It's Time for a Summer Menu

Dining with Duvall by Lynn Duvall

My computer is in the hospital undergoing major surgery, allowing me some unexpected leisure time to tackle tasks like reviewing my new recipe files.

I uncovered a raft of summer meal suggestions I'd like to share with you.

Next, week we'll visit a charming local family. The following week we'll go to a jewelry making party. This week, we'll put on our aprons and cook.

Aug. 3 was National Watermelon Day. The watermelon originated in Africa. We Americans love the large oval red variety of melon that weighs up to 30 pounds. In other countries, the melons can be pink, white or yellow.

The darker the color of the melon's flesh, the higher the lycopene content. Lycopene lowers the risk of heart disease and cancer. We eat 14 pounds of watermelon per capita every year in America. Whew! That's a lot of watermelon, isn't it?

We never use watermelon in a recipe because we usually buy a wedge of cut melon and gobble it up as soon as we come home from the store. However, watermelon slices are the star ingredient of today's salad recipe - a cool, refreshing, summer supper side dish. The salad would pair nicely with a shrimp, corn and basil stir-fry.

Our family recipe for potato salad can't be beat. But I never take it on a picnic or to an outdoor potluck for fear that the combo of heat and mayo is too high-risk.

Here's a super two-potato salad that takes advantage of the health benefits of sweet potatoes and skips the mayo, allowing safe transport to outdoor events.

For our summer menu, I've also included a starter shitake roll and a strawberry dessert dip for grilled fruit.

This batch of summer suggestions was selected from my American Institute for Cancer Research files. I save and test the recipes developed by AICR because I like their innovative, well-balanced approach to recipe design. As much as I want to serve my family healthy meals, I insist on food that tastes good. AICR meets both standards.

Shiitake Summer Roles

1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup rice vinegar

rice paper wrappers, 8- or 6-inch

1 tbsp. sugar

1/2 to 1 tbsp. Thai red chili paste, to taste

2 tsp. grated fresh ginger

2 tsp. sesame oil, preferably "roasted" version

Juice of 1 lime (1 to 1 1/2 tbsp.)

2 oz. dried rice noodles or "rice threads" (about 1/3 package)

8 rice paper wrappers, (8- or 6-inch size*)

32 cilantro leaves

1 small carrot, julienned

1 red bell pepper, julienned

4 to 5 large fresh shiitake mushrooms (stemmed), julienned

4 scallions, green part, julienned

1. Make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl or cup, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, chili paste, ginger, oil and juice of one lime. Set the sauce aside.

2. Place rice noodles in a large heat-proof container. Add boiling water to cover and let stand till noodles are tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

3. To make wrappers, set out a round baking dish or bowl wide enough to hold a rice wrapper. Place a cutting board or large, flat plate next to it. Fill the dish or bowl with enough comfortably hot water to submerge a wrapper. Using fingers to hold the wrapper along edges, submerge it in the water until it begins to soften, about 3-5 seconds. (Wrappers continue to soften.) Remove from the water and place it flat on the board or plate, allowing the edges nearest you to hang over the front side a little.

4. A few inches from the edges nearest you, arrange 4 cilantro leaves in a row from left to right, leaving about a one-inch space on each side. Place 3 carrot strips on top. Place 2 pepper strips end to end next to the carrots on the side farthest from you. Place 3 mushroom strips on top, then 3 scallion strips. Top with noodles to lightly cover. Lift edge of wrapper closest to you and fold over the filling. Fold ends over the wrapper. Continue rolling, tucking in ends. Gently press in outer edges to help seal it. Place it on a serving plate. Make remaining wraps. Rolls can be made 2-3 hours ahead if refrigerated. (First cover with a damp paper towel, then with plastic wrap.) Bring chilled rolls to room temperature before serving.

5. To serve, cut wraps into two or three pieces on the diagonal. Serve with dipping sauce.

Makes 8 summer rolls.

* Beginners often find using the larger wrappers easier to use, as they reduce the tendency to overfill wrappers, but allowing more overlap, which prevents contents from spilling out.

Watermelon Salad

Juice of 2 limes (about 4 Tbsp.)

2 tsp. grated fresh ginger

2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. honey

Salt and white pepper, to taste

8 1/2-inch slices (4-5 cups) each red and yellow seedless watermelon, chilled

8 Boston lettuce leaves

4 tsp. finely minced fresh chives

1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely minced

1. In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, ginger and honey until well combined. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Dressing can be covered and refrigerated up to 2 hours.

2. Pare rind from melon slices. Cut melon into thin, 4-inch triangles.

3. Arrange 2 lettuce leaves on each of eight salad plates. Using 1/4 of the melon for each serving, arrange melon on lettuce, alternating red with yellow. Spoon one-fourth of the dressing over the melon on each plate. Sprinkle chives and jalapeño over the melon and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

Shrimp and Corn With Basil

2 tbsp. butter

1 small red onion, chopped

3/4 lb. medium shrimp, shelled

Kernels cuts from three ears fresh sweet corn, about 1 1/2 cups

4 scallions, green and white, chopped

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. grated lemon zest

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

6 large basil leaves, cut into thin strips

1. Melt the butter in a deep medium skillet over medium-high heat. Sautée the onion until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the shrimp and corn, mixing occasionally until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through, about six minutes. Stir in the scallions, lemon juice and zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Off the heat, mix in the basil. Divide the sautée among four plates and serve immediately. (Steamed brown rice makes a good accompaniment.)

Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Fruit With Strawberry Dip

8 oz. part-skim ricotta cheese

2 tbsp. plain non-fat yogurt

1/4 tsp. dried, ground ginger

8 strawberries, halved

4 peaches, halved or quartered

8 chunks pineapple

4 plums, nectarines, or papayas, halved

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tsp. granulated sugar

1. In a blender, purée cheese, strawberries, yogurt and ginger together until smooth. Refrigerate the dip for 2 hours before grilling fruit.

2. When ready to grill fruit, thread pieces of prepared fruit onto 8 skewers. Mix together vinegar and sugar. Grill fruit until lightly browned, turning frequently and brushing with vinegar mixture during grilling.

3. Serve grilled fruit with sauce on side.

Makes 8 servings.

Two-Potato Salad

1 pound 3/4-inch diced boiling potatoes, preferably yellow-fleshed (peeled)

1 pound 3/4-inch diced sweet potatoes (peeled)

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

3 tbsp. white wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2/3 cup minced shallots

1 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary leaves

1 tbsp. minced fresh thyme leaves

4 cups loosely-packed washed spinach leaves torn into bite-size pieces*

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Place boiling potatoes and sweet potatoes in separate pots with enough cold water to cover. Cover with tight-fitting lids and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until just barely tender. (Potatoes will continue cooking after removed from pot.)

2. Meanwhile, make dressing by mixing mustard and vinegar in bowl, and gradually whisking in oil until smooth and well combined. Mix in shallots and herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper, as desired.

3. When potatoes are not quite completely tender when pierced with a fork, drain and transfer to large bowl. Mix in half the dressing (about 1/4 cup) and set aside to allow potatoes to absorb flavors while cooling.

4. When they reach room temperature, lightly mix in spinach and remaining dressing. Adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper, as desired.

* Baby spinach leaves can be used as is.

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