Summer in Boston is a beautiful thing. Walking down Commonwealth with the trees beautifully arching over the park, watching kids splashing around in a frog pond, people kayaking in the Charles, the city becomes the perfect summer wonderland. And let’s not forget the marvelous local corn, delicious leafy greens, and the crowning glory of the season: tomatoes. The sights and flavors of Boston summer are hard to beat.
There is one downside to summer in the city; it can get stupidly hot and even worse, humid. We’re talking “walk outside and wonder why you bothered to shower” hot. It’s the kind of hot that almost makes you miss the soul chilling winter winds. Almost. So now you’ve got all this beautiful food and absolutely no desire to stand over a hot stove and cook it. Well fear not, you can have it all and enjoy the full bounty of the summer.
The easiest way to get around the heat is to eat things that are best eaten raw. My favorite examples are purple beans. They’re just like their green brethren, but a cooler color. They turn green when heat is applied, but when kept raw and purple, they add an unexpected pop of color to salads. Wash and cut your purple beans into bite-sized pieces, put them in a mixing bowl, squeeze the juice of a lemon on top and sprinkle with sea salt. Let that sit for a few minutes to bring out the flavor and use the time to chop up a handful of herbs. My favorite for this type of thing is a combination of mint, dill, and parsley. I like to add some sliced shallot to this salad, but red onion will do in a pinch. For extra texture and flavor, crumble in some feta. A little olive oil, and either lemon or your favorite vinegar (I like sherry vinegar), with some crushed black pepper is all you need to finish.
A great variation on this is to thinly slice summer squash or zucchini on a mandoline in place of the beans, substitute shaved pecorino for feta, and add chopped almonds. Either recipe yields a light delicious salad that takes full advantage of the season and doesn’t make you work up a sweat.
Need meat? Can’t get away with leaving this one raw, but there are great summer cooking methods. First off, if you have a grill, use it. Yes, you may have to endure standing over the hot flame in the hot outdoors, but at least you won’t heat up your whole house. If you want to blow someone’s mind, grill up some fruit too. Grilled steak topped with grilled peaches and peppers is a thing of beauty. Grill a half lime and squeeze the juice on your steak, and your friends will be ready to finance your restaurant venture! My other summer meat trick is this: remember that the slow cooker is not just for winter cooking. Sure you may not want braised short ribs, but slow cooked pulled pork is a perfect summer protein. Serve it up with a slaw and dinner is ready.
My favorite summer dinner does require a little bit of cooking but most of it can be done in one pan and with the help of, brace yourself, the microwave. I am no great lover of Chef Mike as I like to call my microwave. But when the alternative is to season your dinner with sweat, steps need to be taken. I love that this recipe has all of my favorite summer foods, and is a perfect example of our standby pairing claim: “If it grows together, it goes together.”
Summer Salad with Shrimp
- 4 ears corn, still in the husk
- ¼ cup diced red onion
- ½ bell pepper, diced (choose your favorite color)
- ½ jalepeno, finely diced (remove the seeds for a milder flavor)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small yellow squash, cut in half moons or medium dice
- ½ lb. trimmed haricot vert (green beans)
- 1 lb. shrimp (frozen or fresh)
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp paprika
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 persian (mini) cucumber, diced
- 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ lime
- cider vinegar, to taste
- olive oil, to taste
- kosher salt & pepper, to taste
- 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
- sea salt, to finish
- 1 avocado, peeled and sliced
- Trim the corn, removing the stalk, the silk at the top, and some of the outer husk, but leave enough to cover the kernels. (This helps steam them) Microwave on high for 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add onion, bell pepper, and jalepeno. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Sauté until translucent.
- Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
- Add zucchini and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add shrimp. (Thaw frozen shrimp under cold running water for just a few minutes) Add cumin, chili powder, and paprika. Cook until the shrimp is just cooked through and turns pink. Remove from heat.
- Place your haricot vert in a bowl of water with a sprinkle of salt and microwave for 2 minutes. Drain leftover water, and cut each piece in half.
- When your corn is cool enough to handle, remove the husks. Then strip the kernels from the cob. The easiest way to do that is to place the big end on a cutting board, hold the small end and saw off the kernels with a chef’s knife.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss together corn, scallions, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and haricot vert.
- Add everything from your sauté pan to the mix. It doesn’t need to be completely cool if served immediately.
- Season and toss everything with a few squeezes of lime juice, a dash of cider vinegar, olive oil, and cilantro.
- Divide everything onto 4 plates. Top each plate with a quarter of sliced avocado, a pinch of sea salt, and a few whole leaves of cilantro.
- Enjoy, preferably on a patio, and with a glass of rosé.
*Note: Most of the veggies in this dish are great raw. I would not recommend leaving them all uncooked because that could be texturally boring. If you have some great fresh corn, leave it raw and cook the beans. If you found some purple beans, keep them raw, but cook the corn. Use your best judgement and dinner will be great.