No cookbook can be more timely right now than Judith Olney's Summer Food (Atheneum, New York, $10.), a unique collection of recipes intended for warm summer afternoons and evenings.
Many brief and easy recipes are contained in the book despite the fact that it is directed to the more advanced cook.
The aesthetic harmony of summer meals depends on the attention given to color , temperature, and flavor, Ms. Olney believes. Bright salads, unsauced vegetables, lightly garnished meats, and shining glazes on breads and tarts all reflect the use of light, color, and texture in her dishes.
It is assumed that the serious cook will take the time necessary to search out the very best ingredients available, and will spend the time required in preparation, essentials for any really fine cooking.
Throughout the book there are recipes for vegetables that could be salads, main courses that could be first courses, and salads that might as well be vegetables, giving a pleasant variety of choices.
Whether your aim is to entertain a small group or to serve an intimate dinner for two, this slim volume will help you achieve the unexpected.
Familiar recipes take on a new look with this author's creative flair. Eggplant is souffleed and presented in the shell. Herb flowers strewn over omelets, frittatas, and salads create an unusual visual surprise. Encouragement and directions are given on growing your own herbs. Potato Soup with Tomato and Basil 3 large tomatoes 2 carrots, scraped and sliced thin Pinch of sugar Salt and pepper 2 cups homemade chicken stock 4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced 1 large onion, sliced 1 clove garlic, crushed 1 cup whipping cream Basil leaves
To make tomato puree, stem tomatoes, cut in half crosswise, squeeze out seeds and reserve juice. Chop tomatoes fine and place in a pan with carrots, sugar, and seasoning. Simmer carrots until soft, adding a bit of reserved tomato juice if necessary to keep pulp from sticking. Pass through a sieve and chill.
Put stock, potatoes, onion, and garlic in a saucepan. Simmer until potatoes are tender and onion soft. Puree in blender or food processor. Add cream, season to taste and chill.
Swirl the tomato puree into the chilled potato soup. Sprinkle with finely torn basil leaves. Serves 4.
This salad must be made with the tenderest of garden fresh beans. They should be slender and about three inches long -- older, tougher beans simply will not do. Green Bean and Shrimp Salad 1 pound unshelled shrimp 1 medium onion, chopped 1 clove garlic, minced 2 small carrots, chopped 2 tablespoons chopped parsley Half a bay leaf Pinch of thyme 4 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 cup water 1 pound green beans Boston lettuce 6 firm white mushrooms, sliced thin 6 lemon wedges 2 tablespoons fine-chopped parsley and chives, mixed Salt and pepper Juice of 1 lemon 1/2 cup cream
Rinse and dry shrimp. Make a mirepoix by cooking onion, garlic, carrots, herbs, and olive oil for 25 minutes over gentle heat, stirring frequently and making sure the vegetables don't brown. Turn up heat, add water and shrimp, and cook until shrimp are fully pink. Set aside and when cool, shell and devein shrimp.
Place the mirepoix and shrimp peelings in a sieve and press to extract juices. This will form the base of the dressing. Measure, and if the amount exceeds 4 tablespoons, reduce over high heat to that amount.
String beans. Plunge them into rapidly boiling, well-salted water. Cover and return to a boil as soon as possible. Taste beans until they are cooked to the still-crisp, al dente stage. Drain and refresh them immediately under cold water.
Arrange salad on individual plates by placing a leaf or two of lettuce as a base. Arrange green beans, aligned in the same direction, on top. Put shrimp in the center and garnish with thin ray mushroom slices. Add a lemon wedge on the side.
For salad dressing, mix reduced cooking juices, parsley and chives, seasoning and lemon juice. Add approximately 1/2 cup of cream, tasting until a well-seasoned but delicate dressing is formed. Pour over salads.
For convenience: cook, peel and shell shrimp the day before. Reduce juices. The salad should be served lukewarm or cool but not cold. Serv es 6.