Story by Pamela A. Keene | Photography by David Barnes
When the north Florida heat and humidity of July settled in, my mom had a plan: Prepare light meals and small bites of foods that required little cooking. She’d head to the closest roadside stand and come back with fixings for cold soups, fruit dishes or delightful appetizers to curb our appetites without slowing us down.
These days, the heat of North Georgia in the dead of summer can be just as challenging. The simple act of heating up the stove or oven can significantly raise the temperature in your house and cause your air conditioner to work overtime. And the thought of eating a heavy meal — you get the picture.
“Appetizers and light meals made with fresh ingredients are the perfect choice for summer,” says Scott Dixon, owner of Scott’s Downtown just off the Gainesville square. “We have an extensive menu of appetizers in the summer, dishes that people can order and share. It’s the ideal way to enjoy a variety of flavors and tastes.”
Dixon says that the tuna and crab tower is one of most-requested summer appetizers. “There are so many choices for fresh seafood in the summer and their salty taste makes an excellent complement to other foods.”
The fresh colors and textures of summer fruits and vegetables can make appetizers more appealing. “We do more than enjoy food with our taste buds,” he says. “Our first impression of what we eat is visual. A colorful presentation is just the indicator of what’s to come.”
Scott’s serves several appetizers that are easy to replicate at home. From gazpacho, prosciutto-wrapped fruit pieces, to shrimp or crab cocktails garnished with fruit or avocados, these simple-to-prepare recipes can be the hit of your next outdoor party on the deck.
As a bonus, Scott recommends serving his Signature Summer Cocktail. “It’s an excellent accompaniment for a colorful selection of appetizers.”
Makes 24 pieces
1/4 pound Prosciutto di Parma Ham, very thinly sliced
24 1 inch cubes of cantaloupe, honey dew, or other melon or a mix of all
24 black berries, blue berries, green or red seedless grapes (Use all of one or mix)
24 fresh mint leaves
Slice on your slicer or have Prosciutto sliced very thinly at the deli.
Slice larger slices into 2 to 3 smaller slices to wrap around your melon cube leaving the side of melon exposed.
Top with a fresh mint leaf, blackberry, grape or blueberry then skewer with a pick to hold it all together.
Arrange on serving platter and refrigerate or serve immediately.
Created by Scott’s Executive Sous Chef John Dinzole
10 nice-sized tomatoes, cored, medium diced
3 large English cucumbers, medium diced
¾ cup orange bell pepper, seeded, small diced
¾ cup yellow bell pepper, seeded, small diced
½ cup poblano pepper, seeded, small diced
1 large red onion, small diced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems removed, minced
3 limes, juiced
3 quarts tomato juice
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, red onion and salt and pepper mix, (1 ½ teaspoon) in a large mixing bowl. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
Combine with all remaining ingredients and move to storage container. Refrigerate overnight for at least 12 hours to allow flavors to meld.
Serve cold in a chilled bowl with a fresh parsley or cilantro garnish.
Scott’s Signature Summer Cocktail
3-5 very thinly sliced English cucumber wheels
1 ½ oz. Hendricks Gin
2/3 oz. St. Germaine Elderflower Liquor
Line sides of a chilled glass with cucumber slices. In a shaker combine ice, Hendricks Gin and St. Germaine and shake well. Pour contents of shaker into cucumber-lined glass; top with a splash of club soda. Enjoy responsibly.