Summer Cooking with Fanny Slater

Fresh recipes from Fanny Slater

by Fanny Slater
photographs by Andrew Sherman

As I pondered writing a summer food story for this magazine, I couldn’t ignore the pink elephant in the room. Not an actual elephant (he only stops by on Tuesdays), but another upcoming deadline that was staring me in the face: I had to develop recipes for a Napa Valley-based winery that specializes in rosé. Now, I’m less a fancy pink-wine drinker than I am a ripped jean shorts, T-shirt, and beer-in-the-back-pocket kind of gal. But it was time to step up to the plate. Or glass, in this case. Because it occurred to me that these two missions could intertwine. One job required me to produce dazzling, vibrant recipes, and the other, well, asked that I do the same thing.

So, as a pregame for my rosé-xtravaganza, I decided to jump in headfirst with my shades on and my fork ready. Sure, I’ll drink wine and eat food all at once and then write about it. I love my job.

The result: three fresh and easy summer recipes that pair just as deliciously with a crisp glass of rosé as they do with that beer in your back pocket.

Summer cooking

There are a bazillion reasons why summer is the king of all seasons. For those of us who work, cook, and live by the farm-to-table mentality, these steamy months are ideal for yielding some of the most vivid produce that the earth has to offer.

Take herbs for example. Sure, you can count on supermarket chains to carry leafy beauties like basil year-round, but it’s so easy to grow your own, and far more satisfying to see ingredients sprout in front of your very eyes. I assume it’s similar to giving birth, but what do I know? I have two cats.

Speaking of things with tails, I have shrimp on the brain. Not only are these protein-packed nuggets quick to cook, but they are tremendously versatile. And thanks to their built-in thermometer (did you know that when shrimp curl into a C they’re cooked, and that when they go full-circle into an O they’re overcooked?), you can broil, boil, bake, or sauté them like a pro within minutes.

For my first crave-worthy appetizer, head to the grill. Who needs to crank up the inside burners when there’s perfectly good charcoal (and fruity cocktails) outside? I bathe my shrimp in a dreamy garlic oil, toss them on the fire, and call it a day. Well, not really. The star of the show is actually the earthy oregano and lemon pesto butter that makes this seafood totally dunk-worthy. That’s right: I said pesto and butter in the same sentence. Combine them and you’ve got yourself a sauce to be reckoned with. I suggest freshly picked oregano pesto, as its warm, pungent aroma pairs epically with juicy shrimp.





Next stop: hummus. Don’t worry, chickpea-haters, this one’s for you. I turn up the beet in this tahini-rich snack so it’s as pretty as it is delicious. Beets are harvested from summer to fall, can stick around in your fridge for months, and are chock-full of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. For a boost of protein, throw some canned chickpeas into the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients. Just make sure to remove their skins first, as that aids in the method of creating a luscious, velvety consistency.

A dip that relies on beets is great to have on hand any time of year, but in these warmer months, when fresh vegetables for crudités are so easy to find – consider rainbow carrots, cucumbers, and crunchy peppers – it’s particularly delicious. Still, for the full comfort food experience of hummus, don’t pass up adding fluffy, slightly warmed pita bread to the platter.

Carpaccio is a funny word. It’s also a dish that doesn’t have to be constructed of meat or fish, as your standard Google search might suggest. Essentially, it’s this or that delicious ingredient sliced thin, layered up, and served as a starter. Let’s talk watermelon radishes. With their gloriously pinky hue and crisp, peppery bite, they are a supreme candidate to be the star of a stunning dish with a seasonal (and vegetarian) twist.

As with any carpaccio, some of the magic is in the slicing. While working as a helping hand in a kitchen several summers ago, I once heard the chef say that an ingredient can taste different based on the way it’s sliced. He was right. If your knife skills are on point, you don’t necessarily need a mandolin to achieve the expertly thin slivers that do this dish justice. However, it must be said that a mandolin can transform a multitude of modest dishes into majestic masterpieces. Try thin-sliced Idaho potatoes for Dauphinoise potatoes (a fancy name for slow-cooked starches swimming in garlic and cream), or paper-thin onions soaked in vinegar to top your tacos. There’s something remarkable about how this (slightly dangerous – watch your fingers!) simple tool can up your kitchen game a few notches.

In my luminous watermelon carpaccio, I pair sharp notes with sassy ones, and then drop a flavor bomb of oniony chives and tangy goat cheese. Silky, fanned out avocado slices not only mirror the green shades of the radishes’ exterior, but they add a zing of creaminess and color.

With food that looks this good and this perfect for the season, you’ll wonder why summer isn’t declared a national holiday – every day.

Watermelon radish carpaccio with tangerine-honey vinaigrette

4 large watermelon radishes, outer layer peeled and thinly sliced into rounds with a mandolin
Kosher salt
Juice of 1 tangerine
1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces microgreens (or substitute another delicate green like sunflower sprouts or pea shoots)
1 avocado, quartered and then fanned out into thin slices
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Place the radish rounds into a colander in the sink and season with salt. Allow radishes to sit for 20 minutes, rinse, and then pat dry. In a small bowl, add the tangerine juice, chives, honey, mustard, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. About a tablespoon at a time, whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is thick and emulsified. In a large bowl, toss the radishes with half of the vinaigrette and then arrange them on the plates. Garnish each salad with the microgreens, sliced avocado, and crumbled goat cheese. Spoon the remaining vinaigrette over each of the plates and then garnish with cracked pepper. Serves 4

Garlicky grilled shrimp with oregano and lemon pesto butter

1/2 cup olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, smashed with the flat side of your knife but still intact
24 raw jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails on
Wooden skewers soaked in water
Coarse salt and black pepper
Lemon wedges, for garnish
Oregano and lemon pesto butter (recipe below)

In a small saucepot, heat the oil over medium-low heat and add the smashed garlic. Cook until the garlic is golden brown on both sides, and then remove each clove with a slotted spoon. Cool the oil to room temperature and divide into two portions. Preheat a grill or grill pan over high heat. Butterfly the shrimp by making a slit in them lengthwise. Thread the shrimp onto skewers and then brush them using the first bowl of garlic oil and season generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill the shrimp until opaque, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Using the second bowl of garlic oil, brush the cooked shrimp again and then arrange the skewers onto a platter. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve ramekins of the Oregano and Lemon Pesto Butter alongside for dipping. Serves 4

Oregano and lemon pesto butter

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
2 small cloves garlic
Coarse salt and cracked black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons honey
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted over low heat

In a dry small skillet, toast the pumpkin seeds over medium-low heat, tossing frequently, until lightly golden and very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Immediately remove from the pan and transfer to a bowl to stop the cooking process. In a food processor, pulse the pumpkin seeds, garlic, and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper until the seeds are broken down. Add the parmesan, oregano, basil, honey, and lemon zest and juice and pulse until thoroughly combined. With the motor running, stream in the olive oil a little bit at a time until the pesto is velvety.

Place the pesto in deep bowl and slowly whisk in the melted butter until thoroughly combined. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Makes about 2 cups

Rosemary and roasted garlic beet hummus

1 pound red beets, scrubbed
Small bunch fresh rosemary
3 large cloves roasted garlic (recipe below)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons tahini
2 teaspoons honey
Kosher salt
Fresh vegetables and warmed pita bread, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the beets into a heavy-bottomed, oven-proof pan (like a cast iron) with the rosemary sprigs and cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover, and then place the entire pan into the oven. Cook until the beets are very tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove the beets from the pan and allow them to cool. Slide the skins off and rough chop.

In a food processor, combine the beets, roasted garlic, coriander, cumin, lemon juice, and honey and pulse until blended. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil a little bit at a time until the mixture is silky and smooth. Transfer to a bowl, whisk in the tahini, and season to taste with salt. Refrigerate until lightly chilled and serve with the sliced vegetables and pita bread. Makes about 2 cups

Roasted Garlic

1 head garlic
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice off the very top of the garlic head so that the cloves are exposed. Drizzle the cloves with the oil and sprinkle with the salt. Wrap the entire head in foil and bake until golden and tender, 50 to 55 minutes. To pop out the cloves, gently squeeze them out of their shells.

Fanny is a home-taught food enthusiast with a passion for storytelling and won Rachael Ray’s Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014. Her cookbook, Orange, Lavender & Figs: Deliciously Different Recipes from a Passionate Eater is available online and anywhere books are sold. Her Wilmington-based company Fanfare specializes in food television, food writing, clever product-promoting videos for recipe development partners, public speaking, blogging, and sassy social media eats. Most recently, she’s landed a job as host on Food Network’s new series Kitchen Sink, airing fall 2017.