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Frozen Summer: A Meal from the Freezer

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Chilled Asparagus & Curry Soup

White Corn & Shrimp Rice Salad

Warm Green Beans & Tarragon

Summer Fruit Pie

In this heat, the last thing I feel like doing is being in the kitchen any longer than I have to. Actually, my kitchen has air conditioning so it is not too terrible, but running errands, getting in and out of the car, and going to three or more stores looking for fresh ingredients is not my idea of fun. One stop is all I am willing to make, and preferably only every three or four days.

With this in mind, I am no longer shopping everyday, but relying on the extensive frozen section for “fresh” vegetables and fruits. It always amazes me the variety and quality of this section in the supermarket. I don’t want to seem daft, but I normally skip anything that comes in a package and go straight to the fresh produce area, not even casting a quick glance at the items behind the glass doors. This new frozen trove is a true novelty for me.

Vegetables, fruits and even meats and fish are frozen at their peak of freshness. Some fruits are best used to make sauces, purees and smoothies as they lose their shape in the freezing process, but the flavor is still intact and actually, in some cases it is even enhanced. Coulis, jams and fillings for cakes are great ideas to make with frozen fruits.

Shrimp and other shellfish (of that family like prawns etc..) are frozen the second they come from the ocean and thus keep their shape and flavor. I like frozen scallops, both sea and bay as they cook better than fresh ones. With these a quick sauté in hot butter is all you need to bring out their flavors. Just check that they have not been left frozen too long and have gotten freezer burn.

Slightly frozen NY steaks are perfect for my group, as they can stand the heat from the grill, and delight the males in my family with a very pink center. A spicy piri-piri marinade or rub and a few minutes on each side on a hot grill are all it takes for a perfect summer dinner.

Frozen vegetables get a quick blanch (a hot water bath) before they are frozen and packaged, and often corn, peas, green beans, spinach etc.. just need a quick thaw to go straight into the recipe. How easy is that?

For this meal, I challenged myself and got everything (except condiments and fresh herbs) from the freezer sections. This is fantastic! Not only was grocery shopping a breeze, the temperature of the car dropped by a few degrees and I got home feeling incredibly proud of myself. This summer menu is delicious as is, but for a larger group you can always add more.

My usual rules of health, goodness and ease apply in this summer menu where, even though ingredients are previously frozen, they are prime material and not all processed food. My only splurge was the frozen pie-crust which I usually buy anyway. I was actually tempted by the turkey sausages, but returned the box to its case when I noticed the “other” ingredients. Oh well.

The first course is a very Chilled Asparagus & Curry Soup. I make it using frozen green asparagus spears, onions (yes, they do come frozen and, for our benefit, already diced!) and a bunch of parsley. The underlying flavor is curry powder, which I think compliments the asparagus and gives it a wonderful punch. To make the broth, I am using a very practical package of “vegetable soup mix” that contains all sorts of ingredients and give the soup a fabulous depth of flavor. I served the soup it garnished with chopped fresh parsley to bring out its crisp color.

The main courses are 2 salads all using ingredients from the frozen section. I prefer simple, real flavors and avoid the 200-ingredient salad. Keeping things to a few simple tastes makes more of an impact and keeps meals fresh and quick.White corn, peas, shrimp, rice (yes, it does come frozen) and diced peppers in a light mayonnaise dressing make a perfect summer salad. This White Corn & Shrimp Rice Salad is sensational like this, but you can always toss it with a mayonnaise based dressing for a different occasion.

I thaw all the ingredients separately in a few inches of boiling water and mix them together with the dressing while hot so they absorb all the flavor. Decorated with artichoke hearts (frozen) this presentation is impressive and preparation is at a minimum! What can be better!

Warm French beans are tossed with fresh tarragon and dressed in the same light dressing as the salad to keep your palate appeased and flavors matched. I think that when serving multiple salads it is a good idea to keep dressings cohesive and allow the flavors of the ingredients to shine through.

Dessert takes an all-American flavor when summer fruits are baked in a flaky frozen pie crust. How easy and delicious is it to toss the fruits with a little sugar and bake them in the oven? Use any combination you like, like strawberries, peaches, blueberries or even grapes. And, enhance flavor by adding a tablespoon of brandy, coconut liquor or even Cointreau, an orange liquor to the fruit. Serve this with a scoop of ice cream or heavy cream. Yum! 

Chilled Asparagus & Curry Soup

1 bag (1 lb) frozen vegetable soup mix

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 bag (10 oz) frozen onion, thawed

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 lb frozen asparagus, thawed and chopped

Sea salt & pepper

5 cups of broth (made with the frozen vegetable soup mix)

Half cup parsley, finely chopped

In a stockpot, place 6 cups water and all the contents of the vegetable soup mix. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes to make about 5 cups of broth. Discard solids.

In a clean stockpot, heat the olive oil and onions and sauté until translucent. Add the curry, salt & pepper and cook for 2 minutes to release its aroma. Add the asparagus and stir to coat well. Add the broth, bring to a boil and simmer until the asparagus are soft, about 10 minutes.

In a blender, working in batches puree the asparagus to make a smooth soup.

Return to the pot and keep warm until ready to serve. Just before serving, stir in the parsley.

Serves 6

White Corn & Shrimp Rice Salad

1 lb frozen peas

1 lb frozen white corn

10 oz frozen diced green peppers

2 10oz bags frozen white rice

1 lb frozen jumbo shrimp cooked, tails removed and sliced head to tail

1/2 cup Classic Lemon Mayonnaise Dressing (see below)

10 oz frozen artichoke hearts

Thaw all the ingredients separately in a few inches of boiling water or in the microwave following manufacture’s suggestions.

Place the vegetables, rice and shrimp in a bowl and toss with the Classic Lemon Mayonnaise dressing. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon and decorate with the artichoke hearts, avocado or hard boiled eggs. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

Serves 8

Warm Green Beans & Tarragon

1 lb frozen green beans

1/4 cup Classic Lemon Mayonnaise dressing

Half cup tarragon leaves

Steam the green beans until cooked through and tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving platter. Toss with the lemon dressing and sprinkle tarragon leaves on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6

Classic Lemon Mayonnaise Dressing

Half teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 cup Classic Lemon Mayonnaise

1/2 cup lite sour cream

Salt & Pepper

Makes 1 1/2 cups 

Summer Fruit Pie

1 frozen pie shell package (2 pie shells)

1 lb frozen mixed fruit

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon powder sugar to decorate

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Transfer one frozen pie shell to your own decorative oven-to-table dish, prick with a fork, and bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until slightly golden.

In a bowl, toss the fruit with the sugar and spoon into the semi-baked shell. Top with the second shell and press the sides to seal. Make decorative slits on the top to allow for steam to escape and dot with butter. Bake in the oven until the top is golden brown. Decorate with powder sugar.

Serves 8

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