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Summertime fare for family and guests


Last updated 6/21/2007 at Noon

Fresh cool mornings, sun-drenched afternoons and sparkling nights… summertime can be a sensational season.

Foods of summer take on a special ambiance. The best fare often seems lighter, fresher flavored and enhanced with the season’s bounty of fresh veggies and herbs. Accompaniments to the entrée might include simple tossed salads, quick breads or breadsticks and a fruit-based dessert.

This fresher-than-fresh soup features chicken and cucumber with a flourish of sour cream and chives. Super supper fare or a nice choice for a luncheon, the soup is easily prepped ahead of time and cooks in minutes.

Herbed Chicken Cucumber Soup

1 ½ qt. chicken stock

1 English-style cucumber

2 chicken breasts*

¼ tsp. cumin

Salt and pepper

2 tbsp. finely minced herbs (parsley, chives, oregano)

Sour cream, optional garnish

Fresh chives, garnish

Bring chicken stock to a boil. Very lightly peel cucumber and cut into julienne strips. Set aside.

Skin and bone chicken breasts and cut into slivers. Add slivered chicken and cook about 3 minutes. Add cucumber and cook 2 minutes. Stir in cumin. Taste and add salt and pepper. Add herbs and heat just to serving. Put into serving bowls. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and snipped fresh chives.

*Or 2 cups shredded cooked chicken

Meatballs in a sauce seems destined to accompany freshly cooked European-style noodles, flat pasta or brown rice. This is an ideal do-ahead-and-reheat main dish. Team it with steamed broccoli, tossed salad and breadsticks. A light lemon sorbet and cookie makes a suitable dessert.

Meatballs Continentale

2 lb. finely ground lean beef or ground turkey

½ lb. ground pork

2 eggs

2/3 cup dry breadcrumbs

1 tsp. each poultry seasonings, dill weed and salt

¼ cup minced onion

1/3 cup milk

3 tbsp. clarified butter*

3 cooking oil

Flour (about ½ cup)

For sauce:

6 tbsp. butter

6 tbsp. flour

1 ½ cups chicken broth

½ cup whipping cream

½-1 cup pan drippings

2 tbsp. dry white vermouth

2 tbsp. each finely shredded Parmesan and Romano cheese

½ cup finely shredded Swiss cheese

¼ cup finely chopped fresh herbs

Combine beef (or ground turkey) and pork. Beat eggs slightly. Add breadcrumbs, poultry seasoning, dill, salt, onion and milk to eggs and beat well. Add to meat and mix with hands. Shape into meat balls the size of golf balls. Quick chill in the freezer for about 20 minutes.

Put about ½ cup flour into a round cake pan.

Heat clarified butter and oil in a large skillet until quite hot. Meantime, roll meatballs in flour, 4-6 at a time, in flour in cake pan. Dust off excess flour. Sauté in hot fat to brown evenly on all sides. Remove as browned to baking dish. Replenish oil and butter as needed.

When all meatballs have been browned, pour off fat and deglaze with ¾ cup chicken broth, scraping to get the brown bits up. Pour over meatballs. Cover tightly and bake in a 350-degree oven about 45 minutes or until done. Drain pan juices from meatballs. Remove to serving platter and keep warm while preparing sauce.

For sauce, melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour. Measure skimmed pan juices and add additional liquid to make 3 cups total. Add to butter-flour mixture. Cook, stirring, until mixture is thickened and smooth. Stir in vermouth, then cheeses. Pour over meatballs and serve.

Or, pour sauce over meatballs and return to a warm (165 degrees) oven. Cover and keep warm. Serves 10-12.

Weekend breakfast, brunch or lunch… all can be appropriate times for these little quiches created by Simone Beck, partner of Julia Child. “Simca,” as she was known, was my heroine and teacher. Her influence lives on through her students de la cuisine Française.

Simone Beck’s Petite Quiche

Pastry for a single-crust pie

2 eggs

1 cup sour cream

Salt, pepper, nutmeg

½ cup very small dice Swiss cheese

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Roll pastry to fit tart pans. Line tart pans with pastry, pushing edges to make a rim.

Combine eggs, sour cream, salt, pepper and fresh grated nutmeg. Place cheese in bottom of tart shells. Cover with filling. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place on baking sheet. Bake in a 375-degree oven until nicely puffed and set. Enough filling for about 8 small tarts.

Don’t be afraid of lots of garlic! Properly cooked, this relative to the onion family becomes mild… almost sweet. Here, garlic and mustard add robust flavor to a chicken casserole that would be perfect for a potluck, church supper or neighborhood gathering.

Garlicky Baked Chicken

4 lb. chicken pieces

2 tbsp. red wine

½ cup chicken stock

12 cloves peeled garlic

½ cup fresh chopped parsley

3 tbsp. Dijon-style mustard

1 tbsp. chopped tarragon

For sauce:

2/3 cup cream

¼ cup chopped parsley

1 tbsp. chopped tarragon

Chop peeled garlic with parsley using food processor of knife.

Rinse chicken pieces and pat dry. Paint chicken generously with mustard.

Pour chicken stock and red wine vinegar into the bottom of a buttered large shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the garlic-parsley mixture. Lay pieces of mustard-coated chicken in the dish. Sprinkle with remaining garlic-parsley mixture.

Butter a large piece of foil and place foil buttered-side down over the chicken. Bake in a 375-degree oven about 45 minutes. Remove casserole from oven. Carefully remove foil. Turn chicken, replace foil and return to oven to continue to cook until tender, about 30-45 minutes, depending on thickness of chicken pieces.

Remove chicken from casserole to a serving platter. Cover and keep warm. Pour cooking juices into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat to reduce quickly to about ½ cup. Stir in cream. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until it thickens to a nice sauce. Stir in parsley and tarragon.

Drizzle sauce over chicken on serving platter and pass remainder of sauce. Serves 5-6.


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