For Lisa Christine Summerville, growing up in an Italian family meant that homemade meals were a way of life.
They still are.
The Plum Island resident loves to share her culinary creations with friends and family. A recent dinner party at her home featured an impressive spread including Italian wedding soup, pesto, garlic bread, eggplant parmigiana, white pizza with mushrooms and shrimp cocktail “the Italian way.”
“The Italian way” involves cooking jumbo shrimp in a broth of water, wine, celery, onion, shallots, salt and pepper and then cooling the mixture down in a bowl of ice.
“Once you have it this way, you can’t have it in a restaurant,” said Summerville, who also makes her own cocktail sauce for the appetizer.
In fact, she likes to make whatever she can from scratch, including her own pasta and pizza dough, a tradition that stretches back to childhood Saturday mornings with her Catholic family in Pennsylvania.
Her tomato sauce is a 21/2-day endeavor, “just to get it exactly how I want it.” She uses sausage and an entire bottle of wine.
“People from Italy tell me my sauce is the same or even better than their mother’s,” she said.
While Italian food is her specialty, Summerville says she can make anything and often replicates dishes she has at restaurants.
“I feel like I can taste food and then come home and make it the same or better,” she said. “Sometimes you just have an instinct about things.”
Though she is largely self-taught and has created some of her best dishes by experimenting, Summerville has also honed her skills by studying pasta making and French sauces at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and through a 2008 trip to Italy, where she learned from chef Franco Burrello.
Shortly after moving to Newburyport in 2001, Summerville started a food and wine club called Mes Amis, which raised money for the Newburyport Maritime Society and the Newburyport Art Association. It’s something she’s hoping to organize again in the future. She has also taught cooking classes, including one called “Truffle Love” for Stonewall Kitchen last fall.
Most recently, she has launched Gourmet Girl-by-the-Sea, a private chef company that she plans to run in addition to her “day job” at her consulting firm, Bateau Media.
“I just want to go to people’s homes and cook for them there,” she said.
In the meantime, she continues to share the fruits of her labor with loved ones like boyfriend Scott Sicotte, who works at 17 State Street Cafe but lets Summerville handle most of the cooking at home, and friend Keith Allen, a frequent dinner guest.
“She’s a fabulous cook,” Allen said. “I’m over here a lot. I should get a reserved parking spot out front.”
“I love entertaining, I love having people in my home,” Summerville said. “Cooking calms me down. It’s my creative outlet.”
Another big fan? Her beloved Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, Camden, who gets to gobble up the scraps that fall on the floor.
We’re looking to share the recipes and secrets of amateur cooks who have a knack in the kitchen and consistently amaze their family and friends with their culinary skills. If you know a great cook or are one yourself, email Ann Reily at email@example.com.
Shrimp cocktail (the Italian way)
1/2 an onion, peeled and chopped
Shallots (about 4, peeled and chopped)
1 cup of white wine (your favorite)
Extra-jumbo shrimp — uncooked, peeled and deveined
2 trays of ice cubes
Boil water in a medium-size pan with a lid (about three-quarters full depending on how many shrimp you are cooking).
Add chopped celery, onion and shallots to your taste, and add salt and pepper.
Turn heat to medium/low and let mixture stew for a while to capture all the flavors — maybe 10 minutes. Add wine, and let it come together for another 5 minutes.
Add shrimp, and cook on medium in mixture for about three minutes — do not overcook!
Pour mixture with shrimp into a strainer. Then add mixture and shrimp to a large stainless-steel bowl with ice cubes. Using tongs, fold the ice cubes over the shrimp while hot. At about the time the ice is melted, the shrimp will be cooled down.
Mix together ketchup, horseradish and lemon to your liking and serve with the shrimp.
Cucumber Tomato Gazpacho
1 large cucumber (cut into cubes)
1/2 container of cherry tomatoes (cut into halves)
Honey, preferably local
Garlic (2 cloves)
Add all the ingredients except lemon and honey into blender; blend until smooth.
Squeeze juice from lemon, and add to blended mixture. Add one good drizzle of honey.
Blend again; refrigerate until chilled. Serve with a fresh basil leaf for garnish.
Bruschetta of Organic Whole-Wheat Flour,Organic Sheep’s Ricotta and Organic White Truffle Honey
Rustic whole-wheat bread (can use batard, ciabatta, focaccia or baguette)
Coarse sea salt
Fresh organic sheep’s milk ricotta cheese (from local cheese store vs. grocery), room temperature
Organic white truffle honey
Microgreens for garnish (optional)
Cut bread into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices. Set grill or grill pan to medium heat.
Toast bread slices on both sides. Spoon 1 tablespoon of ricotta on bruschetta as taste desires. Sprinkle some sea salt on top of the ricotta.
Drizzle white truffle honey as taste desires; you want it to have a nice, delicate balance. Garnish with microgreens
Pan-seared Sea Scallops with Crispy Pancetta and Organic Black Truffle Butter
Day boat scallops (preferred) — 3 per person
Organic black truffle butter
Extra-virgin olive oil
Cut pancetta into 1/4-inch dice slices. Heat saute pan until hot.
Drizzle olive oil, and heat until oil ribbons. Cook pancetta until crispy, drain in strainer or paper towels, and set aside.
In new pan, drizzle olive oil and heat until oil ribbons. Add scallops and sear. Cook 80 percent on one side until caramelized, turn over and cook briefly, then remove from heat.
Plate with garnish of arugula and then 1 tablespoon of pancetta. Dollop 1/8 teaspoon of black truffle butter on each scallop. The butter will melt down the side of the scallops.