A pandemic has many downsides. And the lobster industry is among the many sectors it’s taken a toll on.
If you’re in the business of selling lobster, you currently have a lot of lobster available and a dearth of wholesale customers, not the ideal situation.
But there can be some bright spots, depending on how you look at it. If you’re a home cook, you’ll be glad to know that lobsters are cheaper than ever — less than $6 a pound at many supermarkets. So, in theory, at these prices, you could be having lobster once or twice a week, not just for special occasions. Look at it this way: The more lobster we eat, the more we support the beleaguered lobster industry.
A well-stuffed lobster roll on a grilled bun, whether you’re a mayonnaise or butter person, is thrilling summer fare. It’s a treat to be served dockside with an ocean view, if possible, but don’t let location deter you.
Or what about steamed lobster, on a picnic table lined with newspaper and the whole family around it, each person shell-cracking and meat-picking and sucking every last sweet morsel from every nook and cranny. To drink? Cold beer.
Then again, a somewhat more structured summer lunch is fun, too. This menu, designed for a small outdoor celebration among friends, skews Provençal. It starts with savory goat cheese toasts, moving on to a showstopping main-course lobster salad and ending with a refreshing fruit bowl splashed with sparkling rosé, accompanied by tender buttery cornmeal cookies.
Best of all, this is a no-cook meal or, rather, a cook-in-advance-and-assemble meal, perfect for summer entertaining. The only real chore is steaming the lobster and removing the meat. But even that can be done ahead.
Herbed Goat Cheese and Roasted Pepper Toasts
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 10 toasts
- 1 large red or yellow bell pepper
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 (8-ounce) log or 2 (4-ounce) logs soft goat cheese
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Fresh thyme sprigs
- Fresh rosemary sprigs
- Red-pepper flakes
- 1 day-old baguette or ciabatta loaf
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
1. Roast the pepper: Place the bell pepper directly over the open flame of a gas burner, under the broiler or on a hot, glowing charcoal grill. Let the skin of the pepper blacken and blister, using tongs to turn the pepper frequently. When completely blackened, after 5 to 8 minutes, transfer to a plate to cool.
2. Using a paring knife, cut pepper in half lengthwise. Cut away seeds and stem and discard. Scrape away the skin and discard. Do not rinse. It’s OK if a few bits of charred skin remain.
3. Cut pepper halves into long strips about 1-inch wide. Season lightly with salt. (The pepper can be prepared up to 24 hours ahead of serving.)
4. Marinate the goat cheese: Slice the goat cheese log into 10 pieces (each about 3/4-inch thick). Place pieces in a single layer on a plate and pour 1/4 cup oil over.
5. Strip leaves from a few thyme sprigs and a rosemary sprig, roughly chop and sprinkle over the cheese. Finish with a bit of freshly ground black pepper, and a small pinch of red-pepper flakes. Cover and set aside. (This can also be done up to 24 hours ahead.)
6. Set oven to 350 degrees. Cut the baguette on a diagonal into 10 slices, each about 1/4-inch thick. (If using ciabatta, cut into similar-size pieces.) Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer, then place in oven for about 5 minutes, until bread is barely toasted.
7. Remove from oven and carefully give each toast a light swipe with the garlic clove. Lay a strip of roasted pepper across each toast to cover. Place a goat cheese round in the center of each toast. Spoon the remaining olive oil from the plate generously over each piece of cheese and any exposed toast.
8. To finish, return to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the bread is nicely browned and the cheese has gotten a bit of color, 8 to 10 minutes. Let toasts cool a bit, then arrange on a platter and serve. (They taste best at room temperature or just barely warm.) Toasts can be baked up to 1 hour ahead and popped in the oven to reheat slightly.
Lobster Salad With Green Beans, Tomatoes and Basil
Total time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings as a main course
- 4 (1 1/2- to 2-pound) live lobsters
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 3 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns and 1 teaspoon allspice berries (optional)
- 1 or 2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 loosely packed cup parsley leaves
- 1 cup green basil leaves, loosely packed, plus 1 small bunch green or purple basil, for garnish
- 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 pound small green beans (haricots verts), briefly cooked and cooled
- 1 1/2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, cut into thick slices
- 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, halved and lightly salted
- 1 pound new potatoes, cooked and cooled
- Arugula or salad leaves, for garnish
- Aioli, optional (see Note)
1. In a large pot or in batches, so as not to crowd them, steam or boil the lobsters in seawater or heavily salted water. Add the bay leaf, peppercorns and allspice berries, if you wish. Depending on their size, cook the lobsters for 13 to 15 minutes. (Ask your fishmonger for recommended cooking time.) Let lobsters cool to room temperature on rimmed baking sheets.
2. Using lobster crackers, kitchen shears or a mallet, crack shells and remove meat. Place the claw meat and knuckle meat in a container. Slice tail meat 1/2-inch thick and add to the container. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
3. Make the vinaigrette: Add garlic, mustard, vinegar, olive oil, parsley and basil leaves to a blender jar or food processor. Whiz until slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Put cherry tomatoes in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper and add 3 tablespoons vinaigrette. Toss to combine. To another small bowl, add green beans and 3 tablespoons vinaigrette. Toss to combine.
5. Arrange lobster meat in the center of a platter or divide among individual plates. Surround with tomato slices, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Spoon cherry tomatoes over the tomato slices. Scatter green beans artfully. Tuck eggs and potatoes here and there (or serve potatoes separately). Finish with arugula or salad leaves.
6. Drizzle remaining vinaigrette over everything. Garnish with the prettiest basil leaves. Serve aioli on the side, if using.
Tip: For a quick aioli, whiz 1 whole egg, 2 teaspoons lemon juice and 2 garlic cloves in a mini food processor, then add 3/4 cup vegetable oil and 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil through the small holes and let it dribble with motor running. Transfer thickened mixture to a serving bowl. Thin with a little cold water as necessary, and add salt to taste.
Peach and Berry Macedonia With Sparkling Rosé
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
- 2 pounds freestone peaches and nectarines, sliced (about 4 cups)
- 1/2 pint blackberries
- 1/2 pint raspberries
- Sugar, to taste
- 2 tablespoons vodka or kirsch
- 1 cup sparkling rosé (or still rosé, if preferred)
- 1 teaspoon fresh lavender blossoms, optional
1. Put sliced fruit in a large glass serving bowl. Top with berries. Sprinkle lightly with about 2 tablespoons sugar, depending on sweetness of fruit. Taste and add more as necessary.
2. Add the vodka and wine. Mix gently with a large spoon. Add lavender blossoms, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour, until well-chilled. Serve in individual glasses, making sure to include lots of the juice in each.
Cornmeal Pine Nut Cookies
Total time: 40 minutes, plus chilling
Yield: 3 dozen
- 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter (1 stick), cut in small chunks
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 whole egg
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (75 grams) fine cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/3 cup (45 grams) pine nuts, plus a handful reserved for garnish
- Powdered sugar, for garnish
1. Using a stand mixer, food processor or a large bowl and handheld mixer, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in lemon zest, almond extract, whole egg and egg yolks until well incorporated.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.
3. Add flour mixture to butter mixture to combine, then fold in pine nuts and mix thoroughly, taking care not to overwork the dough. (The dough will be rather soft and sticky.)
4. Divide dough in two, and, using plastic wrap, form each half into a log about 1 inch in diameter. Refrigerate for 2 hours and up to overnight.
5. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Slice cold dough into 1/2-inch pieces. (Each slice should weigh ½ ounce/15 grams.) Place slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet 2 inches apart. Press 2 or 3 pine nuts into the surface of each slice. Bake 13 to 15 minutes, until barely browned. Dust lightly with powdered sugar.