Easy Summer Meals | Summer Salads, Sandwiches, and Drinks

It’s time for dancing in the street, going to the lake, enjoying the garden—anything but cooking. When it’s hot out, standing inside over a heated appliance is not our idea of a good time. But everyone has to eat. Heck, we like eating. We even like to entertain, so we put our heads together and came up with some summer food ideas for feeding the family or a party of friends.

Now, Elin and I read cookbooks like other people read novels. We have been known to call each other and have detailed discussions about what we cooked for lunch. If one of us has eaten at a good restaurant lately, we may even talk about how the food was presented.  To some this may seem odd, or even excessive, but the art of combining colors, tastes, and textures (i.e., cooking) is exciting, challenging, and deeply satisfying to us. That is to say, in following our bliss, we like to play with food. It is in this spirit that we offer you our recipes. They are not rigid and exact, but general and inspirational, open to your own twists and tastes.

Summer seems the natural time for cool food: sandwiches, salads, refreshing drinks, and mousses. We’ve included a recipe (or two or three) for each of these categories. Some can be made ahead and some can be thrown together at a moment’s notice. We have made suggestions for simple variations and menu ideas which we have enjoyed. We hope you like them.

Pan Bagnant
(Vegetable Stuffed Bread)
These sandwiches can be eaten right away or left to marinate for a few hours—they taste great either way. Here are two filling ideas. (2 servings for each filling)

 

Filling I:
1/2 c. black olives, pitted (see Notes)
1/2 c. mixed fresh herbs (arugula, basil, sorrel, tarragon, mint—any or all, chopped
1/2 c. flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 red or yellow peppers, roasted, peeled, and chopped coarsely
1 ripe tomato, seeded and chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. capers, drained
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil (see Notes)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan to taste (optional)
1/2 loaf french bread (as thin, fresh, and crusty as possible)

Filling II:
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and coarsely diced
1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
2 tbsp. chopped fresh herbs (cilantro or mint, dill, tarragon, arugula, parsley)
1 tsp. capers, drained
Juice of 1 lime
1/4-1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil (see Notes)
1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese (see Notes)
1/2 loaf french bread

1. Mix filling ingredients together. Add oil last, more or less as necessary. Filling should be coated but not swimming in oil.
2. Cut bread in half lengthwise leaving one side intact acting as a “hinge.” Scoop out bread in middle of loaf to make a hollow groove.
3. Fill groove with vegetable filling. (Wrap tightly in plastic wrap if not serving immediately.) Cut into 2-3 slices and serve.

Cauliflower Croquettes Salad
(4 servings)
Although this recipe may look long, it’s quick and easy and takes about a half-hour to make. Be sure to have a variety of colorful vegetables for a visually stunning presentation. For an elegant and simple meal, serve with French bread and end with berries and cream for dessert.

Croquettes:
1/2 head cauliflower, steamed until tender, drained, and mashed well
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. dill or caraway seeds
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/4 c. minced fresh parsley
2 tbsp. cashew or almond butter
1/4 c. toasted wheat germ, or dry bread crumbs
Additional wheat germ or bread crumbs for coating

Mix croquette ingredients well. Add a bit more nut butter and/or wheat germ if necessary so that mixture holds together easily. Form 2 tbsp. of mixture into a small patty and roll each side in wheatgerm or bread crumbs. Fry in a thin layer of olive oil until brown, preferably in a nonstick frying pan.

Caper Tartar Sauce:
4 tbsp. mayonaise
2 tsp. chopped pickles
2 tsp. chopped capers
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. finely chopped lemon zest
Pinch cayenne pepper

Mix and refrigerate until needed.

Salad:
16 c. (about 2 handfuls per person) mixed fresh greens, washed and spun dry
1/2 c. fresh herbs: tarragon leaves, dill, mint, chervil, basil, parsley—any or all
4 c. assorted vegetables: cucumber, tomato, avocado, and yellow pepper, or cooked asparagus, carrot, red pepper, and potato, or whatever combination pleases you!
Black olives and lemon wedges for garnish

Salad Dressing:
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. fresh orange juice
2-3 tbsp. lemon juice
2-3 tsp. dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together.

To Serve:
Toss salad with just enough dressing to coat, arrange on dinner plates or a platter, nestle croquettes on vegetables, and top each croquette with a dollop of tartar sauce. Garnish with lemon wedges and black olives and serve immediately.

Extra-fast Variation:
Replace croquettes with cooked, drained garbonzo beans, French lentils, or lima beans, and omit tartar sauce. Garnish with walnut or hazlenuts, along with the olives and lemon wedges.

Ethereal Chocolate Mouse
(4-6 servings)
This is the lightest, most delicate mousse we’ve ever had. Inspired by chef Andre of The Stateroom in Iowa City.

1 c. heavy cream
1 tbsp. sugar
1/3 c. egg whites (2-3 egg whites)
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. almond (or mint) extract (or more for stronger flavor)
2/3 c. finely chopped (by hand, not machine) best quality white or dark chocolate (see Notes)
2 c. chocolate, raspberry, or orange sauce
Slivered almonds (or mint sprigs) for garnish

1. Whip cream with sugar until just stiff. Refrigerate.
2.  Beat egg whites until just foamy.
3. Put sugar into small saucepan.  Moisten with a small amount of water, just enough to wet sugar. Add extract.  Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly till a little bit of the sugar syrup dropped into ice water forms a soft ball.  As soon as sugar is ready, remove from heat and beat egg whites just till they hold a soft peak.
4. With mixer running on medium speed, pour hot sugar syrup into egg whites. (Pour syrup down side of bowl, not directly over beaters.) Continue to beat until stiff and dry, 3-4 minutes.
5. Fold half of whipped cream into egg white mixture. Fold in chopped chocolate.  Fold in remaining whipped cream.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
6. Ladle some sauce on to a dessert plate. Place mousse on top of sauce. Garnish with almonds (or mint) and serve immediately.

Variations:
Toasted Almond Mousse: Substitute 2/3 c. ground toasted almonds for chocolate. Use 1-1/2 tsp. almond extract. Use chocolate or raspberry sauce.
Coconut Mousse: Substitute 1-1/2 tsp. freshly ground cardamom for extract and 2/3 c. chopped sweetened flaked coconut for chocolate. Serve with chocolate, mango, or strawberry sauce. Garnish with chocolate curls, ribbon coconut, or fresh fruit slices.

Ginger Citrus Punch
(Makes 1 quart)

1/4 c. thinly sliced fresh ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp. cloves or cardamon seeds
1-1/2 c. water

Bring above ingredients to a boil, simmer 2-3 minutes, turn off heat, cover, and let sit for at least one hour.
Strain and add:
1/2 c. orange juice
1/8-1/4 c. lime or lemon juice
1/8-1/4 c. sugar or honey—the amount will depend on whether you are adding ginger ale or sparkling water
2-3 c. ginger ale or sparkling water, to taste

Garnish with lemon, lime, and orange slices.
Strawberry Lassi
(Makes 1 quart+)

2-3 c. yogurt
2 c. washed, sliced strawberries
2 tsp. rosewater and 1/2 tsp. almond extract or 2-3 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
1/4 c. sugar or honey
Water to thin to desired consistency

Put all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Garnish with a pinch of cardamon and a mint sprig.

Hibicus Cooler
(Makes 1 quart)
1/3 c. dried hibiscus

3 c. hot water

Let sit until cool, then strain out hibiscus. Add:
1 c. white grape or apple juice
Juice of 1/2 lime
Honey or sugar to taste

Serve with lime slices.

Quick Rose Milkshake
(Makes 1 quart)

4 tbsp. rose petal conserve
4 c. milk or 2 c. milk and 2 c. vanilla ice cream

Blend until smooth. Garnish with a few rose petals. 

White Grape Punch
(About 2 quarts)

1 can frozen sweetened white grape juice mixed with 4 cans of cold water
Juice of 1 lime (or more, to taste)
2 tsp. rosewater (more or less to taste)

Stir together. Float sprigs of mint and thinly sliced limes for garnish.

Iced “Coffee”
(Makes 2 quarts)

1 quart water (4 cups)
1 quart of dairy milk (or half and half)
2-3 Raja’s Cup tea bags (to suit your taste)
Sucanat to taste

Bring water and milk (or half and half) to boil. Remove from heat. Put in tea bags, cover, and steep for 5-10 minutes.  Remove tea bags and sweeten to taste. Refrigerate and serve.

Notes
Olives: Use good quality black olives, like Kalamata or Greek olives.
Olive oil: We like Loriva Organic extra-virgin.
Feta: We highly recommend using a mild, sweeter feta than grocery store brands. New Pioneer carries a sheep’s feta in brine in their cheese department.
Chocolate: Callebaut, Guittard, or Valrhona are recommended. Imported white chocolate is a must.

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