Early Summer Fruit

One of my summer goals is to cook and eat outdoors, avoiding steaming pots and hot ovens as much as possible. After dinner, I want a quick transition to the bonfire or calming shoreline without hate-scrubbing a mountain of dishes, doesn’t everyone? Fresh vegetables plucked from the garden at dinnertime, prepared simply, and a grilled marinated protein are my go-to choices. Grilling is fun when you don’t have to lug half of the refrigerator to the patio table. Bonus points for food that can be prepped ahead of time such as Indian-Inspired Grilled Chicken Tacos with Crisp Kachumber Salad and Chai-Infused Honey Panna Cotta with PEI Strawberries.

The lightly spiced Indian-Inspired Grilled Chicken is very flavourful and tender from overnight marinating. Kachumber is similar to Pico de Gallo, adding cool diced cucumber and using lemon instead of lime. Freshly picked local vegetables need little fuss to be fabulous, so I’ve decidedly kept the salad very simple. Refreshing hits of cilantro and mint, cooling yogurt and warm naan balance the tacos perfectly for both weeknight feasts and casual weekend entertaining.

Panna Cotta is my absolute favourite summer dessert. It’s light, quick to make ahead of time, and wonderful topped with any combination of fresh or stewed fruit. I prefer preparing it with local honey instead of sugar. This Chai-Infused Honey Panna Cotta is silky smooth and infused with fresh ginger, cardamom, and other spices that compliment the tacos. Fresh PEI strawberries gild the lily, but who can resist?

Unwind with some happy little tunes, crack open a refreshing drink, and begin a warm summer evening with this meal bursting with the bounty of our Island.

Recipes & Photos by Melissa Sobey

Chai-Infused Honey Panna Cotta With PEI Strawberries

Serves 4
Strawberry Sauce Ingredients
2 cups PEI strawberries, hulled, quartered, and mashed
2 Tbsp honey
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice, optional
2 tsp cornstarch
Large pinch of sea salt

Strawberry Sauce Preparation
In a small pot, bring all of the sauce ingredients to a boil over medium heat, and then reduce the heat and simmer until thickened and the berries have broken down. This will take approximately 5-10 minutes depending on the juiciness of the berries.

Remove from the heat. It will thicken slightly when cooled. For a smoother sauce, use a blender or food processor.

Refrigerate until serving, may be made a few days ahead. Try not to eat it all on ice cream before you even make the panna cotta; you can do this!

Panna Cotta Ingredients
Neutral flavoured oil to lightly grease ramekins
1 ½ cups Purity whole milk
4 tsp unflavoured gelatin powder
2 ½ cups Purity heavy cream (35%)
5 Tbsp honey
Pinch of sea salt
10 loonie-sized slices of fresh ginger, unpeeled and julienned
12 green cardamom pods, crushed
2 whole cloves
3 black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp vanilla
A few strawberries to top each panna cotta, thinly sliced
Toasted sliced almonds, toasted coconut, or crumbled cookies (optional)

Panna Cotta Preparation
Very lightly grease 4 ramekins or serving dishes and set aside.

Pour the milk into a wide saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface of the milk and let it bloom for 10 minutes, unheated. It will look wrinkly and weird after a few minutes and that’s OK. When the time is up, gently heat the milk and gelatin over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the gelatin is dissolved.

Do not boil.

A good way to know it is dissolved is to rub some of the mixture between your fingers to make sure it doesn’t feel gritty. When the gelatin is dissolved, remove the milk from the heat and set aside.

Prepare an ice bath to cool down the panna cotta. I use a large bowl filled partially with ice water.

Meanwhile, in a separate pot, bring the cream, honey, salt, and spices to a bare simmer over medium-low heat. Keep it at this temperature for 15 minutes, and do not let it boil, stirring occasionally while the spices steep.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and the milk/gelatin mixture.

Place the pot in the ice bath and stir occasionally for approximately 10 minutes, until it is lukewarm and thickens very slightly.

Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a measuring cup. Discard the ginger and spices. Pour into prepared ramekins, wrap tightly with plastic wrap without touching the surface. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours. Panna Cotta made longer than 24 hours ahead will still taste delicious, but be less soft.

To serve, evenly distribute the strawberry sauce onto four dessert plates. Fill a small bowl with hot water. Dip the bottom of a ramekin in the hot water for a 3-second count and remove. Then, run a knife along the edge of the panna cotta and the ramekin.

Gently place a few dry fingers onto the surface of the panna cotta and use them to drag the top of the panna cotta away from the sides of the dish, working your way around so that all sides are loosened.

Dip the bottom into the hot water for another 3-second count.

Immediately invert over your palm and gently cup your fingers between the panna cotta and the dish until the suction breaks and you can guide it gently onto the plate and sauce.

Top with sliced berries and eat slowly and ceremoniously!

A very big thank you to our cream and milk sponsor, Purity Dairy.

Indian-Inspired Grilled Chicken Tacos with Crisp Kachumber Salad

Serves 4
Crisp Kachumber Salad Ingredients
1 pint tomatoes, chopped
2 hot green chilies, minced, or to taste (cayenne pepper can be used as a substitute)
1 red bell pepper, chopped, optional
½ cucumber, seeded and chopped
½ bunch (or to taste) of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Toasted ground cumin, optional

Crisp Kachumber Salad Preparation
Mix all salad ingredients and season with plenty of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.

If making Kachumber ahead, I prefer to chop the vegetables earlier in the day and toss with the lemon juice and seasonings just before serving.

Indian-Inspired Grilled Chicken Ingredients
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
2 Tbsp fresh garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp Indian Chili Powder, or more to taste
2 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 ½ tsp sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
1 ½ cups of plain, unsweetened yogurt
2 lb chicken thighs or breast, skinless and boneless
Grapeseed oil, (or other oil with a high smoke point) for oiling the grill
Plain, unsweetened yogurt, for serving
Naan, for serving
Lettuce, cilantro, mint, mint chutney, radish or other vegetables, optional, for serving

Indian-Inspired Grilled Chicken Taco Preparation
Mix the ginger, garlic, spices, and salt with the yogurt. Add the chicken thighs or breast meat. For evenly-cooked, juicy chicken breasts, I find it helpful to cut each in half widthwise and gently pound them between sheets of plastic wrap until evenly thick before marinating.

Cover and refrigerate overnight, removing from the refrigerator 45 minutes before cooking.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. When ready to begin, oil the grill grates.

With your fingers, wipe off much of the marinade from the chicken, but don’t get too fussy. It’s summer. You have a red dirt road to wander, or perhaps grass to cut (I’m sorry for the reminder). Discard the rest of the marinade.

Grill the chicken approximately 4 minutes per side, until it is no longer pink and/or the internal temperature reads 165°F/ 75°C. Remove from grill, cover, and let rest for 5 minutes. While it rests, grill the naan until warm. Slice chicken into bites.

Take a sip of your icy drink, and if you are at my house, swat a hundred mosquitoes. But stay happy, this is what we’ve been waiting for. Serve the chicken with Crisp Kachumber Salad and a dollop of yogurt on warm naan. Top with lettuce, cilantro, mint or mint chutney, radish or other vegetables, if desired.

About Melissa Sobey

Melissa is a passionate home cook who geeks out about cooking, food preservation, foraging, gardening, and old fashioned skill sets. She obsesses over hobbies and is always up for a grueling DIY project. She serves up recipes and ramblings at To bring home the locally sourced bacon, Melissa operates a small business with her husband, Brian. Together, they like to camp in their vintage Airstream.

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