In summer I try to do most of my cooking with as few ingredients and heat sources as possible — and that means absolutely no oven. I'll grab a pan and cook right on my grill. And like most things in the summer, the simpler the better.
This easy summer menu utilizes just a handful of fresh ingredients, supplemented by some backyard herbs. If you want to really impress your friends, try whipping up a pre-dinner cocktail with some fresh-clipped herbs tossed in. Just mix the alcohol of preference with a fistful of herbs and some ice cubes. Top with some fizzy stuff and serve in a tall glass.
Here's a top tip: Always keep a back-up tank of propane. I don't care how cutting-edge you're trying to be, but chicken ceviche is not a dish. Summer recipes should be simple and delicious, using what is within arm's reach. Do not over-complicate things.
1 bunch farmers market radishes • 1 tbs unsalted butter • Salt to taste
This ideal summer starter is the epitome of easy: Just three perfect ingredients — radish, butter, salt — that when combined create something spectacular. But because we only have three ingredients, it's key to not skimp on quality. Buy local radishes. Use real butter. Score some quality finishing salt from Urban Herbs in the West Side Market.
Rinse the dirt off the radishes. Slice in half. Smear each half with butter. Sprinkle with salt. Serve on the cutting board you used to slice them so you have to wash one less dish.
Herb Greens Salad
½ lb mixed greens • ¼ cup clipped fresh herbs • 1 bunch radish, quartered (don't forget the greens) • 1 tsp mustard (I prefer whole grain, but Ballpark works too) • 1 tbs local honey • 2 tbs good-quality vinegar • 6 tbs extra virgin olive oil • Salt and pepper to taste
My favorite summer salad is a simple herb and greens salad, tossed with a quick and easy vinaigrette.
Bathe the lettuce in a large bowl of room temperature water to rinse them without shocking them. Lift the greens out of the water to leave the dirt behind. Dry gently on a kitchen towel. Clip a bunch of herbs from the garden, leaving the plants to grow for next time. For the dressing, grab a mason jar, add a dollop of mustard, a spoonful of honey, one part vinegar to three parts oil, and shake vigorously. Dress the bowl not the lettuce, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
Honey-Basted Grilled Chicken
1 whole chicken, butterflied • Salt and pepper to taste • ¼ cup local honey • 3 tbs unsalted butter, melted • 1 tbs Old Bay Seasoning
I know farmers market chicken is more expensive than that Tyson crap, but it's more than worth it when it comes to flavor (not to mention health). Again, when the recipe uses just a handful of ingredients, it's important to employ the very best quality possible.
Start by firing up the grill.
Butterfly the chicken by removing the backbone with kitchen shears. Lay the bird skin-side-down on a cutting board and remove the keel bone (breast bone) by running your finger along the sides of it to free it. Season both sides of the chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Mix to combine the honey, butter and Old Bay. Grill the chicken over medium heat, being careful not to burn it. Start with the skin-side down, then flip it half way. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, begin basting with the Old Bay mixture. Use a thermometer to check for doneness; you're looking for just under 165 degrees (the bird will continue to cook off the grill).
Strawberries and (Ice) Cream
2 pints vanilla bean ice cream (from Mitchell's or Mason's Creamery) • 1 pint local strawberries • 3 tbs local honey • 2 sprigs fresh lavender, stems removed • Splash of good-quality vinegar
I enjoy picking sun-ripened strawberries straight from the field — no refrigeration required. If you can't pick your own, go buy them at the farmers market. The difference in taste is extraordinary.
"Macerate" sounds fancy, but all it really means is to marinate the fruit in liquid. Pinch off the green tops from the berries and quarter them. Toss them with the honey, lavender and a splash of vinegar and let them sit for a few minutes. Scoop the ice cream into a bowl and top with the macerated berries. If strawberries no longer are available at the market, substitute with blueberries. If you can't find lavender, go ahead and use mint.