Summertime and the living (and food) is easy

  • Tinky Weisblat assembles her Grilled Corn Salsa in her Hawley home. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Chipotle Pimiento Cheese Spread. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Tinky Weisblat with her Grilled Corn Salsa in her Hawley home. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Slicing corn off the cob for Grilled Corn Salsa. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Tinky Weisblat with her Chipotle Pimiento Cheese Spread. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ—Paul Franz

  • Tinky Weisblat’s Grilled Corn Salsa served with pita chips. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

For the Recorder
Published: 7/31/2019 8:00:23 AM
Modified: 7/31/2019 8:00:13 AM

Summer is a magical time. It’s hard to believe that a few short months ago we were worrying about whether snow would interfere with our social engagements.

The extended evening light at this time of year offers an ideal opportunity for entertaining. Like the sunsets, summertime gatherings seem lazy and relaxed. They’re in no hurry to move on. 

I love to sit on my porch at this time of year with friends. We tell stories. We laugh. Sometimes we sing. We watch the hummingbirds fight over the feeder right outside the window. We store up smiles and light and memories to sustain us during the darker months to come.

Although I enjoy summer entertaining, I seldom host a full-scale dinner party. Dinner seems like a lot of work, especially if it involves turning on the stove or the oven in warm weather.

Fortunately, I have learned that my friends and neighbors don’t always need a big meal in order to have a good time. They just need companionship and a little food. I happily provide both.

I have three simple ways to entertain in the summer. The first is to host a sundae party. If I want to go all out, I make my own ice cream and sauces. If I want to do a little work but not a lot, I buy the ice cream and make the sauces. And if I’m feeling really lazy, I buy everything. 

No one minds. My guests are happy with ice cream. Period.

My second standard summer evening menu is the bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. I don’t eat tomatoes in the winter. Those orange-ish grocery-store products bear little resemblance to a real, red summer tomato. 

When tomatoes abound in July and August, I eat them every day. And I consume and serve a lot of BLTs.

Early in the day of my BLT party (when I can bear to turn on the stove), I cook a lot of good bacon — sourced either from a local farm or from Pekarski’s Smokehouse in South Deerfield.

When my guests arrive, we feast on the bacon with toasted, good-quality bread (homemade or bakery bought) and those magnificent tomatoes. If I’m feeling particularly fancy and energetic, I make my own mayonnaise. Otherwise, I open a jar. 

Vegetarian friends can have CLTs (with aged cheddar cheese substituting for the bacon) or PLTs with pesto as the star. 

My final and in fact most frequent summer meal, if you can call it that, is cocktails. I stock up on beer and wine (or ask people to bring their own) and make a couple of easy appetizers.

The slightly spicy appetizers below are typical fare. I try to make them before my company arrives so that we can concentrate on the conversation. If I don’t finish in time, of course, my guests cheerfully help out in the kitchen.

I like to serve the salsa with homemade baked tortilla chips if I’m able. To make these, cut corn or flour tortillas into wedges. Rub the sides of each wedge with olive oil (an olive-oil spray works well for this), and sprinkle salt on one side. 

Bake the chips at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes (until they are brown and crispy), turning once.

Follow the same procedure to make crostini from sliced baguette pieces for the pimiento-cheese spread.

If it’s too darn hot to bake anything, buy some tortilla chips and crackers. The salsa and dip will still nourish your guests’ bodies and souls.

Grilled Corn Salsa

I have never met a salsa I didn’t like. I often make the traditional tomato version at this time of year. I also make lots of fruit salsas: blueberry, mango, strawberry, etc. Corn salsa has a special place in my heart and my kitchen, however, because fresh, local corn is an essential summer food.

This salsa tastes almost as good when prepared with leftover cooked corn — which I for one always have in the house at this time of year. I get greedy when contemplating sweet corn at the farm stand and tend to overbuy.

3 small ears or 2 large ears corn

olive oil as needed for roasting

1 medium-hot pepper (you could go as mild as an ancho or Anaheim or as hot as a jalapeño, but not further in either direction), seeded and cut up

1/2 bell pepper (green, red, or orange), finely diced

1/2 small red onion, finely diced

juice of 1 lime

1/2 teaspoon salt

a handful of cilantro, chopped

1/2 tomato, diced

Preheat your grill. Using a brush or paper towels, brush the corn with olive oil and grill it until it begins to blacken in spots (about 12 minutes), turning frequently. Let it cool for a few minutes; then cut the kernels off. You may do the grilling up to a day in advance and refrigerate the corn kernels.

In a bowl combine the peppers, onion, lime juice, salt, and cilantro. Stir in the tomato, followed by the corn kernels.

Serve as a side dish or with tortilla chips. Makes about 2 cups.

Chipotle Pimiento Cheese Spread

I lived for many years in the American South, where pimiento cheese is a staple. Last year in Virginia, I discovered chipotle pimiento cheese in a grocery store. I thought adding the smoky flavor of chipotles (which are basically smoked jalapeños) to pimiento cheese was a brilliant idea.

Unfortunately, the product from the grocery store suffered from the same problem that much pimiento cheese encounters: it had too much mayonnaise. I consequently concocted my own chipotle version, which is (in my humble opinion) pretty perfect. 

The recipe below needs some mayonnaise in order to smooth out the spread, but you shouldn’t end up with more than 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the stuff. If you’re unfamiliar with chipotles in adobo, look for them in small cans in the Latin section of a supermarket.

4 ounces roasted red peppers (a.k.a. pimientos), drained (reserve 1 tablespoon of the liquid) and roughly chopped

1 to 2 chipotles in adobo, seeded if you like them mild, coarsely chopped with

several turns of the pepper grinder

1 tablespoon roasted-red-pepper brine

1 to 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from the chipotle can

1/2 pound sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

mayonnaise to taste (start with 2 tablespoons)

Place the pimientos, the chipotles, the pepper, the brine, and the adobo sauce in a mini-food processor. Whir until combined. Toss in the cheese, and combine again. Add mayonnaise until the spread achieves a silky consistency. 

If you don’t have a mini-food processor, beat the heck out of the mixture with an electric mixture.

Chill the cheese blend for at least 1/2 hour. Serve with crackers or vegetables. Makes about 1-1/2 cups. 

Tinky Weisblat is the award-winning author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.


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