We’re in the throws of the most unique summer experience ever and there is nothing we want more than to “normalize” our lives. Part of this includes social gatherings around the grill or cocktails on the patio with family and friends. While some of us will socialize through social distancing and masks, others of us choose to stay close to home and celebrate summer with those in our household. Either way, with these gorgeous summer days upon us, it’s time to celebrate with some light summer fare and see how we can embrace the small joys of the season.
Savory Summer Starters
Fire up the grill! Pick up local veggies, such as eggplant, peppers, asparagus and corn on the cob, coat with olive oil and add a dash of salt and pepper and toss on the grill. Cook times vary from 4-6 minutes, up to 10 minutes. Keep in mind, meatier veggies will take longer to cook. To ensure that they are all done at the same time, make sure to move them around to find the perfect cooking temperature for each vegetable.
How to Prep and Cut:
- Bell Peppers: Seed and quarter.
- Onions: Peel the outer skin and quarter through the root..
- Eggplant, Squash and Zucchini: Cut lengthwise into thick, rectangles about half an inch thick.
- Asparagus: Trim ends.
- Tomatoes: If possible, buy small, still on the vine.
Summertime Side Salads (Photo of bowls with servers, potato salad, coleslaw and summer pasta.)
Whether you’ve expanded your cooking skills while at home or you prefer to pick up and go, summer side salads add an array of options that complete any main course. And if you prefer, you can even skip the main course and make salads the star of any summer table! The top three summer side salads that will appeal to even the pickiest eater include:
- Potato Salad: We all have that favorite family recipe that we tend to lean on for potato salad. Time to dust that recipe card off and get going! Or better yet, branch out with a new flavor! Try a light and tangy, mayo-free salad that will have your taste buds singing your praises. Or a hearty, creamy salad filled with smoky richness with bacon and tomatoes.
- Coleslaw: Make a day or two in advance and let the goodness of the creamy flavoring soak in. The ideal side to use as an actual side or top off a pulled pork sandwich or smoky brat.
- Pasta Salad: The ingredients to this salad are often as close as your kitchen cabinets. Reach for your farfalle or rotini, add salt to water and cook until el dente. Add tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, artichokes, fresh basil and feta cheese. Toss with balsamic dressing and chill. This is always a guest favorite and with the colorful array of veggies, it’s an inviting dish at every meal.
Main Meal Proteins
Cooking on the grill doesn’t always mean you need to grab steak, brats or burgers. To keep meals light and interesting, don’t forget about our seafaring foods, such as salmon, scallops and tuna. There’s nothing like tilapia, hot off the grill, charred to perfection for your favorite fresh fish taco. Or go back to basics creating the tastiest chicken, starting with a simple yet flavorful marinade recipe. Crush fresh garlic, mix soy sauce, olive oil, brown sugar and drinking sherry, (not cooking sherry) and add chicken. Marinade for a minimum of one hour and up to one day, for a main course that’s sure to please.
With the heat index soaring, it makes sense to focus on desserts that are naturally light and chilled. Ripened berries or juicy watermelon make the ideal ending to a family affair. To add a little more oomph to these naturally sweet treats, mix lime and honey and gently fold into the salad, garnishing with chopped mint. Another fantastic dessert that screams summer, is a simple sorbet, topped with fresh fruit. To add a little more panache, create a sorbet topping bar, and load a tray with all the latest summer bounty and allow your family to curate flavors to suit their tastebuds.
However you enjoy summer, sunshine and socializing, be safe and enjoy all that the season has to bring!