Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hello Summer! Heirloom Tomatoes, Sugar Snap Peas, Grilled Sirloin & Gremolata, and a Black Pepper Frozen Souffle

It's been summer here since oh, when we moved back in May.

In my New Yawk City days, the A/C came on only *when absolutely necessary.* Times appear to be necessary. As a counterpoint, everyone in B'ham keeps saying, "wait until August" as if the swelter currently bearing down on me is child's play. Maybe I don't need to find out what they mean....?

Turning to foods that are a delight on hot days, I have created a meal which satisfies many things. With meandering trips through our new market, the Pepper Place Farmers Market, I found all that I need to highlight the bounty of the season. Big thanks to Heron Hollow Farm, Sanctuary Farms, Rora Valley Farm, and Holmestead Company for producing such beautiful and flavorful foods.

Pleasing the senses is what this menu is about..... crunchy, juicy, tangy, frozen, sweet, piquant, charred, and toothsome. Every bit, toothsome (even though my husband makes fun of me when I use that description). Don't take my word - see for yourselves! And write back if you find yourself some favorites....

Scroll down for recipes -

Heirloom Tomato, Sugar Snap Pea, Shaved Sweet Onion & Herb Salad

Chilton County Peaches.....

Hibiscus Summer Sparkler

Black Pepper Frozen Souffle with Chilton County Peaches

Char-grilled Sirloin with Gremolata

I imagine I have your attention by now. Make these recipes. They are largely simple, simple endeavors, and any effort you do exert, you'll recoup in the reward of eating them. It's that easy, really.

Now, for the recipes.....

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Sugar Snap Peas, Shaved Sweet Onions, and Fresh Herbs
Serves 4

4-8 good-sized heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges - I used Cherokee Purples, Brandywines, and Green Zebras
1 small spring onion-sized sweet onion, sliced thinly on a mandoline - can use Vidallia if this isn't available
2 handfuls of sugar snap peas, rinsed and halved lengthwise
A handful of parsley leaves, picked from their stems
1/3 cup baby basil leaves, picked (or use regular basil leaves and tear them into smaller pieces)
large flake sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper
good extra virgin olive oil
almost as much vinegar - use sherry, balsamic, or red wine vinegar - as the olive oil

Toss cut veg and herbs in a large serving platter. Whisk the oil and vinegar together, and at table-side pour over veggies. Scatter sea salt and pepper on top, and serve immediately.

Hibiscus Summer Sparkler 
Drink to a better world!
Makes 2 cocktails

Ratio 2:1 vodka to hibiscus liqueur - (can sub gin, tequila, or white rum, as you like) - Start with 1/3 cup white spirit and take it from there, adjusting if you have more or fewer guests accordingly
2 lemons, squeezed of their juice
1 tbsp thyme syrup*
sparkling water
fresh thyme sprigs, for garnish

thyme syrup

2/3 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup water
4 sprigs fresh thyme

To make the syrup, heat sugar and water together in a small saucepan until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for 5-7 minutes, until liquid reduces slightly. Remove from heat and stir in the thyme sprigs. Steep for one hour (or longer if you have time), allow to cool fully and then strain with a sieve, discarding the thyme. Seal in a glass jar and refrigerate - will keep for one month.

Stir all but the last two ingredients together in a tumbler filled with ice. Pour over ice into rocks glasses, top with the sparkling water, and garnish with fresh thyme sprigs. Happy sipping!

Grilled Bone-in Sirloin Steak with Gremolata
Serves 4-6

2 inch-thick bone-in steaks, about 1 1/4 lbs each
1 bunch parsley, leaves picked and chopped
5 lemons, zested (save fruit for another use)
4 cloves garlic, worked into a paste
good extra virgin olive oil
a generous amount of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
sea salt to finish

Start with the gremolata and combine the lemon zest, parsley, garlic, and a small glug of olive oil in a bowl. Set aside. Remove the steaks from the refrigerator at least twenty minutes before grilling. Place them on a platter, pat all surfaces dry, and season both sides well with salt and pepper. Preheat a grill for 7-10 minutes, and cook the meat 6 or so minutes a side for medium-rare doneness. A nice char will add flavor, so don't be concerned if the fat or flesh blackens! Allow the meat to rest for ten minutes before cutting off the bone (save to use for stocks or sauces) and then into slices. Top with the gremolata, finish with a scatter of sea salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy.

Black Pepper Frozen Souffle
Serves 8

12 egg whites (save yolks for pound cake, aioli, hollandaise, or another use as you like)
1 2/3 cups cream
1 cup cane sugar
2 lemons, zested, and juice from one
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper; more if you like pepper
6 peaches, cut into wedges
confectioners sugar for dusting

Wrap a six-cup ramekin with parchment paper extending two inches above the rim and secure with a rubber band or tape. Set aside. Stir together lemon zest, juice, and pepper in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand mixer to soft peaks, about 6 minutes. Gradually add in the sugar, beating between additions to combine. Once all sugar is incorporated, beat to firm peaks and glossy, about 3-4 minutes more. Fold the zest and pepper mixture into the egg white mixture until incorporated. In a separate bowl, beat cream for approximately 2 minutes, until soft peaks form. Fold cream gradually into the egg mixture, then pour into ramekin. Place in freezer at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove parchment collar, top with fresh peaches, and dust with confectioners sugar table-side.

After my labor of love to organize these tasty bites, I am having friends over to celebrate in style. I hope you enjoy the Fourth of July with people who have good taste in food, and even better taste in conversation. ;) Enjoy summertime lolling and the amazing bounty of the season!


  1. They all look amazing Melina! I can't believe how long it's been since I last visited here but it looks I missed quite a bit.. ;)

  2. Just discovered your blog and I'm loving it! These photos are wonderful, I'm especially loving that tomato salad. I will be back!

  3. Your works are so awe inspiring!!! Just loved the photograph of the hibiscus sparkler. It is to die for!!!

  4. I can taste those peaches they look so beautiful!