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Summer's Best For Dinner

Matthew Lake, the executive chef at "Areca" in Oyster Bay, on Long Island, N.Y., is known for his eclectic cooking style.

Chef Lake meets The Saturday Early Show's Chef on a Shoestring challenge by making the perfect summer meal using the best that summer has to offer for under $30.

The Menu:
Roasted Tomato "Tart" with Green Beans and Roasted Corn Vinaigrette
Pan Roast of Cod with Potato Pepper Hash and Basil Aioli
Baked Meringue with Ginger Custard and Warm Summer Plums

Poblano chile pepper: A dark green chile with a rich flavor that varies from mild to snappy. The darkest poblanos have the richest flavor. This chile is about 2 1/2 to 3 inches wide and 4 to 5 inches long -- tapering from top to bottom in a triangular shape. The very best poblanos are found in central Mexico, though they are now also grown in the u.s. southwest. Their peak season is summer and early fall.

Cod: this popular saltwater fish can range from 1-1/2 pounds to 100 pounds and comes from the Pacific and North Atlantic oceans. Cod has a mild flavor. The meat is white, lean, and firm. It is available year-round and comes whole or in large pieces.

Plum: there are hundreds of plum varieties cultivated throughout the world. All grow in clusters, have smooth, deeply colored skin and a center pit. Plums can range in shape from oval to round and in size from 1 to 3 inches in diameter. Their color can be yellow, green, red, purple, indigo blue, and almost anything in between. Fresh plums are available from May to late October. Choose firm plums that give slightly to palm pressure. Avoid those with skin blemishes such as cracks, soft spots, or brown discolorations -- the latter indicates sunburn. Very firm plums may be stored at room temperature until slightly soft. Refrigerate ripe plums in a plastic bag for up to 4 days.

Aioli: A strongly flavored garlic, mayonnaise from the Provence region of southern France. It's a popular accompaniment for fish, meats, and vegetables.

The Recipes:

Roasted Tomato "Tart" with Green Beans and Roasted Corn Vinaigrette
Serves 4

2 large beefsteak tomatoes
¼ pound fresh green beans
2 ears of corn on the cob
1 shallot, minced
½ cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup olive oil
1 bunch chives, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Slice each tomato into two very thick slices. Lightly coat baking sheet with olive oil; place tomato slices on sheet. Sprinkle tops of tomato slices with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven until lightly browned, dehydrated and firm around the edges. Remove from the oven and hold at room temperature.
  2. Clean and cut the green beans into 1-inch segments on a bias. Blanch the green beans in salted boiling water, for about a minute or only until they turn bright green. Remove from the water and shock in an ice bath to cease cooking. Cool beans in refrigerator.
  3. Shuck and clean ears of corn. Remove corn from the cob. Heat a sauté pan over high heat until very hot; do not add oil. Add corn and cook quickly, caramelizing the outside of the kernels. Remove from pan and cool to room temperature. Place half of the corn with the vinegar in a blender and puree. Slowly add the rest of the olive oil. Remove from blender and add the rest of the corn and chopped chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. To serve, place a slice of roasted tomato in the center of each plate. Toss the green beans with a little of the corn vinaigrette and place a quarter of the green beans in the center of each tomato. Drizzle one tablespoon of the vinaigrette on each plate.

Pan Roast of Cod with Potato Pepper Hash and Basil Aioli
Serves 4

2 pounds cod filet, skin removed
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound waxy potatoes, washed and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 Poblano pepper, diced
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
1 bunch fresh basil
1 bunch thyme
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Add half of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil to a saute pan. Heat until the butter is lightly browned. Add potatoes, cooking until lightly browned, but still firm. Add the shallot and cook for another two minutes. Add the peppers and continue to saute for one minute. Add the rest of the butter and the water. Add half a bunch of fresh basil leaves, lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a blender, combine the egg yolk, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Turn on blender and slowly add oil. Add the rest of the basil and adjust the consistency with water, if necessary. Remove from blender and reserve.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a saute pan that will accommodate all of the filets. Season the fish with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, add cod and cook until the filets are a crisp, golden brown. Turn filets over and repeat. Remove from heat.
  4. Place a quarter of the hash on each of four large plates. Top with the cod. Baste the cod with the liquid that has accumulated in the hash pan. Drizzle the top of the cod with the aioli and serve.

Baked Meringue with Ginger Custard and Warm Summer Plums
Serves 4

Ingredients for Meringue:
1 cup of egg whites (save yolks for custard filling)
1 pound of powdered sugar

Ingredients for Custard Filling:
2 1/2 cups half and half
4 yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Ingredients for Warm plums:
1 pound ripe seasonal red plums
1-2 cups sugar, to taste
zest and juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons butter


  1. Meringue: In a small Kitchen Aid bowl, combine egg whites with powdered sugar. Place the bowl over a water bath, stirring frequently. When mixture is very warm, place bowl on mixer and whip to stiff peaks (this will take some time). Pipe 2-1/2 disks with pencil tip on parchment paper and dry out meringues in a low oven until crispy. For each person, you will need three disks.
  2. For filling: Bring half and half, one half cup of sugar, vanilla extract, and chopped ginger to a boil and remove from heat. Let the mixture steep for about one hour then strain though a fine china cap or cheesecloth. Return to heat in heavy bottom pan. In a separate mixing bowl, combine yolks, remaining sugar, and cornstarch, whisking until smooth. Carefully temper yolk mixture with heavy cream and bring to a light boil. Remove from heat and whisk together until mixture is smooth. Pour into separate pan and cover with plastic wrap to prevent film from forming. Refrigerate until stiff.
  3. For plums: Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add sliced plums and sugar. Add both zests and juice and cook until plums are tender. Set aside.
  4. To assemble dust meringues with powdered sugar and place on plate. Pipe a ring of ginger cream in the shape of an "O" inside meringue. In the center of cream, place a few sautéed plums and repeat whole meringue again, stacking the two. Finish with a plain dusted meringue. Decorate plate with remaining plum and ginger juice. Garnish with mint.