Recipes and Cocktails for the Hot Days of August
Maena, morguefile, 2012
For many parts of this great land, August presents challenges and a bit of sadness. Vacation season is over, and the preparations for back-to-school and back-to-the-job are, begrudgingly, in full swing. Pressure is building to get it all done right now.
For us Gulf Coasters, some of those pressures may still apply, but our vacation season is not over yet. We still have at least three more months when the sugar-sand beach, so close to our door, beckons and we can quietly sneak off for a little extra sun time. Bring it on, sun; we still have half a tube of sunscreen left over from July.
The added bonus for us in the football-crazy South is that the teams are on the field and prepping for the season which kicks off in just a few weeks. At every level, high school, college and pro, our gridiron heroes are grinding out hard practices in high heat and lots of humidity so they will be ready to take the field and defend our regional pride through the end of the year and beyond.
We’ll talk about the proper culinary accompaniments for the pigskin season in upcoming articles, but for now, we are still thinking what’s right for dining and drinking with easy and quick preparation, allowing us plenty of time for one last walk in the surf while marveling at a dramatic sunset into the horizon.
A few dishes and a couple of beverages should make us all feel much better, not to mention cooler. Stove-time has to be at a minimum, but better yet, head for your favorite dining establishment and let the professionals wait on you in the manner you deserve. That’s an August treat no matter where you are on the Gulf Coast.
Here’s a spicy and tasty treat that is cool and has wonderful flavors. There are many variations that can make this recipe from Epicurious take on your personal touches.
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra virgin
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
At least ½ pound cooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined (try adding a bit of Shrimp Boil to the cooking, not a full dose)
¾ pound large plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
½ large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
½ bunch fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 large jalapeño chili, minced
4 ½ cups tomato juice, chilled (try V-8 or Spicy V-8 for an extra kick)
Combine first 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Add shrimp; cover mixture and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.
Combine tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, cucumber, green onions, cilantro and jalapeño in large bowl. Add tomato juice. Stir in shrimp mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve. Serves 6.
- Modelo or Tecate Cerveza (beer) from Mexico
- Tequila Shooters (Tequila, at least Silver grade, and lime wedges squeezed into shot glass)
- Margarita, on the rocks, no salt. Go easy on the sweet-and-sour mix. Use Cointreau instead.
Okay, so that’s a beginning. There are so many great opportunities right now for food fresh from the garden and sea. Big, heavy, hot dishes are not going to give you the comfort of lighter, fresher, cooler plates of what our farmers and fishermen are bringing us.
Here are a few items that go well with hot, humid days, spent at the beach or in your backyard:
- Shrimp Cocktail and Crab Cocktail, not with red cocktail sauce but with a remoulade. Serve this with Chardonnay, Viognier or Sauvignon Blanc, all chilled but not ice cold.
- Redfish or Trout Meunier, pan fried, accompanied by new potatoes. Serve this with Champagne or sparkling wine from Spain (Cava) or Italy (Prosecco). The acid in the wine can handle the butter in the sauce.
- Ceviche is a grand way to start a meal, using shell fish, like crab, marinated in lime juice with a modicum of onion, allowing the citrus to actually “cook” the delicate white fish meat. Pair that with a classic rosé wine from France, note the salmon color, made with Grenache and Syrah grapes provides the structure and flavors but does not overwhelm the beautiful white meat.
- Salad of lettuce (iceberg and arugula), red and “orange” tomatoes, celery, cucumber, fresh snap beans, and radishes, served quite cold and all brought together with red wine vinaigrette. The ideal beverage for this refreshing treat is a lighter style Pinot Noir from New Zealand. The big fruit bombs from California or Oregon don’t work here.
- Fruit salad made with oranges, strawberries, cherries, apples and blueberries, with no dressing. Allow the juices of the fruit to provide the interesting “dressing.” Whipped cream or a sugar-based cream sauce, only fights with the natural sweetness of the ingredients. The ideal beverage with this is Champagne or a high-end sparkling wine from California. If there is not enough sweetness in the combination for your tastes, try the extra dry offering of the wine with bubbles.
Everything suggested here is in full bloom right now. You need go no further than your neighborhood super market, or that high-end specialty-food store, or the farmers market in your town.
The bounty of our area shows well year-round, but I love what’s happening now, in the full glare of the sun. Sure, some of our favorites like oysters or crawfish are not at a good point right now. They are still in their preparation stage, readying themselves for presentation later in the year. But we can wait. There are plenty of other fresh foods to keep us happy and quite satisfied.