnic. And since no outdoor meal is complete without a selection of sides and desserts, there’s a chapter of extra recipes for both of these important courses! There’s a chapter on Sweet and Savory Flavor Boosters where Lemke shares recipes to infuse really great flavour especially for grilled meats. She also includes tips and tricks for using them to make sure you are getting the most out of these flavour boosters. The recipes in this chapter also include Sauces (think: warm and cold, including yoghurt sauces), Salsas and Herb Butters. So many ways to add flavour!
The beginning of the book includes a Best Tips section where Lemke shares ways to make meal preparation easier – she covers must-have equipment, how to select, prepare and store your ingredients, the importance of getting to know your oven, the importance of mise-en-place, how to plan just the right amount of food for a large crowd and even how to plan your chinaware and glasses for a party.
As many of the recipes in the book are prepared on the grill, there’s a handy Grill Guide outlining some simple tips for helping you make the most of your grill, whether you are in a rush or have a lot of time. Lemke runs through the difference between direct and indirect grilling, offers suggestions for ways to experiment with flavours by changing up your woodchips as well as tips for getting the grill going (something I always struggle with!). Her simple tips will help you plan your grilled foods so that they are all ready at the right time (something that tends to stress people out when they are grilling).
The pre-planned menus are a wonderful source of inspiration for any outdoor meals. Each menu offers starters, mains, sides and dessert for a meal with a consistent theme. One of my favourite chapters is A Getaway Picnic – I always find it hard to think of foods that travel well but Lemke comes up with a menu you’ll want to eat everyday – Carrot and Coconut Soup, Cheddar Biscuits with Roasted Onion, Noodle Salad with Sesame and Lime, Pâté Sandwiches with Asian Coleslaw, Crispy Hoisin Chicken, Oven-baked Chinese Plums, Creamy Satay Dip with Cucumber Spears and Mango Squares with Coconut Topping. Sounds good, right?
I tested the Asparagus Tart with Creamy Ricotta from the Early Summer Vegetarian Lunch Menu and I loved how easy it was (it includes the recipe for the tart dough but I used the dough I already had on hand). The recipe calls for “1/2 bunch asparagus” which I appreciated because it’s kind of the way you want to cook in the summer – with what you have on hand – I looked up my ingredients in the Index and figured out what I was making from there!
I’ve bookmarked many recipes based on what produce I know will be coming into season – it’s definitely one to have on hand either before or after your trips to the farmers’ market every week - the Extra Side Dishes is inspiration for all that fresh summer produce.
Asparagus Tart with Creamy Ricotta
Reprinted with permission from Sterling Epicure.
1 hour + 50 minutes
5 tablespoons cold butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Scant 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
5 tablespoons (21/2 ounces) small-curd cottage cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
11/2 teaspoons cold water
2–3 cloves of garlic
9 ounces (about 1 cup) ricotta
1/4 cup cooked and squeezed dry baby spinach
Scant 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2/3 cup grated aged cheese, like Parmesan or Pecorino
Salt and black pepper
1/2 bunch green asparagus
3–4 large eggs
Cut the butter into cubes. Quickly work together the butter, flours, cottage cheese, and salt, either in a food processor or by hand in a bowl, until pea-sized clumps form. Add the water and work together quickly into a smooth dough. Wrap in plastic and cool in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a disk about ⅛-inch thick. Add more flour to the surface as you roll so that the dough doesn’t stick. Line a 9-inch tart pan or springform pan with the dough. Be sure to press the dough gently along the bottom edge and pinch a little at the top of the side edges. Cut away the excess pie dough that may be hanging over the sides. Cover the pie shell with plastic wrap and let it cool in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Remove the pie shell from the fridge, remove the plastic wrap, and prick the bottom with a fork. Cover the edges with aluminum foil and prebake in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes or until the bottom is baked through and begins to brown. Remove the crust from the oven and remove the aluminum foil. Chop the garlic cloves for the filling and place
in a bowl. Add the ricotta and blend together with the garlic, spinach, parsley, and ⅔ of the grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper and distribute the filling evenly in the pie shell.
Break off the tough parts of the asparagus. Spread the asparagus lengthwise over the ricotta mixture and lightly press it into the mixture. Crack the eggs over the filling, season with salt and pepper, and top with the rest of the grated cheese. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 25 minutes, until the eggs are set and the edges are golden brown.
Details of giveaway:
Thanks to Sterling Epicure, we have one copy of The Summer Table to give away to a Canadian reader!
To enter, simply leave a comment below and tell us your favourite thing to make in the summer!
For a second entry, tweet the following message: I entered to win a copy of The Summer Table cookbook from @RecipeGeekMag + @SterlingBooks! Enter here → http://ow.ly/R3C5n
then come back to let us know you did in a second comment!
Winner will be chosen by random.org and announced/ emailed on Tuesday September 1, 2015
Contest closes on September 1, 2015.
Mardi Michels is a full-time French teacher to elementary school-aged boys and the author of eat. live. travel. write - a blog focusing on culinary adventures near and far. She has lived and worked as a teacher in Australia, Hong Kong, England, France and now calls Toronto home. She spends nearly every summer in France, honing her cooking and baking skills and touring different wine producing regions. As part of her job, she runs a cooking class twice a week for 7-13 year-old boys, Les Petits Chefs and Cooking Basics. She was one of the founding members of Food Bloggers of Canada, and is a cook, baker, traveller, photographer, writer, Food Revolution Day Ambassador for Toronto, contributor to JamieOliver.Com and in her spare time teaches cooking and baking classes around Toronto.
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