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The Sugar And Spice of Summer

Cookbook author Debra Ponzek visited The Saturday Early Show to demonstrate that you can throw a great party without spending all your time in the kitchen.

Debra Ponzek lives in Connecticut with her family. Her latest cookbook, "The Summer House Cookbook," features recipes for the grill, as well as delicious fruity drinks and sweets. But, she says, don't expect to spend a lot of your time preparing the meals.

Her previous book is "French Food America Accent." She has been featured in the New York Times, Food and Wine, and Redbook. She was also the chef at New York's Montrachet.

Invited to take the Chef On A Shoestring challenge to create a three-course meal for four for $30 or less, Ponzek drew up the following menu: Gazpacho, Ginger Lime-Marinated Flank Steak; Grilled Corn in the Husk with Chipotle Butter; and for dessert, Luscious Lemon Cake.


Summer's Best Gazpacho
Serves 4
1 small pepper, cored, seeds and ribs removed, cut into medium dice
3/4 cucumber, peeled, trimmed and cut into medium dice
1 small red onion, cut into medium dice
1 celery stalk, split lengthwise and cut into medium dice
5 basil leaves, sliced
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
3 cups tomato juice
1/4 to 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In a medium non-reactive bowl, mix all of the ingredients together. Working in batches and using a blender or food processor, pulse the mixture once or twice so that it is blended but the vegetables still have texture. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Transfer to a glass bowl or plastic container and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Ginger Lime-Marinated Flank Steak
Serves 4

Soy Ginger and Lime Marinade
2 limes
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 pound ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced scallions, white and green parts
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the whole limes on a small baking tray and roast for 10 to 12 minutes (until the skins have softened). Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, ginger, scallions and honey. When the limes have cooled, cut them in half and squeeze to extract as much juice as possible. Stir the lime juice into the soy mixture until well blended.

1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 pounds flank steak

In a shallow dish, combine the garlic, oil and the marinade. Place the steak in the dish and turn to coat both sides of the meat. Spoon a few tablespoons of the marinade on top of the steak, cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Marinate the steak for at least 6 hours, turning the meat over once.

Prepare a medium-hot grill.

Grill the steak for 7 to 8 minutes on each side for medium rare.

Remove the flank steak from the grill and let it rest for 5 minutes. To serve, slice the steak on the bias into 1/4-inch thick slices.

Grilled Corn in the Husk
Serves 4
4 ears corn
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 medium canned chipotle pepper in adobo

Prepare a medium hot grill. Peel the husks down the cobs without removing them. Pull off the silk and replace the husks. Place the corn on the grill and cook for a total of 10-12 minutes or until tender, turning the ears every few minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the chipotle butter.

Chipotle Butter
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 large canned chipotle pepper in adobo

Ponzek says the hot chipotle pepper in adobo has a smoky, sweet, almost chocolate flavor that is outstanding with grilled corn.

In a food processor or blender, blend the butter and chipotle pepper in adobo until smooth. Scrape from the bowl onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into logs or pack into ramekins and chill until ready to serve.

Luscious Lemon Cake
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla or lemon extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter with the sugar, scraping the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well. Stir in the lemon zest and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring until well incorporated. Stir in the sour cream and blend well.

Grease a round 9-inch baking pan with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Spoon the butter into the pan and place it on a rack in the middle of the oven. Bake the cake for 30 to 40 minutes (until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean).

Optional Topping for the Lemon Cake:

Strawberry Basil Compote
Makes 3/4 cup

Ponzek says the leftover from the strawberry basil compote is great on ice cream or toast.

1/4 cup orange juice
14 strawberries, stems removed and cut in half
9 basil leaves
3/4 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 mint leaves, chopped

In a medium non-reactive saucepan, bring the orange juice, strawberries, basil, lemon zest and honey to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the juice is thick and syrupy (about 10 minutes). Stir in the vinegar, remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in the chopped mint and serve.