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Jul 2, 2018 5:53 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Stress-Free Dinner For Summer Guests

Jul 3, 2018 9:40 AM

If you have guests staying for the rest of the Fourth of July week, here’s a stress-free dinner menu that will leave you time to go to the beach with everyone else.

The perfect starter for almost any summer dinner party you plan is a cold cucumber soup. I’ve updated it from my original recipe circa late-1980s cooking classes. I quite like this soup for lunch or as a “pick me up” late afternoon. It’s cool and refreshing and if you like spicy food, add a few drops of Tabasco! Make it one day and serve it the next.

While you’re making the soup, why not make the scallion broth for the seared salmon entrée at the same time? Then, just before serving, reheat the broth and sear the salmon.

Add small-diced carrots to Basmati rice and, once it’s cooked, stir in peas and dill for an attractive combo of vegetables and carbohydrates to complement the salmon. Add crusty bread and pour a cold crisp Sauvignon Blanc with dinner.

Bon appétit!

Cold Cucumber Soup(Yields about 6 cups. Serves four, 
with leftovers)4 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped

1 quart buttermilk, divided into two equal portions

About 1/3 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped

3 scallions, white part only

1 pint sour cream; low fat is okay

About 1 teaspoon sea salt

White pepper to taste

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to tasteOptional:1/2 teaspoon celery salt or more to tasteFor garnish:Fresh dill sprigs and half a cucumber partially peeled and slicedTo prepare:Working in a food processor fitted with the stainless steel blade, or in a blender, add cucumbers and moisten with two cups of buttermilk, cover, and process until smooth. Work with two batches if using the blender. Add parsley and scallions and process until smooth. Transfer the purée into a large bowl.

With a wire whisk, whisk remaining buttermilk and sour cream into the soup. Add salt, white pepper, and lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Transfer to a clean glass container, cover, and refrigerate at least 24 hours. Can be done up to three days ahead.

To serve, whisk vigorously, pour into glass cups or small soup bowls, garnish with cucumber slice and a sprig of dill.Seared Salmon 
In Scallion Broth(Serves four)For the scallion broth:1 teaspoon unsalted butter

About 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

6 to 8 scallions, including green tops, washed and chopped

2 green lettuce leaves, chopped

1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped

2/3 cup good quality chicken (or vegetable) stock

1 cup water

For the salmon

4 center cut fillets of salmon with skin on about 6-ounces each

Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to tasteTo prepare:For the soup: In a medium saucepan over moderate-low heat, add butter and oil. When the foam subsides, add scallions, lettuce, parsley, and cook stirring occasionally until wilted, about three minutes. Add stock and water, raise the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about two to three minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the scallions to a blender and purée with 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid until smooth. With the motor running, add the remaining liquid and purée until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Can be done a day ahead, refrigerate, and reheat just before serving.

For the salmon: Season the salmon with pepper. In a heavy skillet over high heat, sprinkle salt on the bottom of the pan. When the salt “pops,” add salmon, with a spatula, firmly press down on the fillet to “set” the skin and sear until it is brown, about two minutes. Flip the salmon over and brown the topside, until barely cooked in the center (it will continue to cook when it is surrounded by the hot scallion broth) about one minute.

Meanwhile, reheat the broth until it is simmering hot. Transfer the salmon to the center of soup plates and pour the scallion broth around the fish.Confetti Basmati Rice Pilaf(Serves four with leftovers for a salad)2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled and diced small

About 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley chopped

2 cups Basmati rice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 cups chicken stock, hot

1 cup fresh peas, blanched

About 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill or parsley for garnishTo prepare:Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium heavy casserole dish, coat the bottom with oil, when hot, add carrot and onion and sauté until the onion begins to soften. Stir in parsley, salt, and pepper. Add rice, more oil if necessary, and stir until grains glisten. Add hot stock all at once, bring to a boil, cover and place in the oven.

Bake until the rice is tender and has absorbed all the stock, about 30 minutes. If liquid is still evident on the side of the casserole continue to bake until completely absorbed. Fluff with a fork and stir in the peas and dill/parsley. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

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