by Lisa Fischer and the Junior Leagues of Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas
Photography by Jamison Mosley
Summertime and the grillin’ is easy. That’s probably what Ella Fitzgerald would have sung had she been in Arkansas for one of our hot-yet-grab-my-beer summers. The Junior Leagues of Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas have beautiful and delicious recipes for summertime cooking and drinking, and they’re sharing some with us this summer. I’ve chosen some of my favorites.
If you are thinking that cooking really isn’t your thing, then you haven’t found the right medium. When I was teaching my oldest child to cook, I once left her in charge of preparing the meal (I had bought the ingredients) so all she had to do was whip it up. It was a Pioneer Woman recipe, and when my husband and I came home to eat it, I was so surprised by her ease in the kitchen.
“Mom, cooking isn’t hard. It’s just reading a recipe,” she said.
She might have oversimplified it for you who avoid turning on an oven or starting a grill, but she was right. Maybe you haven’t found the right tools or the right toy. These recipes include something on the grill, some things on the stovetop and some in the oven. Is it the actually ingredient-procurement that frightens you? Hello, Wal-Mart and Kroger with their click lists and grocery pick-ups.
Take advantage of the goodies at your local farmers market, too. Get the freshest ingredients and watch everyone fight over that last purple hull pea. But you have to get the chow chow if you’re going to have the purple hull peas. And maybe once you do decide this cooking phenomena isn’t that tough, you’ll finish Fitzgerald’s lyrics and sing along: “Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.” Maybe she was talking about Arkansas after all.
Makes 4 servings
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
¼ cup orange juice
½ teaspoon grated lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons minced garlic
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups fresh baby spinach
Whisk the orange zest, orange juice, lime zest, lime juice, thyme, garlic, salt and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Remove 1/4 cup of the juice mixture to a sealable plastic bag, reserving the remaining juice mixture. Add the chicken to the bag and seal. Let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk the olive oil into the remaining juice mixture. Remove the chicken from the bag and discard the marinade. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Add the chicken and cook for 7 minutes per side or until the chicken is cooked through. Arrange equal portions of the spinach on four serving plates and top each with one chicken breast. Spoon equal portions of the reserved juice mixture over each chicken breast.
Asparagus with Pesto Tomatoes
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
¼ cup basil pesto
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Add the asparagus to a large saucepan of boiling water and boil for 4 to 5 minutes; drain. Add the butter to the asparagus and toss until the butter is melted. Combine the tomatoes, pesto and cheese in a bowl and mix gently. Arrange the asparagus on a serving platter and top with the tomato mixture.
Makes 12 servings
1 ½ pounds deveined peeled large shrimp
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup chopped fresh dill weed
2 large garlic cloves
3 tablespoons capers
3 green onions, chopped
1 lemon, sliced for garnish
3 dill weed sprigs for garnish
Sauté the shrimp in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a skillet for 2 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink. Remove from the heat. Whisk the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon juice, chopped dill weed, garlic, capers and green onions in a bowl. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Chill, covered, for 4 to 24 hours. Serve the shrimp on a serving platter with the lemon slices and dill weed sprigs.
Makes 8 Servings
4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup minced onion
2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and minced
2 serrano chiles, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove minced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Combine the tomatoes, onion, jalapeno chiles, serrano chiles, olive oil, wine vinegar, cumin, salt, garlic and cilantro in a bowl and mix well. Let stand for one hour. Serve with your favorite chips.
Dickson Street Hummus
Makes 4 Servings
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans
3 garlic cloves
1 lemon, juiced
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
2 teaspoons cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste
Process the garbanzo beans, garlic, lemon juice, sesame seeds, cumin and salt in a blender. Add the olive oil in a fine stream, processing constantly until creamy. Serve with pita bread, pita chips or fresh vegetables.
Rib-Eye Steaks with Cowboy Butter
Makes 4 Servings
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup chopped cilantro
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 rib-eye steaks
salt, pepper and olive oil
Combine the butter, cilantro, garlic and kosher salt in a food processor and process until smooth. Shape into 1 ½ inches in diameter on waxed paper, removing any air pockets. Wrap tightly and secure with tape. Place in the freezer for 1 hour before serving or store in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper; drizzle olive oil. Let stand for 1 hour to come to room temperature. Grill over medium-high heat until done to taste. Slice the butter and serve on the steaks.
Red Wine Sangria
Makes 8 Servings
1 bottle red wine
1 cup Triple Sec
1 cup apricot brandy
2 cups orange juice
1 cup lemon-lime soda
¼ cup each chopped apple and sliced cucumber for garnish
Mix the win, Triple Sec, brandy, orange juice and soda gently into a glass pitcher. Pour into glasses and garnish each with apple and cucumber.
Lemon Basil Carrots
Makes 8 Servings
1 pound baby carrots
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
½ teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon garlic salt
pepper to taste
Place the carrots in the rack of a steamer pot and steam over boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender. Combine the butter, basil, lemon juice, garlic salt and pepper in a saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter melts, stirring to mix well. Add the carrots and mix gently.
Strawberry Layer Cake
Makes 8 to 10 Servings
1 (2-layer) package yellow butter cake mix
2/3 cup canola oil
1 (4-ounce) package strawberry gelatin
1 cup thawed frozen strawberries, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup strawberry jam
12 fresh strawberries, sliced lengthwise, for garnish
Line the bottoms of three round 9-inch cake pans with circles of baking parchment and spray the parchment with nonstick cooking spray. Combine the cake mix, canola oil and gelatin in a mixing bowl and mix well. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the strawberries and vanilla and mix until smooth. Spoon into the prepared cake pans.
Bake at 300 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans on a wire rack.
Loosen the layers from the pans with a knife. Place once layer on a cake plate and spread with ¼ cup of the strawberry jam. Add the second layer and spread with the remaining ¼ cup jam. Top with the third layer and spread the strawberry frosting over the top and side of the cake. Garnish with the fresh strawberries arranged to cover the top of the cake.
Spicy Pimento Cheese Spread
Makes 10 Servings
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 (2-ounce) jar chopped pimento
1 poblano chile, seeded and minced
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles
2 teaspoons grated onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup toasted chopped pecans (optional)
½ cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes of hot sauce
Combine the cream cheese, Cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese in a large bowl. Add the pimento, poblano chile, green chiles, onion, garlic and pecans and mix well. Stir in the mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Serve with baguette slices as a spread, with crudités as a dip or as the filling for grilled or ungrilled sandwiches.