As summer moves into its unofficial final month, the thrill of carefree days and a less structured schedule can start to wear a bit thin when the outdoor thermometer promises a long stretch of hot days ahead.
To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of hot Texas summers. My family moved every few years while I was growing up, but the one constant in our lives was a modest, gray shingled house with white trim and forest-green wood shutters, perched on a hillside overlooking Old Silver Beach on Cape Cod. The summer weather was moderate there, and my three sisters and I spent nearly every sunny, mild summer day on the beach with our mom. When it rained, we shopped in the nearby quaint town of Falmouth, or stopped by the Cape Cod Candle Shop to sniff each candle and select a week’s supply of striped candy sticks.
Each idyllic day began the same way. We’d sleep late – a talent nearly every young teenager has perfected – eat a simple breakfast, pack sandwiches, snacks and drinks, grab our towels, and head for the beach. In the early years, Mom would drive all of us down to the beach, but once my elder sister and I were old enough to go on our own, we loved the freedom of walking along the sandy roads, stopping at a small bridge to peer over its wooden railing in search of fish and eels in the rushing water below, and finally selecting a favorite spot on the beach’s silver-white sand.
A move to Texas changed all that. My parents sold the Cape Cod summerhouse, and I discovered that air conditioning would be my best friend during hot Dallas summers. But, air conditioning can only do so much during the dog days of summer. It’s my attitude that requires a reset as summer lingers, so I turn to tried-and-true methods to feel refreshed. Cool pastels, lots of whites, and classic blue and whites not only work in wearable fashion, they apply to summertime table settings to make us feel cooler as we gather around the table.
Late summer is also a time to refresh daily menus. Chilled salads add appeal when the temperature soars, and they provide an excellent way of adding a tasty variety of healthy fruits, vegetables, and proteins to our diets. Grilled or poached salmon garnished with zesty mango salsa one night becomes an easy salmon and pasta salad the next, and a mixed greens salad topped with thin slices of grilled flank or skirt steak, black beans, and spicy salsa satisfies a craving for Tex-Mex without heating up the kitchen. One of my favorites is a large composed green salad arranged on a large white platter. The foundation is a variety of salad greens torn into bite-size pieces, such as romaine, bibb, and red leaf lettuce, topped with mesclun and garnished with thinly-sliced strips of radicchio, wedges of red, juicy tomatoes purchased at the farmers market, artichoke hearts, thin carrot strips (quick and easy with a vegetable peeler), steamed, chilled asparagus mounded in the center, shavings of parmesan cheese, and slices of hard-cooked egg. Served with homemade balsamic vinaigrette, this salad captivates both the eye and appetite.
For dessert, few things are more welcome on a steamy, hot day than a dish of homemade ice cream. It’s surprisingly easy to make, and if kids are in the house, making ice cream is a fun project. Mix in seasonal fruits like strawberries, blackberries, nectarines, or juicy, ripe peaches. My recipe for Texas Peach Ice Cream is a real crowd pleaser, whether served at the end of a family meal or when neighborhood kids gather at your place after a swim.
Christy Rost is a lifestyle authority, author of three cookbooks, public television chef on PBS stations nationwide, and a longtime resident of the Park Cities and Preston Hollow. For additional recipes and entertaining tips, visit christyrost.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter @ChristyRost.
Texas Peach Ice Cream
• 2 cups heavy cream
• 1 ¾ cups whole milk
• 2 egg yolks
• 2 tablespoons vanilla
• 3 large ripe Texas peaches, about 1 ½ lbs
Place the freezer bowl of an ice cream maker in the freezer for 6 to 24 hours, according to manufacturer’s instructions.
In a large saucepan, stir cream and milk together and scald over medium heat, stirring frequently, just until small bubbles form around the edges; set it aside. In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg yolks, gradually adding sugar, until the mixture is thick and pale in color.
Whisk a little of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture to temper the eggs. Gradually pour half of the remaining hot cream mixture, a little at a time, into the egg mixture, whisking to prevent the eggs from curdling. Pour the egg and cream mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about five to six minutes. Stir in vanilla.
Pour the cream mixture into a mixing bowl, cover, and chill several hours or overnight until it is cold.
Bring a saucepan of water to a boil, add peaches, and cook 45 seconds to loosen the skin of the peaches. Remove them from the water, cool briefly, and peel off the skin. Slice the peaches, coarsely chop them in a food processor, and stir them into the cold cream mixture.
Shortly before serving, pour the mixture into the freezer bowl, place it on the ice cream maker, and process according to the manufacturer’s directions (about 25 to 30 minutes until it is soft stage), remove the bowl from the machine, and serve immediately. If preferred, cover the ice cream and place it in the freezer for several hours to firm.
Yield: 1 ½ quarts ice cream