The delightful prospect of the July berry harvest got me dreaming about some of the most memorable summer fruit desserts I have eaten. Was it one of my mother’s fruit pies, consumed at the end of a roast chicken lunch on a cool English summer Sunday, or perhaps the bowl of perfectly ripe apricots and tangy sheep’s milk yoghurt, served in the shade of a dear friend’s fig tree in Athens?
Both wonderful, but our July afternoons are rarely cool and ripe apricots are hard to come by on the North Fork. Berries it would be, and something simple that would need little time spent in a warm kitchen.
I settled on a clafoutis, quick and easy to prepare and reminiscent of one eaten on a golden September evening in an old stone farmhouse in central France. We had spent the warm afternoon foraging for wild mushrooms, and the blackberries that found their way into our baskets were a bonus. The farmhouse was still under renovation, with no electricity or running water, and meals cooked on metal trivets in the kitchen fireplace.
After our host had whipped up a creamy batter to pour over our foraged berries, she placed the pie plate in a preheated cast iron pot and placed it on a trivet in the embers. More coals were placed on the lid of the pot and the delicious results were eagerly devoured after our mushroom feast. I still make clafoutis in my conventional oven and it still reminds of a wonderful place and the warm welcome I received from strangers many years ago.
I have chosen an easy meal highlighting summer’s fresh flavors to accompany our rich dessert. Shrimp, simply marinated in lemon and garlic, cooked on the grill for just a few minutes. A pilaf of faro, a protein-packed grain with a nutty flavor, which pairs well with fresh herbs and vegetables, served with a carrot dish that can be prepared ahead and served warm or cold. Here’s to summer, good food and creating your own fond memories around the table with friends and family.
Lemon Garlic Grilled Shrimp
Medium shrimp work best for this dish. The shrimp should marinate for at least two hours and no longer than six hours. To ensure the shrimp cook quickly and evenly, use a closed mesh grilling basket with a handle. Save time by calling ahead and having the fish market clean the shrimp for you.
1 ½ lbs. medium shrimp, cleaned, with tails on
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 cup olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp light brown sugar
Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a bowl, place in a Ziploc bag with the shrimp and marinate in refrigerator for up to six hours. About 30 minutes before cooking, remove shrimp from refrigerator. Oil the grill basket, (place on a sheet pan to prevent drips), place the shrimp inside and secure lid. Prepare a medium fire, lift basket from sheet pan, place on grate and grill for 2-3 minutes each side until cooked through. The shrimp need little cooking time, so I usually remove the basket from the grill slightly before they are done. Serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.
Herbed Farro Pilaf
To add flavor, I cook the farro with chicken or vegetable broth. Make sure you cook until tender and do not allow to dry out. You can prepare ahead, refrigerate and reheat with a little broth, before adding the other ingredients. I have used scallions and parsley here, but it is very versatile and can be served in many ways. During tomato season, I add basil, cherry tomatoes and a little chopped mozzarella.
1 cup farro
4 ¼ cups vegetable or chicken broth
6 scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Add farro and broth to a small heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about twenty minutes until tender. There should still be a little liquid left. Transfer the farro to a large serving bowl, stir in the remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Roasted Carrots with Honey Thyme Dressing
Fresh thyme pairs well with the new season’s carrots. Parsley, mint and basil will also work. The dish is excellent served warm or at room temperature and can be prepared up to a day ahead.
Juice of half a lemon
2 tsp. clear honey
1/3 cup of olive oil
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, finely minced
Salt and pepper
Whisk the dressing ingredients together and set aside at room temperature for about 30 minutes
1 large clove garlic peeled
5 large carrots peeled and sliced into ½ inch thick slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
Place the garlic clove in a pestle and mortar with a pinch of salt. Pound together until creamy. Place the carrots on a heavy baking sheet and toss with the oil, garlic paste and a little salt. Roast in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes until tender. Place in a serving bowl and stir in the honey thyme dressing.
Summer Berry Clafoutis
A clafoutis is a cross between an egg custard and a creamy pancake and one of the easiest dishes to prepare. My mother used to make a plainer version she called batter pudding. It was perfectly fine, but the luxurious version below is quite superior. Raspberries, blueberries and blackberries work the best, and I like to mix whatever is seasonal. Stone fruits such as peaches, plums and apricots are also good choices.
1/2 cup almond flour
2 tbsp flour
½ cup superfine sugar
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
2 cups raspberries
2 cups blueberries
1 1/2 tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
Place the berries in a lightly buttered metal pie dish (the pie dish should be at least 2 ½ inches deep). Blend the batter ingredients in a food processor or blender and pour over the berries. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes until the top is lightly browned. Allow to rest at room temperature for 15-30 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
Alison Boyd-Savage worked in advertising before running a catering business in her native London. After moving to Long Island, she first settled in Bridgehampton, where she worked as a private chef. Five years later, the quiet beauty of the North Fork prompted a move to Southold. On weekends she loves to entertain, and can be found scouting the local farm stands for seasonal produce and visiting the markets for local fish, meat and eggs. Each month, she now shares some of these dishes on the back page of the East End Beacon.