It’s hot and sticky, like only the Chesapeake region can be in July and August. Appetites are down, cool white wine is reached for over red. I like to put myself in the shoes of the customer: What do I want to eat this time of year? When we match these desires to available produce, you begin to get an idea of what I call fine-tuning the menu to the environment. Good menu development always takes into account the availability of produce, seasonality, price and inspiration.
These cold dishes, four of my favorites that are unthinkable in winter, become summer stars- their flavors are clean, bright and not cloyingly filling. The tuna tartare is inspired by Mediterranean flavors; it’s almost like a niçoise salad. The crab salad, lighter than the traditional mayonnaise-bound crab cake, is inspired by a recent trip to Australia. The tomato is just plain incredible- if you can get your hands on a good-tasting variety. And the beef tartare is a flavorsome Asian twist on a French classic. The ingredients for these dishes have to be in their prime- nothing old and tired, the fresher the better. Use farmers’ markets and local seafood markets for the freshest selections.
These delicious dishes may not require cooking, but good kitchen hygiene is essential. Use latex gloves to prevent bacteria from your hands from reaching the raw food, and constantly clean the cutting board and knife. Rinse both in diluted bleach water- the professional method, but simple, cheap and effective- between cutting raw meat and vegetables (a plain kitchen towel rinsed in bleach water can be repeatedly used to wipe everything down, including kitchen counters).
So be cool, and enjoy trying your hand at these cold stunners.