August has the reputation of being the Lowcountry's hottest month, but on average, July is a teensy bit warmer by a couple of degrees.
All we know it was dripping hot in June and hotter in July. It was hot last week. It was hot yesterday. And it will be hot tomorrow.
The difference between August "hot" and July "hot" is that the heat penetrates everything by the eighth month. We hold it in like a gigantic cast-iron pan.
Welcome to the dog days of summer. We find timely comfort in these words from American author Sam Keen: "Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability." (Tsk, tsk BusinessWeek.)
So what if our energy sinks to the lowest point of the year? Well, we still have to eat ...
To that end, we asked several food folks around town to share go-to recipes for the height of summer when minimal fuss or lighter fare is the order of the day.
Charleston attorney Carolyn Blue is known for putting recipes on "trial." When she collects several similar recipes, she conducts a cook-off to determine which ones are keepers and which ones to let go.
"With my cooking, I try using recipes which are flexible and versatile so I don't have to make a special trip to the grocery store, if I decide on fixing a recipe at the last minute."
Carolyn says several meals can come out of the roasted chicken: First with the caramelized onions over rice, served with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers as a side and the frozen fruit yogurt salad (recipe also follows) for dessert. Use the leftover chicken to make quiche or salad.
"The frozen fruit yogurt salad is pretty and not too sweet. It has a tangy taste due to the sour cream in it, the sugar can be deleted, and stevia substituted without altering the flavor, which is good for people watching their sugar."
Makes 8 servings
4 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 (4- to 5-pound) whole chickens
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided use
2 large onions
Preheat over to 375 degrees. Stir together salt and pepper. If applicable, remove necks and giblets from chicken. Rinse and pat chickens dry. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt mixture inside each chicken cavity. Rub 1/2 tablespoon olive oil into skin of each chicken. Sprinkle with remaining salt mixture; rub into skin.
Cut one lemon into two halves. Place 1/2 lemon inside each chicken cavity.
Slice remaining lemon. Scatter half of the lemon slices on the outside of each chicken, securing with toothpicks.
On a lightly greased jelly roll pan, place thickly sliced onions across the entire pan or at least where chickens will be located. Place chickens, breast side up, facing in opposite directions, on top of the onions in jelly roll pan. Bake in preheated oven for 90 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in thigh registers 180 degrees. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.
This can be made in a 9x13-inch pan, or if you want pretty individual servings, pour it into regular size muffin pans and it will make 12 servings. Garnish with a mint leaf or slice of the fruit flavor you selected.
The recipe originally called for peaches, but strawberries, blueberries and even fresh cherries may be substituted. If you're substituting another fruit, change the flavor of yogurt to match. This keeps in the freezer for several months, so it's easy to make ahead for parties and when fresh fruit is in season.
8 ounces peach yogurt
8 ounces sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of large lemon
2 bananas, thinly sliced
1 (8 1/4-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup sliced peaches
Dash of salt
1/4 cup nuts (optional)
Mix yogurt, sour cream and sugar together. Add other ingredients and stir well.
Pour into oiled mold, individual or other and freeze. Remove from freezer and let stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes to thaw slightly. Slice and serve on lettuce. Garnish with fruit on top.
Holly Herrick is a Cordon Bleu trained chef, food writer and cookbook author who has lived in Charleston more than a decade. She is cooking and working away on her third cookbook, which will be about sweet and savory tarts.
"It's been so hot lately I haven't even wanted to eat in the evenings. But, when I am hungry and want to keep things simple (as in six ingredients and six minutes), my hot weather go-to dish is a simple omelet and green salad.
"I love fontina for its easy-melting goodness and nutty flavor, but substitute whatever cheese you like."
5 whole eggs
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons fresh herbs, finely chopped, such as chives, thyme, parsley and tarragon
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 large pats of butter
4 thick slices fontina cheese
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together with the water and fine herbs. Whisk aggressively to build a frothy mixture and to thoroughly combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in an omelet pan or medium saute pan over medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture. Cook until the edges start to set. Push the uncooked egg periodically over and under the cooked edges. When the eggs are nearly all set, arrange the cheese slices in the center/sides of one half of the pan/omelet. Using a spatula, flip the cheese-free edge over the cheese edge. Turn the omelet and cook on the other side for another minute or two, or until the cheese has thoroughly melted. Cut in half and serve immediately.
3 cups any fresh, seasonal green, washed and spin-dried (suggest mesclun mixed with arugula or Bibb lettuce)
Juice of 1/2 small lemon
3 tablespoons fruity, best-quality extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
While the omelet is finishing cooking, toss these ingredients together in a medium bowl. Serve a heaping stack alongside the omelet.
Former Charleston Grill chef Bob Waggoner has a new starring role in a cooking series, "Ucook! With Chef Bob." Segments will start airing on Public Television affiliates this fall.
Season 2 of "Ucook! with Chef Bob" will be filmed Aug. 12-17. If you're interested in being part of the studio audience, e-mail email@example.com to reserve a spot.
5 large ripe yellow heirloom tomatoes, stems removed and quartered
1 medium onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
4 or 5 cranks fresh-ground white pepper
1 small seeded yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons crumbled fresh goat cheese, for garnish
4 tablespoons cucumber, skin on and seeds removed, diced for garnish
8 red pear tomatoes, quartered for garnish
16 cilantro leaves for garnish
The day before serving, mix together all the soup ingredients through the yellow bell pepper in a large mixing bowl. Mix and puree in a blender in small batches. Drizzle in the olive oil as you're blending.
Chill the mix and your serving bowls overnight. Before serving, re-season as needed.
Garnish with the crumbled goat cheese, diced cucumber, pear tomatoes and cilantro.
Janet Gaffney is a teacher and owner of Janet Gaffney's The Art of Cooking in Mount Pleasant, which offers private parties, special events and private cooking classes. She also recently opened The Art of Giving, an antiques and vintage collectibles retail business featuring items for the tabletop. The business can be found in Southern Accents in the Moultrie Plaza, 630 Coleman Blvd., Mount Pleasant.
6 cups watermelon, seeded and cubed
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 1/2 cups sugar
In blender or food processor, puree watermelon until liquefied. In large bowl stir together watermelon juice, lemon juice, and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Pour mixture into ice cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Or pour into shallow tray and freeze, stirring often to prevent formation of large ice crystals.
Louise Bennett of Johns Island's Rosebank Farms offers a quintessential Southern summer dish.
"Although I love bacon, I rarely buy it. For this recipe I decided to make it the old-fashioned Southern way, with bacon. It can be made with olive oil."
She adds, "Shrimp is a delicious accompaniment to this dish. Either saute 1 pound medium cleaned shrimp or add shrimp to rice mixture the last 10 minutes of cooking."
4 slices thick bacon
1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 pound medium fresh okra, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 cup rice (see cook's note)
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
Freshly minced cayenne or Tabasco pepper or a dash of cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce
Cook's note: Anson Mills Carolina Gold Rice was used in this recipe, but another long-grain rice of choice may be used.
Cook bacon in heavy stainless pan (cast iron will darken okra). Remove bacon and reserve. Add chopped onion to bacon grease, saute until onion begins to soften, add okra and rice. Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour mixture into heavy saucepan, add water and salt. Bring to barely boiling, cover and lower heat. Cook on low for 20-30 minutes or until rice is tender. Serve with crumbled bacon and peppers to taste.
Jennifer Fox started a food blog, The Svelte Gourmet, nearly a year ago. It gained a loyal following and blossomed into a website, www.thesveltegourmet.com, and a cookbook, "The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses." She also leads cooking lessons. Searching the Internet for "baked" or "oven-fried eggplant parmesan" leads a lot of people to Fox's blog. "This recipe has a couple steps, but evidently, people are really interested in making it," she says. Fox calculated this to make 6 servings with about 220 calories each.
For the eggplant:
1 medium eggplant, sliced crosswise into 1/8-inch slices (use a mandoline slicer if available)
Olive oil for misting
3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 egg, beaten
Line a large colander with the eggplant slices and sprinkle with salt. After an hour, pat them dry. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mist baking sheets with olive oil. Mix the parmesan, panko, garlic powder and oregano in a shallow dish. Dip each slice into the beaten egg, then dip into the cheese mixture, pressing to coat. Place the slices in a single layer on the baking sheets. Mist the tops with olive oil and bake for about 40 minutes or until golden brown. Rotate the sheets halfway through baking if one is browning more quickly than the other.
For the sauce:
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 28-ounce can petite diced tomatoes (undrained)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped or torn
In a medium saucepan, heat oil. Reduce heat to medium and saute garlic for 2 minutes. Add diced tomatoes with juice, oregano, crushed red pepper and salt. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Just before assembly, stir in chopped basil leaves.
For the casserole:
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella (part-skim)
Baked eggplant slices
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Mix the parmesan with the mozzarella. Add a spoonful of sauce to the bottom of a casserole dish, spreading to coat. Layer eggplant, cheese, then sauce. Repeat layering until all the eggplant slices are used, finishing with sauce and cheese on top. Bake covered for 20 minutes, then remove lid and bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.
Christopher Stallard is a culinary instructor at The Art Institute of Charleston. He has worked as executive sous chef and executive chef at the Orangery in Knoxville, Tenn., and executive chef at Knoxville's Little Star Restaurant.
In June, Stallard received the Outstanding Faculty Member Award at the Art Institute's commencement. His summer break included a 10-day stent at Alinea Restaurant in Chicago.
"Salad Lyonnaise is a traditional salad of frisee, poached egg, bacon and a dressing based on Dijon mustard. In this BLT version, I rearrange this classic salad with one of my favorite summer pleasures, tomatoes. With the perfectly poached egg, this salad is a very satisfying summer meal. The frisee is replaced with arugula, and there is addition of ricotta salata."
'BLT' Salad Lyonnaise
For Maple-bacon Vinaigrette and bacon lardons:
10 thick-cut slices smoky bacon
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon egg yolk
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup maple syrup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup reserved bacon fat
1 cup vegetable oil
Cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces. Place in a medium saucepan over medium heat and allow the fat to start rendering. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook until the bacon starts to crisp, stirring occasionally.
Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon, draining on paper towels. Reserve 1/2 cup of the bacon fat for the vinaigrette and 1/2 cup of the lardons for the salad.
Combine all ingredients except the bacon fat, oil and reserved lardons in a food processor or blender.
Blend to combine the ingredients and drizzle in the oil and bacon fat to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper.
Keep slightly warm for serving or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and warm slightly before serving.
For the poached eggs:
1 quart water
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Crack the eggs into ramekins or small bowls without breaking the yolk.
Combine the water and vinegar. Place enough of this mixture in a saucepan to cover the eggs when they are added and bring to a simmer.
Place the ramekin just above the surface of the water and turn it to lower the egg into the water.
Adjust the heat to keep the water at a gentle simmer and cook until the whites are set and the yolks remain slightly runny, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon.
2 heirloom tomatoes, cut into slices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups baby arugula, washed
1 cup croutons, made from French bread or high quality store-bought croutons
1/2 cup bacon lardons
Warm Maple-Bacon Vinaigrette to taste
1/2 cup ricotta salata, crumbled
2 poached eggs
Season the slices of tomato with salt and freshly ground black pepper and arrange on two serving plates.
Combine the arugula, croutons and bacon lardons in a bowl. Dress the greens with just enough vinaigrette to coat.
Place the greens in the center of each plate and make a small nest for the egg to rest on.
Place a poached egg in the center of the nest on each plate and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Sprinkle the ricotta salata around the greens and spoon a little vinaigrette around the plate to finish.