What is it about summer entertaining that makes us yearn for alfresco dining with everyone we know or have ever met? Warm summer nights. Long days of sunshine. Trees at their peak of fullness, a soft whisper of a breeze ruffling the leaves for a moment. Informal, comfortable clothes and conversation over large platters of food and bottles of wine that get passed around the table. Dining like this fosters a feeling of family, community, and friendship. And summertime.
Last Friday morning, we jumped in the car and drove back up to Tahoe. We were having friends to dinner, and I had only started to wrap my brain around what I would make. No worries, I kept thinking all week, it’s a casual, summer dinner with friends on the back deck of our new condo. Plenty of time to plan.
We got going ahead of the traffic, but when I started to actually estimate how much time I would have to hit the grocery store, and make dinner and dessert I was coming up with only two hours. And I didn’t know yet what I would make. So we stopped at a popular market, Ikeda’s, at the halfway mark for us in Auburn to see what was fresh. A lot of Ikeda’s produce is supplied by their own nearby farm – some of which they sell, and some of which they fold into pies and cobblers you can buy, still warm from their ovens, and it’s worth a stop just for that.
My only goal, in planning the menu during the drive, was to make something filling without being heavy that wouldn’t tie me to the kitchen. Something I could make in advance, and just have sit while we relaxed over light appetizers and a chilled white wine. When I saw all the fresh corn, tomatoes, zucchini, and watermelon, I knew what I would make: a summertime corn stew inspired by this one I saw on Food52 a couple of years ago, with a watermelon and tomato salad. And as a watched one of the food runners bring some hot, fresh pies and cobblers from the oven, I saw dessert – Wild Blackberry Cobbler – and picked up some vanilla frozen yogurt to go with it. The entire menu worked so well, this may become my new “go-to” menu for summertime entertaining.
Summertime Corn Stew with Shrimp and Clams
- 1 pound bacon, preferably smoked, sliced into 1/4″ lardons
- 2 shallots, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 serrano pepper, seeded and minced
- 4 – 5 teaspoons sweet smokey paprika, like Hungarian paprika
- 8 ears fresh, sweet white corn, shucked
- 5 small red potatoes, cut into large cubes
- 1 large green, summer zucchini, halved lengthwise, and sliced into 1/4″ pieces
- 1 pint yellow, orange or red grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 lime
- 1/4 cup Rum
- 16 littleneck clams, scrubbed
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Set a large heavy pot over medium high heat, and add the lardons. Fry until crispy.
While the bacon is frying, slice the corn kernels from the cobs and set aside.
Start a small pot of water to boil and add the cut potatoes. Simmer until just tender. Drain and set aside.
When the bacon is crispy, add the shallots, onion, serrano and paprika. Cook until the onion is soft. Add the corn, zucchini and tomatoes. Cover the pot with a lid, reduce the heat to medium-low, and allow to simmer for a couple of minutes. The tomatoes should be soft and the corn still al dente.
Stir in the juice from the lime, and the Rum. Cook for an additional minute. Remove from the heat and cover with a lid to keep warm while you prepare the seafood.
Place the clams in a pot with 1/4 cup of water over medium – high heat, covered with a lid. Cook the clams until the shells have all opened, about 10 minutes, and discard any that do not open. Add the clams to the corn stew.
Lightly salt and pepper the shrimp. Place a sauté pan over medium – high heat, add the olive oil. When hot, add the shrimp and sauté for 2 minutes, then flip and cook for another minute. Add to the corn stew.
Serve with garlic bread and a salad. It’s great warm or at room temperature.