By Tina Wasserman
I’m on vacation. Don’t hate me, but last night the temperature went down to 56 degrees and with the windows open, I was cold. I think I just earned another Al Heit on Yom Kippur.
Produce is abundant this time of year and I am actually missing the first edible crop of figs from my tree. This year is different, possibly because of all the rain or warmer weather. So I started to think of my favorite recipes using the bounty of summer. Enjoy and soon I will be back to shvitz with you too.
I first had fresh corn salad like this when Rabbi Nancy Kasten served it to us at Water’s Edge in the Berkshires. It tastes great wherever you eat it and uses two of my favorite summer produce items.
Fresh Corn Salad with Basil
5 ears of corn
½ cup finely diced red onion
1½ tablespoons balsamic or rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper (15 grinds)
1/3 cup chiffonade basil leaves
- Using 2-3 ears of corn at a time, microwave the corn in their husks for 3 minutes each in two batches. Set aside to cool. Corn will continue to steam in the husk.
- When it is cool enough to handle, cut the corn off the cob using a sharp knife held at a 45-degree angle to the cob.
- Mix with the remaining ingredients.
• The sugar in corn begins to turn to starch as soon as it is picked so use the corn soon after you buy it.
• Another way to cook corn (which is especially good if corn is older) is to shuck corn and then boil in water that has had 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ cup milk (optional) added to it. Boil for 3 minutes. Drain and place in cold water to which 8 ice cubes have been added.
The aforementioned fig tree (which, by the way was a Hanukkah gift from my children eight years ago) did give me figs this year before I left and every morning I would go out and pick some from the tree before the birds and squirrels had brunch. Here is the quickest way to enjoy fresh figs short of just popping them in your mouth.
Fresh Figs with Goat Cheese and Honey
12 Calmyrna or Brown Turkey figs, cut in half lengthwise
4 ounces good-quality chèvre goat cheese
3 -4 tablespoons wildflower or clover honey
French bread or crackers (optional)
- Place figs on a plate, cut side up.
- Spread some of the goat cheese on each fig.
- Drizzle with some honey and serve.
• Some fig trivia: Calmyrna figs are actually a variety of fig that originated in Smyrna, Turkey, and then were cultivated in California; hence, its name.
• Mission figs got their name because the Spanish priests who settled in California planted numerous fig trees around their missions.
Watermelon Agua Fresca
Something a little different to cool you off this summer—and make you care less about the heat if you add the alcohol! This is my homage to the hot nights in the Middle East, where rosewater adds a wonderful taste to many foods. Enjoy!
1/4 pound seedless watermelon, cubed (approximately 7 cups)
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
1 teaspoon rosewater
Gin or vodka (optional)
Mint for garnish
- Place watermelon cubes in a blender container and blend until mixture is smooth. Place in a clean jar and refrigerate until cold.
- Combine the sugar and water in a 1-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring only once to combine the sugar and water.
- When mixture is clear, remove from heat. Stir in rosewater and place syrup in a clean jar and refrigerate until needed.
- To make a drink, re-stir watermelon puree and pour 1 cup of puree into a 12-ounce glass.
- Add 4-5 tablespoons of syrup, depending on sweetness of melon, and stir well.
Add ice cubes and an optional jigger of gin or vodka.
Garnish with mint and serve with a straw.
• Simple syrup can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator for weeks. Added to fruit salad or drizzled over sorbet, it adds a lovely touch of roses to your dish.