Savoring summer

To prepare shore food, you don’t have to be cooking at the shore.

Sant Malo snapper_521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Sant Malo snapper_521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For the traditional Fourth of July cookout, many Americans go for simple foods like grilled hot dogs and potato salad. That’s what was served at a Fourth of July picnic in Jerusalem held by the AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel) that I attended with my mother years ago.
Simple summertime food is the theme of chef Jasper White’s new book, The Summer Shack Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Shore Food. White defines his shore food as a style of planning, preparing, cooking and eating foods that are popular along the Atlantic Rim – the Atlantic Coast from Canada to the Caribbean.
To prepare shore food, you don’t have to be cooking at the shore, wrote White. “Any kitchen can be a shore kitchen – it’s a state of mind... a very casual and fun place... Think of your kitchen as a transfer station, where food is made ready to eat with as little fussing as possible.”
In summertime, have a “morning and evening kitchen,” advised White, and avoid it during the hottest part of the day. In the morning, prepare the ingredients and do some advance cooking, so that only minimal cooking and assembling are needed to complete dinner. Prepare food ahead for a few days. White’s mantra: “Make ahead, make a lot.” Doubling a recipe often takes only minutes longer.
If you’re planning a grilled fish dinner, have the side dishes ready beforehand. Prepare a quick sauce to serve with the fish, such as cold cucumber sauce made with yogurt and/or sour cream with lemon juice, red onion, fresh herbs such as dill or mint, and hot peppers. Partially cook potatoes to finish on the grill. At dinner time, cook corn on the cob and make a tomato salad. Serve wedges of ripe melon for dessert.
White concentrates on seafood dishes, for which he is famous, and presents recipes that are flavorful yet simple. As a first course, he makes tuna tartare from uncooked tuna flavored with mustard, capers, anchovy, cognac and olive oil. A spicy Portuguese salad for serving with grilled fish or chicken is made of roasted tomatoes and peppers and seasoned with chili garlic paste. His relish for grilled fish could be considered a pungent variation of Israeli salad – diced tomatoes, cucumbers and onion, combined with roasted peppers, cilantro, garlic, pepper flakes, wine vinegar and olive oil.
“COLD SEAFOOD, hot grill” is White’s motto for successful grilled fish. The fish should be kept refrigerated until it is put on the hot grill, which must be clean and oiled. To prevent sticking, the fish should be brushed with vegetable or olive oil. White seasons the fish with salt and pepper or a spice mix and sears it directly over the hot coals, leaving it alone for two minutes or until the fish begins to firm up. Then he gently loosens the fish from the grill with a spatula, trying not to let any flesh stick. When the flesh at the side changes color through about two thirds of the thickness, he flips the fillet gently and sears it for one or two more minutes. Next he moves it to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking slowly over medium heat.
To check the fish, pry open the thickest part of a piece and look: “If the fish is a solid color and steaming hot, it is ready. If it looks a little translucent in the center, give it a little more time.” With experience, you’ll learn to judge by feeling the firmness of the fillet with your fingertip.
Serve the fish as soon as it comes off the grill.
The writer is the author of Fresh from France: Dinner Inspirations and co-author, with Fernand Chambrette, of La Cuisine du Poisson (fish cookery).
Saint-Malo is a pretty coastal town and popular tourist attraction in Brittany, a region known for its fish as well as its cauliflower. They are paired in this dish and served with tomato-chive salad and a mustard and white wine sauce flavored with shallots and anchovy. To simplify the sauce, I make it with mayonnaise instead of hollandaise sauce. You can use light mayonnaise if you like.
To get ahead, prepare the sauce and tomato salad in advance. You can also cook the cauliflower ahead and microwave it briefly to reheat it. Instead of grilling the fish outdoors, you can use a stovetop grill or the broiler.
2 shallots, minced, or white part of 2 green onions 1⁄2 cup dry white wine Salt and freshly ground pepper 21⁄2 tsp. Dijon mustard 1 to 11⁄2 tsp. anchovy paste 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 cup mayonnaise 225 gr. (1⁄2 lb.) ripe tomatoes, diced 1 Tbsp. plus 11⁄2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil 1⁄2 tsp. white wine vinegar 4 tsp. thinly sliced chives 700 gr. (11⁄2 lbs.) cod or sea bass fillets, in 4 pieces, any bones removed, patted dry, kept cold 1 large cauliflower (about 900 gr. or 2 lbs.), divided in medium florets
To make the sauce, combine the shallots, white wine and pinch of pepper in a heavy small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat until liquid is reduced to about 3 Tbsp. Cool completely. Whisk mustard and anchovy paste into the mayonnaise. Slowly stir in the shallot mixture, a little at a time. Add pepper to taste.
Gently mix tomatoes with 11⁄2 tsp. oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and 1 tsp. chives. Taste and adjust seasoning. Refrigerate sauce and tomato salad until ready to serve.
Cook cauliflower uncovered in a saucepan of enough boiling salted water to cover the florets over high heat until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well.
Rinse if preparing ahead.
Preheat broiler or grill. Brush fillets with remaining tablespoon oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Arrange on broiler pan or grill, in batches if necessary to avoid crowding. Broil or grill about 5 cm. (2 in.) from heat source until just opaque and hot inside when tested, about 2 minutes on each side.
Serve fish with warm cauliflower. Spoon a little sauce over fish and sprinkle with remaining chives. Add tomato mixture to plates, using a slotted spoon.
Serve remaining sauce separately.
Makes 4 servings
This refreshing relish from The Summer Shack Cookbook is good with all kinds of grilled seafood, including salmon, tuna and sardines. White prefers to roast the sweet pepper, but notes that some like it raw. The relish keeps well for 3 days.
450 gr. (1 lb.) ripe tomatoes, cored and halved lengthwise 1 sweet green pepper, roasted (see Note below), peeled, seeded and cut into small dice (6 mm. to 1 cm., or 1⁄4 in. to 1⁄2 in.) 1 large cucumber (350 gr. or 12 oz.), peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into small dice (6 mm. to 1 cm., or 1⁄4 in. to 1⁄2 in.) 1⁄2 small onion, cut into small dice (6 mm. to 1 cm., or 1⁄4 in. to 1⁄2 inch; about 1⁄4 cup) 12 sprigs fresh cilantro, leaves removed and finely chopped (1⁄4 cup) 11⁄2 tsp. minced garlic 1⁄2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes 3⁄4 cup red wine vinegar (5 to 6 percent acidity) 3⁄4 cup olive oil 11⁄2 tsp. kosher or sea salt, or to taste 1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
Using a small spoon, remove the pulp and seeds from each tomato half, and transfer the pulp to a coarse strainer set over a bowl. Using a ladle or a spoon, push the juices through the strainer into the bowl, leaving the seeds behind.
Dice the flesh of the tomatoes and add it to the bowl.
Add the roasted pepper, cucumber and onion, then add the cilantro, garlic, crushed red pepper, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Taste the relish and add more salt and/or pepper if needed before serving.
Note: To roast pepper, you can use a gas burner, a broiler or a grill. Place pepper directly on the burner grate, on a baking sheet under the broiler or on the grill and roast, turning occasionally with tongs, until the skin is blistered and blackened all over. Place in a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and set aside.
When cool, peel off the skin and remove the core and seeds.
Makes 3 cups