Summer Meals

The 4:06 train, or the Jitney and complimentary peanuts, or an unforgivably expensive rental car is what comes to mind when I think of my NY summers in the late 90’s; followed by the scent of recently cut grass, salty fresh air, and a tire swinging from an old tree.

Like most New Yorkers, I had a share in a summer home in the Hampton. It was a share in an old, once majestic home on Ocean Avenue in Bridgehampton, named after a potato farmer known as Old Men Brennan.

The Brennan home didn’t have the amenities one would expect from a summer home in the Hamptons; it had no pool, no air conditioning, no fancy speakers or a big screen TV, and  some would say part of it was definitely hygienically below standards, requiring heavy bleach use at the beginning of the season. The sleeping quarters were unequally distributed, all the beds were lumpy and 2 rooms in the back were kind-heartedly described as the Ann Frank’s rooms.

However the Brennan home had an old kitchen, perfect for baking pies, an impeccable grass lawn meant for fierce croquet games famously assisted by tall icy vodka tonics, a green room for rainy days, where a group of good friends made up by talented artist, writers and designers could share a laugh, a glass or two of wine, and a good meal during the mercilessly hot NY weekends.

brennanhouse

Old Man Breannan’s House. Painting by Christian Vincent.

The meals at the house were taken as seriously as the discussions about art, life, relationships and work, and they were, for the most part, shared labor and shared economy. They were conceived around the kitchen table where cooking skills and family recipes not only helped craft unforgivable meals, but also still standing friendships. They were consumed mostly on the lawn, by the tree with the swing.

KITCHEN

Some Of The Girls Cooking

Eventually, the Brennan house came to an end. Some of the people got married; some broke up, or some simply moved on or away, yet my love for a perfect summer meal, eaten alfresco and shared with good friends and family remains certain.

Nowadays, when I serve a meal outside, I often like to start with a Pimm’s cup, an anglophile habit I picked up after living in London. It looks pretty, it’s refreshing and it’s a cheerful way to get one or two of your fruits and veggies daily doses. Here’s a great link for trustworthy recipes:

http://www.anyoneforpimms.com

As a main course, I frequently make an oven baked whole fish. Branzino or red snapper both work well. I leave the head on and all the bones in for flavor, no need to be squirmish, and I make sure to descale the outside and wash the insides well. I cook it on an oven tray lined with slices of lemons and aromatics. The lemon and aromatics prevent the fish from sticking to the bottom and donate a brilliant flavor.

fishbakingtray

Red Snapper. Photo By Beatriz da Costa

For side dishes, I insist on a Mediterranean style potato salad, dressed with a good fruity and pungent olive oil, parsley, basil and salty black cured olives. I also like to serve roasted peppers and a fresh arugula salad tossed with lemon juice vinaigrette. I roast the peppers on an open flame then I close them in brown paper bag for 15 minutes, this way the skin peels off easy. It’s great a trick my dad taught me a long time ago.

While a pie, any kind of pie would certainly be a nice ending, at the moment I’m obsessed with Ataulfo mangos. They are sweet, full of flavor and just perfect for my mango, orange and passion fruit cake.

mangocake

Passion Fruit Cake

Although some wish the days at Brennan house never ended I raise my Pimm’s cup to this summer and all the summers to come, and I hope where ever you are, you will share a good meal together with someone you care for, on a green shady lawn.

bhouse

Old Friends. By Beatriz da Costa.

Oven Baked Full Fish
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
8 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
25/30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
25/30 minutes
Oven Baked Full Fish
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
8 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
25/30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
25/30 minutes
Ingredients
  • 4 1 to 1 1/4 pound Whole Branzino or Red Snapper
  • 2 large lemons sliced
  • 1 whole lemon juice
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 8 cloves garlic unpeeled
  • bunch parsley
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion sliced
  • 1 bunch thyme
Servings: people
Units:
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425° and line a large tray with baking paper then scatter lemon slices, rosemary, sliced red onion, garlic, and bay leaves on it.
  2. Season the fish cavities with salt and stuff 2 lemon rounds, a bay leaf, some of the thyme, a garlic clove, parsley and 1 rosemary sprig in each. Season the fish with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil and the lemon juice.
  3. Roast the fish in the oven for about 25 minutes, until just cooked through.
Share this Recipe
Fingerling Potatoes Salad with Black Olives and Basil
Print Recipe
Servings
4 people
Cook Time
20/25 minutes
Servings
4 people
Cook Time
20/25 minutes
Fingerling Potatoes Salad with Black Olives and Basil
Print Recipe
Servings
4 people
Cook Time
20/25 minutes
Servings
4 people
Cook Time
20/25 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds fingerling potatoes or any kind of small waxy potatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup black cured olives pitted and sliced in half
  • 2/3 tbsp chopped chives
  • 2/3 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
Servings: people
Units:
Instructions
  1. Scrub the potatoes and put them, whole, in a saucepan with water to cover by 1/2 inch and the salt. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook the potatoes gently until they are just tender and can be pierced with a sharp knife. About 20 to 25 minutes Drain immediately and let cool slightly. Scrape the skin from the cooked potatoes, if you want, as soon as they can be handled.
  2. Slice the potatoes while still warm, cutting them crosswise into 1/2-inch sections. Put the pieces in a large mixing bowl,drizzle 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil over them, the Dijon mustard and toss gently to distribute.
  3. Add the herbs, the olives and season with salt pepper and the remaing olive oil.
Share this Recipe
Mango, Orange, Passion Fruit Cake
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
8 people 35 minutes
Cook Time
1h 30 m
Servings Prep Time
8 people 35 minutes
Cook Time
1h 30 m
Mango, Orange, Passion Fruit Cake
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
8 people 35 minutes
Cook Time
1h 30 m
Servings Prep Time
8 people 35 minutes
Cook Time
1h 30 m
Ingredients
Cake
  • 1 1/2 stick Butter 175g
  • 1 1/2 cups caster sugar 300g
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 315g
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate (baking) soda
  • 5 tbsp shredded desiccated coconut
  • 14 oz alfonso mangos about 4/6 mangos peeled and cubed
Glaze
  • 1/2 cup passion fruit pulp juice is fine too
  • 5 tbs caster sugar 65 g
Servings: people
Units:
Instructions
Cake
  1. Heat the oven at 325 F 170C Butter and line with parchment paper a 9 1/2 inches 24cm spring form cake pan
  2. Grate the zest of the oranges and reserve. Peel the oranges, discard the peel and put the oranges flesh into a food processor. Pulse to a puree, then transfer to a measuring cup. You should have 3/4 of a cup or 180ml. Add water if necessary. Set aside.
  3. With an electric beater, beat the butter the sugar, vanilla and the reserved orange zest until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at the time, beating very well between each one. Add a spoonful of flour with the last egg to stop curdling. Slowly beat in the flour, the salt and combine.
  4. Sprinkle the soda over the pureed oranges and as the soda is now active add immediately to the cake batter and slowly beat until combined.
  5. Pour into the lined pan, sprinkle with coconut and spread the mango on top. Bake until the sides of the cake pull away from the pan and a cake tester or tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean. About 1 hour and 30 minutes; cover loosely with foil if the top starts to over-brown while baking. Pull out of the oven, run a knife around the sides and leave to cool complelty in to its pan on wire rack before turning out.
Glaze
  1. Make the glaze. Put the passion fruit and sugar in a small pan over low heat. Cook until thickened, 1 or 2 minutes. Drizzle over the cake.
Recipe Notes

Can be baked one day in advance and kept in an airtight container.

Share this Recipe
Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: