August 31, 2009
Today’s post marks the last in our Summer Classics Series. I know summer’s not quite done yet—the temperatures alone here in Houston will attest—but it seems we are shifting into late summer, that mode in which we savor the last of the stone fruit, can and jam what we can, begin to long for a little nip in the air and think “Hmm, maybe I need that jacket even though it’s 80 degrees outside.”
When the weather cools and necessitates a long-sleeved shirt, I’ll be glad. Of all the seasons, autumn makes me swoon the most. But, summer’s not half bad, especially when it comes to eatin’, so for now, I’m going to hang onto tomatoes and corn, keep buying berries by the bushel and sweat it out.
Wrapping up our series is a sweet ode to summer in the form of a meal, the kind you might be inspired to whip up after coming home from the Farmer’s Market or grocery store. It’s one of life’s greatest pleasures, is it not, having a free swath of time in the kitchen and all possibility spread before you?
We’ll be starting a new, fall-friendly series next Friday and going back to regular, miscellaneous posts on Tuesdays. As always, if you have any requests or suggestions for us here at Blue Jean Gourmet, please leave them in the comments. We heart comments. We heart you, too.
SUMMER’S SWAN SONG DINNER
These dishes are homey and forgiving. For the pasta, feel free to switch in whatever noodle you have handy. Buy the veggies that look good, throw in herbs from your garden. Serve with some wine and maybe a salad.
You may be skeptical about the idea of figs + balsamic vinegar + ice cream. Trust me. It’s freaking GOOD. My dear friend Stephen, who inspired this recipe & fancily has his very own backyard fig tree (I’m jealous), often switches in Port for the balsamic, and you know what? That’ll do.
FARMER’S MARKET PASTA
1 lb fettuccine (would be even better with fresh, but I used dried)
1 lb shrimp, peeled & deveined
large bunch of spinach, washed & chopped
2 ears corn, kernels cut off the cob
herb-flavored goat cheese, such as chevre (between 2-4 oz)
a handful of cherry or grape tomatoes
fresh herbs, like basil, chives, parsley
2 cloves garlic (or more or less), minced
Start the pasta cooking in the background.
Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat; add shrimp. After just a minute or two, turn down the heat and add the garlic. Allow another minute to pass, then pour in a glug of white wine & a squeeze of lemon. Test your shrimp for doneness—be careful not to overcook!—and let everything simmer for just one or two minutes more.
Remove the shrimp from the pan and reserve off to the side. Crank the heat back up on your skillet, adding a bit more olive oil if necessary. Wilt the spinach, add the herbs, corn, & tomatoes and cook until heated through. Toss in the goat cheese and just a few spoonfuls of pasta water to make a sauce.
Your pasta should be al dente by this point; drain it, add to the spinach mixture, and add in the shrimp. Toss together and serve with Parmigiano-Reggiano, if you like.
BALSAMIC FIGS OVER ICE CREAM
balsamic vinegar, preferably a fig or other fruit-infused variety
a little butter
walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped
high-quality vanilla bean ice cream
Melt a little bit of butter in a large skillet. Place the figs, cut side down, over the bottom. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of sugar over the whole mess, allow to cook for a few minutes so the figs get nicely caramelized.
At this point, if you’re feeling fancy, you can remove the figs before adding the balsamic, thereby freeing up your skillet to reduce down the vinegar into a syrupy glaze. It will work just as well, though, if you drizzle a generous amount of balsamic (say, a tablespoon or two) right onto the figs, turn down the heat, and leave them alone for a few minutes.
Whatever you do, don’t forget the nuts, because crunch is a good thing here. Over vanilla ice cream, these figs make for a very elegant, very grownup, but nonetheless satisfying sundae.