Written by Diane Bastrach
This let’s eat! The column originally appeared on July 26, 2018 this week in Nantucket.
As crazy as July is in Nantucket, it has been my favorite month of summer, mainly because my eldest daughter was born in July and is going to celebrate her 35th birthday this year.
How this is possible is beyond my understanding. Looks like she was just a little girl yesterday and we were having a quiet summer at the beach. I reminded her that it was ridiculous to be her current age, because I was only 40 years old (I stuck to that story over and over every year). We laughed a lot.
Seriously, how does time pass so fast? Once upon a time we are reckless and young, without a care in the world, and before we code, time has passed and we advise our children on everything from school and life itself to how to raise their children. It’s definitely a wonder and I’d rather slow it down. I also have two other daughters and decided to ask them about their favorite foods.
Much to my surprise, they all answered roughly the same. I was amazed. Although they have very different tastes in food and clothing, they still enjoy the same favorite dishes that they loved as they grew up. I also thought about my favorite things and realized they were the same, too.
I grew up in Michigan and lived in a very small town (at the time), in a large but simple family. My dad was the weekend cook in our house and usually put something on the grill every Sunday in the summer. The chicken was roast chicken and I’ve continued to use the recipe over the years, so it was no surprise when my three girls answered with this choice.
Although it has been changed and streamlined often, it has become a staple in our home. Even their dad, who was not a cook, perfected the recipe and made it often when I was working. The other answers were also easy recipes passed down from my childhood. I think we all tend to give what we know to our families, and although food may be simple and easy, it resonates with us and we feel the need to share what we know and love, and brings us comfort.
I’ve kept making these recipes over the years as my girls ask me about them every time I visit. Although I’ve changed some ingredients over time to include more vegetables and lighter options, I’ll share the original recipes.
The other dishes are the tuna pasta salad which was always in our fridge. It is classic. I still make a batch to have as a quick dinner or snack for myself and it remains my favorite.
Although we didn’t eat dessert every night, this summer raspberry dessert was their favorite and was often requested as a birthday cake alternative. The last recipe is for simple fruit lollipops. I preferred to make them myself so I knew what my kids were eating and they were always happy to help.
It’s a fun project on a hot afternoon. I had a really good time listening to my daughters food stories, and even though they are now both grown up and away, I feel happy knowing that these simple recipes still make them happy. I hope you enjoy them too
Dad’s BBQ Chicken
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of grilled chicken recipes out there, and we’ve definitely had our share, so I can say this sweet and sour grilled chicken is the best I’ve had so far. It has enough heat to arouse your taste buds, but not so much that kids will turn away from it. The addition of tomato paste and soy sauce provides deep, dark, low aromas that keep the sauce from being spicy. In other words, it is heat with harmony.
1 cup water
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons tomato paste (from a 6-ounce can)
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup distilled white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium)
1/3 cup chopped serrano or jalapeno peppers, with seeds
1/4 cup minced garlic (about 9 large cloves)
6 large chicken thighs (about 1-1/2 pounds)
6 large chicken thighs and breasts (about 2 pounds), fat and skin removed
instant read thermometer
- Stir water and tomato paste together in a heavy 2 1/2 to 3 quart saucepan until smooth, then stir in remaining sauce ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce reduces to 2-1/4 cups, 50 to 60 minutes. Stir frequently until the end of cooking to prevent sticking. Keep a cup of sauce for serving.
- Prepare the grill for indirect heat grilling over medium heat charcoal (medium to high heat for gas grills).
- Let the chicken dry (do not season with salt and pepper). Lightly oil the roasting rack and place the chicken skin side down. Roast, covered, turning once, until chicken registers 165 F, 22 to 25 minutes. The chicken may look pale, but there is no need to worry.
- Spread generously with a little sauce. Roast the chicken, covered, turning over to a charcoal-free area or heating underneath if on fire, until browned, for another 3 to 5 minutes.
- Serve the chicken with the reserved sauce. The sauce can be made up to three days in advance and kept in the refrigerator once cooled. Reheat before use.
Pasta and tuna salad
Some of the best recipes are the simplest. This is one of those. I prefer it as written, but you can add any ingredients of your choice like chopped onion, green onion, chives, water chestnut, chopped boiled egg, lemon pepper, dill, parsley, etc. I need a quick and easy dish. I never had to take what was left of the house.
12 ounces pasta shells or 12 ounces pasta, cooked and drained
12 ounces canned shredded white tuna, drained
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup thawed frozen green peas
1-1⁄2 cup mayonnaise (this amount is an estimate, you will need enough to make the salad creamy)
Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine cooked, drained pasta with drained tuna, chopped celery, peas, and mayonnaise, using just enough mayonnaise until salad is creamy. If prepared ahead of time, you may need more because the pasta will absorb the mayonnaise.
- Refrigerate at least 1 to 2 hours before serving.
Summer Berry Trifle
In my opinion, a variety of berries make up the best fruit to use for a trifle. It’s a little tart but still sweet, and acidic enough to compare to the richness of a custard. This trivial recipe uses what seems like an unusual amount of berries, but once you put them all in their own custard, you’ll understand why it’s important not to steam. Using store-bought pound cake will work. They reduce the cleaning process, and once soaked in the juice of the berries, the usual connotations of a store-bought cake are well disguised.
2 cups divided berries
2 cups divided berries
1 liter strawberry, sliced and divided
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
1-1/2 teaspoon cornstarch, divided
1-1/2 cup milk
2 scrambled eggs
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 liter heavy whipping cream
1 pound vanilla cake, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- Combine 1 cup of blueberries, 1 cup of blueberries, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and ½ teaspoon of cornstarch in a saucepan and mix together. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until the berries begin to break down. Let it cool down.
- In a large saucepan, whisk together milk, eggs, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch until all ingredients are evenly blended. Place saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture begins to thicken and coat the back of the spoon, about 5 minutes. Transfer the custard to a large bowl and let it cool.
- Using a stand or hand mixer, beat cream and 3 tablespoons sugar together until stiff peaks form. Set aside 1 cup for garnish. Put the remaining 1/4 of the whipped cream into the custard bowl and gently stir with a spoon. Once the whipped cream is incorporated into the custard, add the rest of the whipped cream (reserve 1 cup for garnish).
- To assemble the trifle: Place about 1/2 cup of custard in the bottom of the trifle, using about 1/3 of a pound cake, and cover the bottom of the plate. Sprinkle the pound cake with 1 tablespoon of sherry (or other liquor). Cover pound cake with one-third of the raspberry compote, followed by 6 ounces (about 1 cup) of blueberries, followed by the custard. Put more custard on the custard, followed by half of the remaining raspberry compote, half of the remaining raspberry pods, and half of the remaining custard. Top with remaining pound cake, remaining compote, and 1 cup sliced strawberries.
- Put the remaining 1 cup of the whipped cream on the truffles and garnish with the remaining berries. Leave it for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Her feet are cold.
If you grew up, as many Americans do, on ice lollipops made only with colored sugar water, but then one day tried a real fruit-infused one, you’ll know what I mean when I say these homemade lollipops are a find. Fortunately, they are very easy to make, so once the weather gets hot, take out the popsicle molds and mix up your own batch. Start with this basic version, then branch out with the variations listed below the recipe.
3 cups fresh, ripe fruit (strawberry, pineapple, mango, watermelon, cantaloupe, etc.), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup refined sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Put half of the fruit, sugar, water, and lemon juice in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Cut the other half of the fruit into cubes. Pour the spoon-cut fruit into refrigerated molds and add the blended mixture, leaving about ½ inch (about a centimeter) of headspace to expand.
- Place the molds in the freezer and let them sit for at least six hours until the foods are completely firm. If your molds don’t have popsicle sticks built in (or you’re using paper cups or another bowl as molds), take the pops out of the freezer after about an hour and insert wooden sticks into the slush mix; Return to the freezer.
Note: The basic recipe for this remedy can be modified in several ways. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Change the main ingredient besides the fruits mentioned above by making them with kiwis, bananas, raspberries, blueberries, or guavas. Or try using coconut water instead of regular water for extra flavor and nutrition. Enjoy and have fun.