There’s just something about this time of year. It’s the simplicity — the sheer joy of lazy days and old-fashioned fun. It’s about picking berries, catching crabs and fishing. It’s about family, picnics, reunions and field trips. And, of course, it’s about the food. There are certain dishes that just scream summertime — the flavors we crave. These are my personal top 10 favorites for summer.
1. Blueberry Clafouti
Weeks Bay Plantation in Baldwin County or Betty’s Berry Farm in Wilmer are perfect places for picking blueberries. When we can’t pick them ourselves, I love to buy a fresh basketful at roadside stands or at the farmer’s market. I have never served this old favorite to anyone who didn’t then ask for the recipe.
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, sprinkled with a little sugar
3 drops almond extract
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1 stick butter, melted
vanilla ice cream
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place sugared blueberries in a bowl. Sprinkle almond extract over top and set aside.
2. Sift dry ingredients into a 2-1/2-quart soufflé dish. Add milk and mix well.
3. Pour melted butter over dough and sprinkle the blueberries on top. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the dough rises through the blueberries and the top is brown.
4. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Serves 8 – 10.
2. Momma’s Deviled Eggs
My mother was the deviled egg queen. Her eggs were a must for Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. In keeping with tradition, I also serve them all summer long. I have made, and tasted, innumerable versions over the decades, but Momma’s are still my favorite.
6 eggs, hard-boiled, cooled and peeled
3 tablespoons mayonnaise (Momma always used Hellmann’s)
1 teaspoon dry mustard (Colman’s)
1 – 2 teaspoons white vinegar
salt, to taste (several good shakes)
paprika, pickled jalapeño slices and bacon crumbles for garnish
1. Slice eggs in half and scoop out yolks. Reserve egg white halves. In a bowl, combine egg yolks with remaining ingredients except garnishes. Mash with a fork until smooth.
2. Fill egg white halves with yolk mixture and add garnishes, if desired. Yields 12 halves.
3. Really Good Pimento Cheese
I make really good pimento cheese. I know this because just about everyone I have ever served it to requests the recipe. I make it often, and I make a lot. It can be served as a spread with crackers for fishing trips and wharf parties or fashioned into finger sandwiches for picnic lunches or receptions.
4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese, softened
1 (7-ounce) jar diced pimentos, drained
1/2 – 3/4 cup mayonnaise (Duke’s)
a couple good shakes of garlic salt
a couple good shakes of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
1. Blend all ingredients together and enjoy. Yields about 36 finger sandwiches.
4. Blueberry Lemonade
Since summer is high blueberry season, try this beautiful, burgundy-hued twist on traditional lemonade. This beverage may be made a day in advance and kept chilled until ready to serve.
1 cup sugar
6 cups water
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 pint blueberries, rinsed and stemmed
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
blueberries and lemon slices, for garnish
1. Combine sugar, water and lemon zest in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and refrigerate for an hour or longer.
2. Meanwhile, combine blueberries and lemon juice in a blender and puree. Strain blueberry mixture through a sieve into a large serving pitcher to remove the majority of the blueberry skins.
3. Combine strained blueberry mixture with chilled
lemon zest syrup, stirring to mix well.
4. Serve over ice, garnished with additional blueberries and lemon slices, if desired. Makes about 2 quarts.
5. Sweet Corn Maque Choux
Each year, we eagerly await the arrival of the Silver Queen. The splendid sweet corn and its similar varieties are a seasonal staple at our house, and we eat bushels of it boiled, buttered and cut off the cob for corn salad and maque choux. This favorite spicy, creamy corn side dish is a nod to both my Louisiana heritage and my much beloved Mobile.
4 cups fresh corn (about 6 ears)
2 – 3 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped red or green bell peppers
1 tablespoon minced jalapeño pepper
2 teaspoons Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream (may add more to taste)
1. Working over a plate or bowl, cut the corn kernels off with a knife. Then turn the knife over and, using the backside of the blade, slide the blade down the cob at a 30-degree angle to release more of the juice.
Break up any joined corn kernels, and set the corn and juice aside.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn and juice, onion, bell peppers, jalapeño pepper, seasoning and salt. Cook until soft, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes.
3. Add cream and cook for an additional couple of minutes. Reduce heat to simmer, allowing mixture to thicken slightly, cooking an additional 5 minutes or so. Serve warm. Serves 4 – 6.
6. Fresh Peach Ice Cream
Perfect, ripe peaches taste like summer sunshine. We buy them by the basketful. We love to use the surplus to craft up some good, old-fashioned homemade ice cream – such a treat!
2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
5 cups milk
10 – 12 ripe peaches, peeled and cut up
2 cups half-and-half
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
1. In a heavy 3-quart saucepan, stir together sugar, flour and salt.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk and eggs until frothy and well blended.
3. Stir egg mixture into sugar mixture until smooth. Cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring constantly until the mixture coats a spoon and making sure custard doesn’t boil. Remove saucepan from heat and let cool.
4. Mash or puree peaches until smooth. Combine cooled custard, peaches, half-and-half and almond extract.
5. Pour into ice cream freezer and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Makes 1 gallon.
Pop in local roadside eateries for these fun, decadent seasonal bites and sips.
7. Chili Cheese Dog
Summer after summer, my three sons have eaten at Battles Wharf Market, the place affectionately referred to by our clan as “The Mini Mart.” It’s the kind of place where employees know the regulars by face, name and food order. My boys have literally eaten hundreds of the chili cheese dogs, opposite top right. I get my “Momma dog” special ordered with jalapeño peppers and mustard.
The creamy and sweet concoction was born in the ’70s at The Sandshaker, a bar in Pensacola Beach. Since then, the bushwacker, opposite bottom right, has become a beach staple across the Gulf Coast and has become a once-a-summer splurge (OK, sometimes more than once) for my husband and me. Last Labor Day, we cheered the last hurrah of summer with a boat ride to Big Daddy’s and a cool frosty one. Photo by Matthew Coughlin
9. Sponge Candy
As soon as school is out, our family makes the annual pilgrimage to the beloved sweets shop Punta Clara Kitchen. Everyone picks a favorite candy; I always select the sponge candy, opposite bottom left, dipped in dark chocolate with a unique honeycomb texture and a salty sweet molasses flavor. We repeat this ritual again the day summer vacation comes to a close.
I grew up in New Orleans where there is a snow-ball stand on every corner, so I was surprised to arrive in Mobile as a new bride to discover nary a one. Then a couple of years ago, I spotted a stand at the corner of U.S. Highways 181 and 32: New Orleans Style Snow-Balls, owned by Bonnie Brackin. We field trip to it as often as we can to indulge in the sweet, icy treats, opposite top left, that remind me of my childhood. Photo by Dan Anderson
text and styling by Sallye Irvine • photos by Todd Douglas