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Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Home Food Summer Menu: Corn Soup, Chicken and Peach Melba

Summer Menu: Corn Soup, Chicken and Peach Melba

The weather is warm, but the sun sets earlier, the surest sign that summer is nearly over. At my local market, the year’s last corn is piled high, and there are big baskets of shapely sweet peppers in every hue. It seems quite wonderful that stone fruits are still around — peaches, nectarines and plums.

So I look no further. For right there in front of me, the essential produce for my dinner is on colorful display: corn soup, a savory stew of peppers and onions, and peaches for dessert. Of course, any of the dishes in this menu could also stand alone.

Made with little more than freshly picked sweet corn, onions and water, the velvety soup is divine — and calls for no cream or dairy. The lovely creaminess comes from a thorough whizzing in the blender. But for the silkiest texture, it’s best to pass the puréed soup through a fine-mesh sieve. It’s an extra step, but worth it: It moves a wonderful soup into the sublime. Finish it with a drizzle of olive oil and torn basil leaves.

Then, to follow, I looked to those brilliant peppers. I love a dish of sweet peppers and onions stewed in olive oil, and this one takes cues from the Italian standard peperonata. A splash of vinegar tempers the vegetables’ sweetness, and the whole affair is studded with capers and olives. It smells gorgeous and is delicious served hot or at room temperature.

Chicken perfumed with garlic and rosemary is an easy, welcome partner for the peppers, and the Italian technique employed here — sautéing chicken with a weighted pan on top — is called al mattone. It yields a burnished, crisp skin and very juicy meat.

Instead of the usual spatchcocked bird, this recipe calls for large bone-in, skin-on thighs. For even heat, cook them in cast iron pans, if you can, though any heavy skillet will do. And for a bit of smokiness, cook the chicken (in the pan) over a hot charcoal grill. Getting the seasoning started early — an hour and up to 24 hours ahead — will result in the tastiest chicken.

For dessert, I wanted to put those peaches to good use, so I looked to a classic peach Melba. Peach halves poached in syrup and served with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream, the dish was created in the 1890s by the French chef Auguste Escoffier to honor the Australian opera star Nellie Melba. But for this menu, I decided on a fresher-tasting, not-so-classic version, calling for sliced ripe peaches instead of the cooked peach halves. Look for the best vanilla ice cream, with real vanilla, or make your own. Easy to assemble, it’s a refreshing dessert, perfect when peaches and raspberries are in season, and very elegant.


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