My friend Kristina threw a summer bbq this weekend, and asked us all to bring a dish that reminded us of summers when we were kids. Dave and I started thinking about it last week, and quickly came up with a long list – peach cobbler, basil pesto, deviled eggs, summer squash, corn on the cob, watermelon, zucchini bread… I couldn’t narrow it down to just one dish.
My mom grew up in Kentucky, and I remember summer trips to visit her family – my great aunts, mostly – and the huge spreads they would lay out. Lunches always involved as little cooking as possible (because it was too hot to cook) and usually consisted of cold cuts and bean salad, deviled eggs, rolls, pie and always iced tea. Dinners were another matter, usually ham or fried chicken and every summer vegetable you could think of. And more rolls. And iced tea. Though we didn’t visit that often, those meals remain some of my clearest memories of summer food. What are your favorite nostalgic summer foods?
We finally decided to bring 3 dishes – classic deviled eggs, peach cobbler and a watermelon salad that is a more adult version than I remember from childhood (it has a little rum and cayenne pepper). For the peach cobbler, I used a recipe from epicurious here, but I added an extra peach, a tablespoon of bourbon to the peach mixture, and a sprinkling of cinnamon on top.
For the deviled eggs, we started with 12 hard boiled eggs (it turns out you don’t want to use absolutely fresh eggs, as they’re harder to peel. They should be 5 days old or more. We got ours at the farmers market the day before, and peeling them was a nightmare). Cut them in half lengthwise, removing the yolks and transferring to a small bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork until smooth, and then add:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2+ tsp. yellow mustard
1 1/2 tsp. champagne vinegar
1+ tsp. horseradish
1 pickle, minced fine
salt to taste
pepper to taste
Fill the eggs with a spoon or with a pastry (or plastic) bag and decorating tip. Sprinkle with paprika (or in our case, chili powder, since we were out of paprika. It’s coarser, but adds a nice zing).
The watermelon salad is a combination of a more classic salad with mint and feta, and a Mexican watermelon salad that a friend used to make. We started with a small watermelon cut into 1″ cubes and added this:
6 oz. feta cheese
1 bunch mint
2 Tbsp.+ rum
cayenne pepper to taste
salt and sugar to taste
Kristina’s bit of nostalgia – along with all the other fabulous dishes she made – were German kuchen that her dad used to make when we were kids. She and I grew up just a few houses apart in Minneapolis, and her dad would regularly make these little German cakes – sort of pastry pizzas with vanilla custard and fruits (apricots, prunes and green grapes were the usual varieties) – and deliver them to the neighbors. I hadn’t had one since I was about 14, and it was definitely a treat to taste them again.