On Summer Menus

May 29th

Sweet grape tomatoes

Today’s dream is to be studying in Alice Water’s kitchen by day and gardening in her organic fields by night. I’d be begging David Tanis to teach me all he knows and watching the people flow in and out of Chez Panisse in Berkeley. One day. Today, in the heavy heat of Phoenix, I’m thinking of creative menus for the summer that require little energy and much refreshment.

Last night I sat under misters overlooking a lake and watching the sun dip below a tangerine horizon,  sipping a cold glass of sauvingon blanc and enjoying a chilled bowl of gaspacho topped with spicy pine nuts. I left the table full but light, feeling like I’d earned another Arizona summer day survivor badge. While last Saturday I spent 8 hours roasting and baking in my tiny kitchen, I’ve decided now to leave the oven off until September. It is time to celebrate summer foods that require little heat but burst with flavors of the season.

I’m thinking summer green salads with almonds, berries and pulled chunks of cold chicken. Bowls of cold cucumber soup topped with generous dollops of yogurt. Cereal with cold fruit in lieu of steamy nutty oatmeal for breakfast. Less bread, more raw fruit and vegetables. Less meat, more dairy. And everything cold.

If I had the chance to bbq, this post would be entirely different. More like, “An ode to my father’s cooking: BBQ chicken, watermelon and a side of chlorine.” We ate most of our summer meals as children on the patio, sitting on towels in wet bathing suits, running away from my mother’s 30-minute warnings as we dove back in immediately afterward. Alas, while the quickest smell of charcoal brings me right back those blissful childhood memories, I’ll have to wait until I have a proper house to plan summer menus around his secret recipes.

Do you have a favorite summer food?


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15 Responses

  1. sliced peaches with fresh mozzarella and chopped basil, watermelon, feta and mint salad, tangy homemade coleslaw, smoothies for breakfast, homegrown tomato sandwiches on whole wheat bread with salt, pepper and mayo, grilled scallops & shrimp on the barbie and MARGARITAS! Mmmmmmmm 🙂

  2. Don’t forget about frozen fruit smooooothies! Your summer meal plan sounds wonderful. But you really are missing out with no grill. I will do my best not to taunt you with my 2 grills plus a smoker. =)

  3. You can get one of those little tabletop grills (or a hibachi). That’s all we have even though we have a house. Of course, I’m a vegetarian and Tony eats very little meat so we’re not into the big power grills but we’ve used it to grill veggies, corn on the cob, taters, even veggie burgers.

  4. You make me smile Kelli. How are you? Summer makes me think of camping, and on camping trips, Mark and I always take the same unhealthy, fun, ‘special’ treats…swedish fish and a can of reduced fat pringles. I can’t resist the salty crunch right after the chewy sweet and the red dye no. 40 makes Mark extraordinarily hyper LOL–I hope you are having a good time Kelli…

  5. Watermelon and corn on the cob are my most favorite summer foods. Your summer meal plans sounds good, enjoy!

  6. Oh my that all sounds so yummy! Can’t wait to read about all your cold culinary adventures….and how weird is it that I always comment (seem to anyway) after the other april????

  7. I normally don’t use my oven much during the summer and try to just cook meals on the stovetop. (I too have memories of barbecues and swimming!) I’d love any good, refreshing summer recipes that you are willing to share.

  8. Ice cream!! And ice cream with frozen Girl Scout Thin Mints is heavenly too. All things cold. I am with you! 🙂

  9. Pressed sandwiches of rustic Italian bread, fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, fresh mozerella, and kalamata olives! OMG, I could eat those every day! Also, tabouli made with quinoa instead of bulgar, or the two mixed together.

    Just think how fun it will be to bake again in the fall if you leave your oven off until then!

  10. I love summer food ideas too! We do a lot of veggie sandwiches – cream cheese and havarti with fresh avocado, tomato, lettuce, mushrooms, olives, cucumbers, sprouts..a vegetarian sandwich never has to be boring & they’re so refreshing in the summer! We also love crusty olive bread with olive oil and fresh mozerella, a cool greek salad.

  11. It would have to be fresh tomatoes from the garden with sliced mozzarella and fresh basil.. I cant wait for my tomatoes to be ready! Olive oil and bread yum!!

  12. I love cold vegetable soup!

  13. We just got a tiny gas grill last week. It’s so convenient, and it fits on our tiny apartment balcony.

    I echo those who love smoothies in the summer. especially with u-pick strawberries that we popped in the freezer the day they were picked.

  14. Debbie May 30, 2009

    My favorite summer foods are what ever is ready to eat from my small garden or the Farmer’s Market. Our Farmer’s Market will open on Wed. and I plan on getting there by 6:30 to get the good stuff! They should have lettuces, peas and maybe strawberries!

  15. Strawberries. Artichokes. Salads. Barbecued kabobs. Grilled pineapple.

    Great, I’m hungry now…