Enjoy a chilled soup while you still can! Use eggplant in something other than eggplant parmesan! Create a multi-course gourmet experience using the last of summer’s harvest with these RVA-Chef-tested recipes.
Back-to-school supplies litter the store shelves where beach balls used to be; college kids are back in their weird 1990s clothes; and summer’s long, muggy days are sadly numbered. But despite the promise of fuzzy boots and hearty stews on the horizon, summer produce is still here in abundance! Savor it while you can–before we’re all drowning in a sea of pumpkin spice–and give the last of summer’s harvest the gourmet treatment it deserves with recipes from chefs at Metzger Bar & Butchery, Heritage, The Rogue Gentlemen, WPA Bakery, and the soon-to-exist McCormack’s Big Whisky Grill.
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- Roasted oysters with watermelon and bacon
- Chilled corn soup
- Pickled okra
- Roasted eggplant with black pepper yogurt
- Peaches and cream pavlova
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Roasted oysters with watermelon and bacon
Philip Denny, McCormack’s Big Whisky Grill
When you start with three fine ingredients such as these and treat them properly, the result is often better than the sum of its parts. Add a splash of Pernod, and you’re looking at a very memorable way to start a meal. Grab your shucking knife, and get ready for Philip Denny’s lightly-roasted oysters with watermelon and bacon: “The sweetness of the watermelon against the brininess of the oysters and the smokiness of the bacon all works well together, and is very simple.”
- 4 oysters (preferably large and briny)
- 1 strip of bacon
- 1/2 inch diced watermelon, (20 dice)
- 1/8 cup of Pernod
Shuck the oysters. You want the cup side of the shell in good shape. Dislodge the oyster, and make sure there aren’t any tiny pieces of shell in with the oyster.
Marinate the watermelon in the Pernod for 5 minutes.
Cook your bacon until crispy and chop until fine.
Top your oysters with a pinch of the chopped bacon and with 5 pieces each of the watermelon and a small drizzle of the Pernod. Place on a wood-burning grill off direct heat for 3-4 minutes or in a oven that is 375 °F. You really don’t want them to cook too much, just heat through.
Then slurp them back.
Chilled corn soup
Brittanny Anderson, Metzger Bar & Butchery
The great thing about corn is that you don’t really need to do anything to it. Sweet summer corn’s ebullient kernels don’t need fancy clothes; each juicy bite is like a lawn sprinkler straight to the taste buds. This recipe captures that flavor in chilled soup form and adds aromatic thyme and cool creme fraiche.
Brittanny Anderson says, when this soup is on the menu at Metzger Bar & Butchery, “we serve it with dill oil, roasted corn salad and fried speck, but feel free to garnish how you like. Minced jalapeños are especially delicious, as is crispy bacon.”
- 5 ears of corn
- 1 clove of garlic, smashed
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 2 T creme fraiche, heavy cream, or greek yogurt
- salt and pepper to taste
Husk the corn and remove all of the silks. Cut corn from the cob, reserving cobs. In a large pot combine the corn cobs, cut corn, sliced onion, garlic, and thyme. Cover with water and bring to a boil, then lower to simmer. Cook for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.
Remove the cobs and thyme from the pot and strain out the corn kernels, onion and garlic, reserving both them and the corn stock that remains. Blend the corn and onion mixture with small amounts of the corn stock until you get a smooth consistency. Blend in your dairy component and season to taste. Then chill for at least an hour. We serve it with dill oil, roasted corn salad and fried speck, but feel free to garnish how you like – minced jalapenos are especially delicious as is crispy bacon.
Tad Grenga, Heritage
Pickled okra is a gateway drug. I was utterly averse to okra until I tried it pickled, and now I’m sliding down the slippery slope of okra in various forms. Roasted! Fried! The possibilities are several!
Heritage line cook and River City Supper owner Tad Grenga says, “It’s great when you have an abundance of the stuff lying around, and you need to make use of it. Pickled, it will last up to ten days. Pickled and canned properly, it will last up to 8 months. This specific recipe is great as just a snack or as a spicy and vinegary component to a heavier dish.”
- 1 pound of okra
- 1 small chile (Serrano, jalapeno, etc.)
- 1 small yellow onion, sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 4 sprigs of fresh dill
- 1 1/2 T Kosher salt
- 2 T sugar
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seed
- 1 bay leaf
- 3/4 cup of cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar
Soak trimmed okra in ice water for an hour to firm the okra up. After an hour, drain the okra and wipe dry. Place okra, onion, and dill in canning jars if canning or a heat proof container if simply pickling. Bring both vinegars, sugar, salt, spices, garlic, chile, and bay leaf to a boil in a large saucepan. Simmer for 5 minutes, then pour over okra pods. Chill completely, then cover and refrigerate.
Roasted eggplant with black pepper yogurt
Aaron Hoskins, The Rogue Gentlemen
Eggplant can be divisive. People “don’t like it,” or so they say. But there’s just too much of it around these days to ignore it. Chef Aaron Hoskins says,1 “This is one of those dishes that people [who] don’t love eggplant or have only really eaten it in eggplant parm will look at like you’re crazy, but when they eat it they’ll realize why eggplant is so wonderful.”
Drop jaws with this stunner of an eggplant dish from The Rogue Gentlemen, in which Hoskins churches up the controversial nightshade with bright and delicate squash blossoms, fresh mint, Aleppo pepper, and greek yogurt.
- 1 medium to large bell eggplant
- 2-3 small summer squash or zucchini
- 6-8 squash blossoms
- 1 bunch of parsley
- 2 oz mint
- 5-6 shallots
- 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup of Greek yogurt
- 2 tb ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 450 °F. Cut eggplant in half long ways and lay flesh side up on the cutting board. Cut off a small slice from the rounded bottom so it will lay flat in a pan and on the plate. Score the eggplant in a crosshatch pattern and season with salt and pepper.
Get a sauté pan hot and add some oil. Bring oil just to its smoking point and add the eggplant, scored side down. Let it sear in pan for 2-3 minutes or until it has gotten a good amount of color on the flesh. Flip it over and put it into the oven for 4-5 minutes. The center of the eggplant should be tender but not mushy when it’s done. Remove the eggplant from the oven and let it rest on a paper towel or napkin for a few minutes, as it will probably let go of a little moisture after cooking.
While doing this, you can prepare the shallots. Cut the whole shallots in half lengthwise and remove the outer, papery layer. Season with salt and pepper. Place them in cut side down in a hot pan and sauté them (without moving them around in the pan) or 1-2 minutes, or until the edges start to take a little color. Slide them into the oven for 2-3 minutes, or until they become tender to the touch. Pull them out of the oven and let them drain/cool briefly on napkin or towel. Since they were left fully intact, they should be slightly fanned out with a very heavy sear/caramelization on one side. Cut off the root (with all the stringy things) and they should pull apart easily into individual leaves.
Meanwhile, shave squash as thinly as possible on a mandolin into long, lengthwise strips. place these in a bowl and dress with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roll them up lengthwise into small cylinders and arrange on top of the still warm eggplant. Continue to garnish with roasted shallots, parsley, mint, and squash blossoms. Season with a little finishing salt and Aleppo pepper, to taste.
For the yogurt, take 1 cup of Greek yogurt and add the pepper and a little salt. smear on the plate or serve on the side.
Peaches and cream pavlova
Olivia Wilson, WPA Bakery
Like corn, peaches don’t need much to achieve their potential. Give them time to ripen, and then take a bite. You’re there. But a pavlova is a great way to elevate the peaches beyond what you thought their potential was to an ethereal realm of brown-sugar-sweetness.
WPA baker Olivia Wilson explains: “The brown sugar meringue provides a deeper level of sweetness than that of the traditional white cloud pavlova. It acts as a little bed for juicy peaches, bourbon whipped cream, and a sprinkle of brown-buttered salted pistachios.”
- 125 grams egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 135 grams soft light brown sugar
- 10 grams cornflour
- 10 ml white vinegar (distilled)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 230 °F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Using a clean, dry mixing bowl and beaters, start whipping the egg whites until foamy. Add the salt and continue to whip until the whites form small bubbles.
Mix together the sugar and cornflour and add to the whites in a slow, steady stream, beating constantly. Continue to whip until the egg whites are glossy and form stiff peaks.
Whip in the vinegar and vanilla. Scrape the mixture onto the parchment lined sheet pan, and form into a mound about 9 inches in diameter, making the outer edge about 1/2 inch taller.
Bake for 2 to 3 hours, or until firm and baked through. Turn off the heat and let the meringue cool in the oven.
While meringue is baking, make the whipped cream, buttery pistachios, and slice peaches.
Bourbon whipped cream
- 300 ml heavy cream
- 3 T bourbon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Powdered sugar to taste (I prefer it less sweet so I use maybe a few tablespoons)
Whip cream until it forms medium peaks, add bourbon, vanilla, and however much sugar you like. Whip for about 30 seconds more or until everything is incorporated.
Brown buttered pistachios
- 200 grams raw pistachios
- 113 grams unsalted butter
- 200 grams sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
Toast pistachios until they’re lightly browned and aromatic. Transfer to a medium bowl.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, continue heating the butter, it will bubble and pop for a bit and then it will stop. Pull off the heat and pour over nuts. Dump in the sugar and salt and stir with a wooden spoon. You are essentially crystallizing the nuts as they cool. Stir every couple minutes or so until the pistachios are fully coated with the sugar. Add more salt to taste.
For the peaches
- 6 or 7 ripe peaches (white, donut, yellow)
Peel, slice or dice peaches and if desired, toss with a little honey and bourbon or vanilla.
On a platter or pedestal, place the cooled meringue, top with peaches, then the cream, and a sprinkling of pistachios.
This recipe is easy to make your own, change up the ratios of fruit to cream depending on your tastes. Best eaten within an hour or so of assembling.
- Aaron’s original name for this dish included all of these words: “with summer squash, squash blossoms, parsley, mint, roasted shallots, aleppo pepper, olive oil, and black pepper yogurt.” But that could intimidate some people, which would be too bad because, if nothing else, everyone should peep this eggplant roasting method. Adorn it however you wish, but start with this technique. ↩