Here Comes Summer – Blam!

May 25, 2010 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

   Well this must be Tuesday, because here I am sweltering. It started in earnest on Sunday – a fitting day for earnestness – and by Monday my front porch thermometer measured 98° and the humidity hit 50%.  Brisk breezes make midday walks tolerable, but the air conditioner cranks away grudgingly in the bowels of this old house of ours.  The stealth attack of summer heat had me frantically racing around last weekend digging tee shirts out of storage, having re-prioritized “summer clothes retrieval” on my To Do list a half-dozen times in as many weeks. 

Once I’d located a few sleeveless tops and some capris, I slowed down to enjoy the stroll down memory lane that my seasonal clothing transfer evokes.  There is the purple cotton knit Love and Peace-embroidered  Henley shirt from the summer of 70-something and a few halter dresses that I made from McCall’s patterns around the same era.  The dresses come in handy for indoor-only wear when even Old Faithful chugging away under the floorboards can’t quite cool the far edges of the house.  And of course my mother’s White Stag tennis shorts from the 40s always bring a flicker of a smile to my face as I mentally recapture images of sepia-tinged family photos of her wearing them.

This in turn reminds me of old family dinner favorites, now copied onto dog-eared three-by-five cards in my own recipe box, waiting for some expression of interest from the next generation of cooks.  What better way to stimulate that interest than to whip up a retro meal of Mom’s standby dishes.  I settle on a main course called, simply, Chinese Beef, making a few very minor updates, and then try to remember what she used to serve with it.  White Rice, of course, although a nice brown basmati would work well, and perhaps a small salad of Mandarin Oranges and Spinach with Toasted Almonds. 

Dessert is easy – my mother’s favorite go-to quick finish:  Coffee Ice Cream Parfaits.  

For Mom’s Chinese beef, which takes less than 30 minutes and serves six: 

canola oil spray            2# flank steak                    1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp salt                       pinch of pepper 1 tsp ground ginger*

1/4 C soy sauce    6 drops liquid stevia            2 large tomatoes

2 large green peppers            2 C bean sprouts            1 TB corn starch 

Spray a large non-stick skillet with oil and place over medium-low heat.  Cut flank steak into 1/4″ strips, across the grain, then cut strips into  3″ lengths.  Add meat to pan along with garlic, salt, pepper, and ginger.  (*If using ginger root, peel and use 1 TB, chopped.)  Increase heat to medium-high and sauté meat until browned on all sides, stirring frequently. 

Combine soy sauce and stevia and pour over browned meat; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for five minutes.  Core and cut tomatoes and peppers (I used one yellow and one green, for color) into eighths and toss in with meat along with rinsed sprouts.  Bring to a boil again, cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook an additional five minutes.  Stir corn starch into 1/4 cup cold water until smooth, then slowly pour the liquid into the pan, stirring until sauce thickens slightly.  I added four chopped green onions along with the vegetables.  Add a few, if you have ’em. 

For the refreshing mandarin orange salad, my take on an Emeril concoction:  

1/2 C buttermilk            1 TB orange juice            2 tsp olive oil

pinch onion powder            1 TB minced mint            1/2 tsp seasoning salt

1/4 tsp white pepper 1-1/2# baby spinach             1 small can mandarin oranges

                                    1/2 C sliced almonds

Whisk buttermilk, orange juice, olive oil, onion powder, mint, salt, and pepper together until well blended.  Wash and dry spinach leaves and distribute among six salad plates.  Drizzle some of the dressing over each plate, then top salads with mandarin orange sections and sprinkle with sliced almonds. 

And for the super-simple finish to this quick-and-easy supper, the parfaits

six chilled parfait glasses            1/2 gallon coffee ice cream

12 chocolate dessert wafers            1/2 C crème de cocoa liqueur 

Chop or crumble plain chocolate cookie wafers into 1/2-inch chinks.  Scoop and pack ice cream into parfait glasses until 1/3 full, sprinkle 1/3 of the cookie chunks evenly over all six servings, then drizzle with crème de cocoa.  Repeat this process twice and serve immediately. 

On that cool note, I am resigned to making the most of the swelter – and to making my kitchen a no-oven-use zone for the next few months.  Wish me luck.

Entry filed under: Musings of a Midwestern Foodie. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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