You know the whole 'pretending I’m cooking when I’m really not' thing? I finally realized that I inherited this gene from my mother. Come summer time, when things got too hot to cook, my mother would make what she called a ‘summer dinner.’ My sisters and I loved this dinner. Not because it was reliably full of much loved favorites. But exactly because it wasn’t.
‘Summer dinner’ was more a frame of mind, than a recipe or menu. It was, essentially, not cooking when appearing to be doing so. Fresh summer vegetables featured prominently: tomato and onion salad and sliced cucumbers with vinegar showed up regularly. And there would always be something from a can or jar. You know, exotic things, like hearts of palm or Vienna sausages.
But the best parts of the meal were the stuffed things. Celery with pimento cream cheese spread into the nook. Cherry tomatoes hollowed out and filled with bits of tuna salad.
My favorite part of the meal was one dish that actually involved a bit more cooking than simply washing, peeling or opening a can.
Deviled eggs. They couldn’t be easier, but for some reason they were not something we had so often. They were special occasion treats. And so they made the entire idea of ‘summer dinner’ seem like more of an event, rather than something my mom obviously threw together when she didn’t feel like cooking.
If we didn’t have them that often when I was growing up, these days years go by when I totally forget about them. They are so not an Italian thing.
But last week Marisa, my neighbor here in Umbria, gave me a basket full of freshly laid eggs. And while a frittata would usually have been my go to eggy solution, the heat wave we are currently
That’s when I remembered summer dinners.
Even though I didn’t have any celery to stuff, nor did I have a can of Vienna sausages to open, I did manage to put together a platter of slice tomatoes and a cucumber salad.
And deviled eggs, of course.
The one essential element that was missing from my mother's original recipe was the sprinkling of paprika atop the eggs. But since my mom probably still has the same jar of paprika that she was using in 1978, I guess I could have made more of an effort for authenticity.
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Bring a pot of water to boil, and gently lower the room temperature eggs into the water.
Boil for 10 to 12 minutes.
Take eggs out of water, and as soon as they are cool enough to handle, peel.
Carefully cut the eggs in half, length wise. Pop out the yolk, without damaging the white.
Place the yolks in a bowl, along with the mustard and mayo. Blend well with a fork, and season with salt and pepper.
Distribute the egg yolks back into the whites.
If you have some really old tasteless paprika you can use that and recreate my mom’s original recipe. Otherwise top with a bit of chive or basil.