The perfect summer meal has a few components. It should be refreshing, but also substantial; healthy, but also a celebration of the freedom of summer. It should be reminiscent of laughing days and inexplicable joy, but also have a sincerity that keeps you on the ground, and thinking about the food and the food only. It should bring people together and should take advantage of summer’s great bounty, while still adding the familiar warmth of a few classic ingredients.
Also, it should taste good.
This meal, in my opinion is just that– a team effort, delicious, wholesome, substantial and a creator of good conversation. It uses all we have that this season offers and brings new things to the table. I’m talking, of course, about my dad’s fajitas.
My dad makes the best fajitas on Earth, and yes, I’m going there because, well, he does. He concocts the most amazing marinade and grills chicken breasts to get tons of delicious juice and flavor out of them.
We also grilled some steak in this batch. And by the way, you can also grill this chicken inside. We were just grilling it outside because we were here.
We serve the chicken on grilled tortillas with my family’s famous guacamole (always), corn tomato salad (on the fajitas, and a bit on the side, but only sometimes do we have the salsa), sautèed peppers and onions (always necessary), cheese (duh), and occasionally black beans. Yum.
As for the crisp..
My grandma has a foolproof recipe for crisp that works with all fruits and makes a killer topping. For this crisp, I didn’t use it. I promise that someday I will post it, but I decided to try and make up a new kind of recipe. So I tossed some chopped fresh peaches (it works lovely with nectarines, too) with a bit of flour, some cinnamon and sugar and added blueberries and a splash of orange juice (my secret ingredient in everything). Then I mixed some oats, brown sugar, flour and butter and spread it on top.
The result was a resounding dinner, a delicious thing that we devoured outside, onions strewn around our plates, vanilla ice cream dripping down our chins. We were happy, we were satisfied. The perfect summer meal.
(BY THE WAY: this goes great with homemade strawberry soda)
Serves 4 to 6, but feel free to add or subtract: ALSO remember that these are very editable (sorry, that’s not a word), so make sure to put your own twist on it, and add what you want. Hot sauce, hello!
Tips on cooking corn adapted from the Kitchn. Otherwise, this is a family recipe. 🙂
CHICKEN & MARINADE:
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved horizontally (into two flat cutlets) (PLEASE note that this works amazingly with skirt steak, as well. Coincidentally, my dad has a famous steak marinade as well, but I’m afraid I can’t tell that secret. Use your favorite.)
- Juice of 1-2 limes or lemons
- 2 cups Olive Oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 tsp. cayenne or chili pepper, or a dash of hot sauce (optional)
CORN AND TOMATO SALAD:
- 4 ears of sweet corn
- 2 good heirloom tomatoes- big and juicy
- Cilantro, chopped to taste
- 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
- 1 chopped red bell pepper
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I’m not going to tell you how much to use: I trust your judgement)
- Juice of 1 lime
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1/4 white onion, chopped (optional)
- Juice of 1 lime (again)
- Chopped tomato, to taste (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
PEPPERS & ONIONS:
- Olive Oil
- 2 red bell peppers
- 2 white onions
- A tbsp. of ground cumin
- A pinch of chili powder (optional)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- chopped cilantro to taste
- salt to taste
- Lots of grated white cheddar cheese (of course, you could use the pre-shredded Mexican Fiesta Cheese Mix, too)
- A few limes, for extra juice, quartered
- 8 tortillas
- Black beans (from a can or fresh, but let’s be realistic)
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you want to have some REALLY good fajitas, this marinade takes 5 minutes to put together and if you could do it in the morning and leave the chicken all day… wow. If not, just leave it there while making all the other ingredients.
- Start with the chicken: In a large container, like a Tupperware, mix together all of the ingredients listed in the marinade except for the chicken. Put your chicken into the marinade and tightly close the lid.
- While the chicken is marinating, start on the corn, ’cause it may take a bit of time. It would be awesome if you could grill the corn, husks on outside, or even inside on a grill pan, but if not: heat a pot of boiling salted water, enough to cover all 4 ears (a big pot, or you could do 2, or even 1 at a time). Shuck the corn, and remove the silk and put them in the pot. If your corn is fresh, it should take 3-5 minutes, and older corn should go for 6-8. The corn should be golden and tender.
- As another alternative, you could zap the corn, husks on in the microwave for a few minutes. Yet another alternative: just use pre cut frozen corn (if you are in a rush, not recommended.)
- Once your corn is done cooking, wait for it to cool off, before shucking (if you used the grill or microwave method). Then, take a sharp knife (∆) and cut the corn off the cob, preferably into a bowl.
- Chop your tomatoes into fairly small chunks, and try to get the juices off the cutting board, and into a small bowl. Chop your onion and add that to the bowl with your corn. Ditto bell pepper.
- In the small bowl, whisk the lime juice, tomato juices, cilantro and a bit of olive oil, in addition to some salt and pepper. Pour it onto the vegetables and toss.
- Meanwhile, heat your grill. If you are grilling on an outdoor grill: Depending on what kind of grill you have, heat up the grill until it is very hot. Indoors: heat a grill pan (or a regular pan will do in a pinch) to a high heat. Take your chicken out of the marinade and throw it on the grill. Wait until the chicken seems slightly white around the edges before flipping. Use your instincts, and maybe even stick a toothpick in to check for doneness.
- When the chicken is done, lay it out on a platter and cut it into inch-thick slices. Meanwhile, slice your peppers and onions and heat olive oil in a pan until hot.
- Add the onions, and cook for a while, so they are starting to caramelize before adding the peppers and spices and cilantro. Mix around and sautè until the veggies are tender and soft. Put them in a bowl.
- As a last thing, start to grate your cheese. If you have a helper to do this for you, it would be great, but if not, grate the cheese on a the fine holes of a box grater. If you bought pre-shredded, just put it in a bowl.
- Grill the tortillas for a bit just to brown and warm them a bit. Mash the avocado, salt, pepper and lime to desired guacamole consistency, then add other ingredients, if you are using them. Put all the fixings in bowls.
- Enjoy! Your hard work was rewarded.
Peach Blueberry Summer Crisp:
FOR THE FILLING:
- 6 to 8 fresh ripe peaches or nectarines
- 1- 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
- Lemon zest, to taste
- Lemon juice, to taste
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- A splash of orange juice
FOR THE CRUMBLE:
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- A bit of brown sugar
- Pinch cinnamon
- 2 handfuls of rolled oats
- A pinch of salt
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold butter, diced
- Preheat the oven to 350º. Wash your peaches and chop them into slices. Toss them with the flour, sugar, zest and juice. Mix in the blueberries. Add the orange juice.
- Put all of the ingredients for the crumble in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until the butter is pea-sized. Rub it between your fingers to make crumbles.
- Spread the fruit in a casserole pan or in individual ramekins and sprinkle the crumble on top, spreading it out. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the juices are bubbling and the top is browned and crispy and a wonderful jammy buttery smell will have filled your kitchen. Serve with (what else) vanilla ice cream.
As for my camp experience… it was amazing! I loved the camp and it was so fun. One of my favorite parts was that we got all our vegetables from a local farm down the road. I got to go blueberry picking and make homemade jam and even led a class on key lime pie.
UP NEXT: Panko Crusted Pan Fried Flounder with Watermelon Feta Salad and Ice Cream with Berry Sauce (ANOTHER SUMMER DINNER)
I have a few more perfect summer dinners coming your way… and as always:
Keep Cooking 😉