Let’s Cook: Beach Blanket Bounty of Late Summer Vegetables
by Alison Boyd & William Sertl
Neighbor Patty got a new Traeger grill and wanted to test drive it with a 10-pound brisket, so we decided to invite everyone we knew to a beach party to celebrate the end of summer.
The beach in question, Goose Creek, is only a quarter mile down the road, but that seemed like a long way to drag a grill, although the Traeger does have wheels. Since guests would probably come dressed for dinner, we realized nobody would want to swim either, so we decided to have what the Early Settlers used call a dry splash party, next to Patty’s pool.
Neighbor Patty spent a good chunk of the day with the brisket, cooking it slowly while fat sizzled into the pit. Because she always worries guests won’t have enough to eat, she threaded some orange-glazed chickens onto the spit and started them going after the brisket came off.
The heat and humidity were intense, but we were able to set up a nice spread outside by the pool before the Main Event. Neighbor Kim brought her homemade raw-milk cheeses and a big round loaf of sourdough from a starter sent by her friend in Japan. Farmer Ira came with a bucket of sunflowers, and there was plenty of wine. We, as co-hosts, arrived early with three showy platters, as colorful as the flowers and pots around the patio. There was nothing hors d’oeuvre-y about our dishes; each was a worthy first course unto itself.
It was dark by the time we moved inside, to a table, beautifully set with candles and crystal. Everybody swore they were already stuffed, but they weren’t, and the 10 pounds of brisket moved fast. Still, there was plenty to take home, along with chicken, and, as always, a signature Neighbor Patty treat wrapped in cellophane, this time cupcakes.
The grill and pool should be able to eke out a few more performances before the autumn chill sets in. The peaches and vegetables should be fine for a while but—don’t know—better jump if you’re planning a Farewell to Summer Beach Party. Dry or otherwise, here’s a triumphant trio of recipes to get you started.
Peach Salad with Pickled Blackberries and Capocollo
This salad is best in late summer when peaches and blackberries are at their best. If you can’t find Capocollo (house-cured is best), substitute Prosciutto (thin-sliced) or Serrano ham. Reserve your best olive oil—worth it for this dish—for drizzling to finish the dish.
Make-Ahead Pickled Blackberries
2/3 cup sugar
I cup water
½ lb blackberries
¼ cup (plus two Tbs) red wine vinegar
2 Tbs honey
1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1 Tbs black mustard seeds, lightly crushed
Add sugar and water to a heavy saucepan and heat until sugar is dissolved. Add blackberries and simmer for 1 minute. Remove berries with a slotted spoon and add to a 1-pint Mason jar. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of vinegar over berries. Add remaining vinegar and other ingredients to pan and simmer for about 5 minutes, until syrupy. Pour syrup over berries. Allow to cool slightly, cover with lid, and refrigerate for 1-3 days before serving.
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
(plus more for drizzling)
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 bunch arugula, trimmed
6-8 ripe peaches, sliced into 1-inch wedges
8 ozs Capocollo, thinly sliced
Large-flake Sea Salt (such as Maldon)
Thirty minutes (no more) before serving, whisk olive oil and lemon juice together and toss with arugula. Salt and pepper to taste. Arrange arugula around the edges of a large serving platter. Mound peach wedges in the center of the platter. Place Capocollo slices on top of arugula. Drizzle peaches with your best oil and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Drain blackberries (you do not want pickling juices to stain peaches) and scatter in groups of three or four over peaches.
Zucchini Carpaccio with Mint & Honey Dressing
Make the most of the September zucchini glut with a fresh light salad. Use only the freshest zucchini with smooth, unblemished dark-green skin. (Do not substitute yellow squash) A potato peeler is ideal for cutting wafer-thin slices. (Do not use the seedy core of the zucchini.) Note: It is important to assemble the components of this recipe at the recommended times to ensure freshness.
Honey Mint Dressing
Two hours before serving, whisk ingredients together and set bowl aside at room temperature.
Juice of one lemon
¼ cup mint leaves, finely chopped
I Tbs Dijon mustard
I Tbs clear honey
½ cup canola oil
4-5 medium-size zucchini, each a little less than 2 inches in diameter
4 ozs Feta or Ricotta Salata, crumbled
1/3 cup of pine nuts, lightly toasted
Garnish: whole mint leaves
Thirty minutes before serving, wash and dry zucchini. Remove ends and cut into 5-inch long pieces. Using a sharp potato peeler, slice each piece into ribbons, and arrange on a platter in overlapping rows. Drizzle dressing onto salad and let marinate at room temperature. Just before serving, sprinkle with the cheese, salt, pepper, and pine nuts. (Do not add salt earlier as zucchini will lose its juice.) Garnish with mint leaves. Serve as appetizer with crusty bread or as a side for grilled chicken or fish.
Grilled Vegetables with Sherry Vinaigrette
Served at room temperature, these smoky grilled vegetables make a nice alternative to caponata, not everybody’s favorite—including not ours. The dressing gets its sweet tastes from currants, its sharpness from sherry, a mainstay of Spanish cooking. We grill the peppers and eggplant directly on the grate. For the onions, a nonstick grill basket or grid works better.
2 red peppers and 2 yellow ones,
quartered and seeded
4 medium heirloom eggplants,
thinly sliced lengthwise
4 red onions, peeled and quartered
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Lightly oil the grate of a charcoal or gas grill. Place quartered peppers onto the grate and grill over medium heat until the skins blacken and blister (about 7-10 minutes), using tongs to move peppers around so they blacken evenly. (Remember, blackened is not just okay but tasty.) Remove from grill and place in a plastic bag until cool enough to handle. Peel peppers and cut into thick strips. Set aside. Brush eggplant with a generous amount of olive oil and grill until lightly brown. (Again, use tongs to keep moving and turning so that they cook evenly.) Remove and cool to room temperature. Place onions in a bowl and toss with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a little salt. Add to grill basket or grid and cook for about five minutes until onions are softened and cooked through.
¼ cup dried currants
1/3 cup Amontillado sherry
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
¼ cup (plus 2 Tbs) olive oil
I/3 cup sherry vinegar
2 Tbs sugar
1/4 cup water
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
Soak currents in the Amontillado sherry for an hour. Drain them and set the sherry aside. Smash garlic cloves with the back of a heavy knife to flatten. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pan. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes without browning. Add sherry vinegar and Amontillado sherry and cook over medium-high heat to reduce slightly. Add currants, sugar, and water. Cook over medium heat until syrupy. Remove garlic and whisk in the rest of the olive oil, the Dijon mustard and a pinch of salt. Place in a bowl and cool to room temperature.
Thirty minutes before serving, arrange eggplant slices in overlapping rows around the outside of a heavy platter. Mound pepper slices in the middle and place grilled onions on either side. Drizzle dressing over vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and a grind or two of pepper.
Alison Boyd ran a catering business in her native London before working as a private chef in Bridgehampton. She has since decamped to the North Fork where she cooks frequently with William Sertl, Culture Editor of the Beacon and former travel editor of Saveur and Gourmet magazines. Every Thursday, before their spouses arrive for the weekend, they dine out and plot their next home-cooked meal.