Summer Food and Fun

As a child I have great memories of summer. Whether it was just hanging out with friends, playing kickball or softball, swimming, or going to the beach, all of my days were filled with fun and scrumptious outdoor summer cookouts. Back then it really was all about hamburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, and watermelon. Wanting to preserve those memories but change it up a little, I searched the catalog to get new ideas from some summer cookbooks. I was not disappointed as we have quite an impressive selection to choose and salivate from. Here is what I found:

The Summer Table: Recipes and Menus for Casual Outdoor Entertaining by Lisa Lemke
The Summer Table: Recipes and Menus for Casual Outdoor Entertaining by Lisa Lemke
"Summertime—and the outdoor entertaining is easy! Fire up the grill, whip up some sides and sweets, and share these simple, delicious dishes with people you love. The festive menus include a Mexican Grill Party with a whole chipotle chicken; a Father's Day Barbecue, featuring Campari melon crush, strip steak, red beet gratin, and cabbage salad; a Beach Buffet that includes veggies with spiced yogurt dip and a bread omelet with grapes and gorgonzola; along with picnics, pizza parties, lunches, brunches, and a chic cocktail party. Filled with cooking tips and ideas for marinades, sauces, salsas, and more The Summer Table celebrates the season's best."

My stomach started growling the minute I ogled the visual feast of a salad on the cover. This book is full of recipes and menus along with vivid photography that makes me want to eat the pages! The cover recipe for Melon Tricolore with Olives, Basil and Mint can be found on page 154. This looks like a nice light and cool dish that can be served any time of day. Next I opened to page 88 and a recipe for Oven-baked Chinese plums. Amongst some of the ingredients to add with the plums are apple juice, cinnamon and honey, which made me think of this more as a dessert or breakfast item. The author recommends pairing with the Crispy Hoisin Chicken on page 87. I definitely will be trying this one! Turn to page 246 for the Grilled Peaches with Honey Yogurt and Nuts. I have been feasting on nectarines these last few weeks and will try this recipe substituting the nectarines instead of peaches. This book is filled with many more unique and not difficult recipes. Definitely “check it out” from the library!

Summer Food: New Summer Classics by Paul Lowe
Summer Food: New Summer Classics by Paul Lowe
Features more than 90 recipes for light and flavorful fare for every meal of the day--from brunch favorites to light suppers, refreshing cocktails, and fruit-forward desserts. Dishes like grilled escarole with plums and goat cheese; salmon with crème fraiche and garden herbs; quinoa with capers, torn basil, and tomatoes; and lamb burgers with minty pesto celebrate the fresh flavors of the season and are well suited for sharing with friends and family at alfresco meals. Photography throughout the book showcases the simplicity and beauty of summer cooking. Photography of the seaside, finished dishes, and summer ingredients emphasizes the book's carefree nature and style.

This book took me a while to warm up to as I was not immediately drawn in by the fancy cover. As I started to page through, I read the introduction on page 7. The author has great memories of summer foods as do I. All the photos of the food in this book were taken outdoors which really gave a natural, earthy feel to the food. The recipes all seem fairly simple with minimal ingredients. Starting with breakfast I was drawn to the Ricotta Pancakes with Plums on page 16. I plan to try this out one weekend morning as I am curious how the ricotta will affect the taste. As per the author’s suggestion I may substitute bananas for the plums. Skipping to dinner on page 171 is the Chile and Lime Chicken. With just 5 ingredients, this seems simple enough and will add some “kick” to the chicken. The photograph of the dish looks delicious!

Weber’s New Real Grilling: The Ultimate Cookbook for Every Backyard Griller by Jamie Purviance
Weber’s New Real Grilling: The Ultimate Cookbook for Every Backyard Griller by Jamie Purviance
Grilling out is an essential part of the American culture, and Weber's name is synonymous with barbecue, bringing friends and families together to create moments that make lasting memories. Weber's New Real Grilling celebrates the joy of being in the backyard and gathering around the grill. Complete with more than 200 simple, classic, and--most of all--drop-to-your-knees delicious recipes, this book explores the foods and flavors that are made for grilling: the very best recipes for beef, pork, poultry, and seafood, small plates, vegetables and sides, desserts, and the best rubs, marinades, brines, and sauces. Find basic grilling skills, valuable tips, and tried-and-true techniques in Weber's New Real Grilling that will turn any griller into an expert outdoor entertainer.

From what little I know about grills, I do know Weber is considered one of the best, which is what led me to this book. Unlike other cookbooks, there was no real fancy cover art, so I casually started to flip through and look at the recipes. On page 78, I stumbled upon a recipe for Italian Meatballs. I did a double-take and looked at the cover title again as I did not know anyone could or would ever grill meatballs. Growing up in an Italian family, I woke up every Sunday morning to the smells of sauce (a.k.a. gravy) and meatballs cooking in a huge silver pot on the stove. I was intrigued at the idea of grilled meatballs! It is pretty much a standard meatball and sauce recipe, with lots of fresh garlic, cheeses and parsley. After forming the meatball, the recipe calls for brushing the meat with oil and grilling over direct medium heat. Definitely a must-try on a Sunday for me, although I may wait until the fall to try this one as meatballs in the summer just does not sound right to me. What did look summery to me was the recipe for Mexican-Style corn on the cob on page 264. The recipe calls for toppings of chipotle chili powder and cotija cheese, which is a Hispanic-style cheese named after the town of Cotija in the Mexican state of Michoacán. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese can be substituted in lieu of the cotija. This definitely seems like a festive spin on the typical corn on the cob!

The Naked Kitchen Veggie Burger Book: Delicious Plant-Based Burgers, Fries, Sides, and More by Sarah Davies and Kristy Taylor.
The Naked Kitchen Veggie Burger Book: Delicious Plant-Based Burgers, Fries, Sides, and More by Sarah Davies and Kristy Taylor.
The Naked Kitchen Veggie Burger Book celebrates the burger in all its versatile glory--served on freshly baked buns, crumbled atop salads, added to pasta sauces, baked into taquitos, and more! Spanning a number of different ethnic influences, from Mexican to Mediterranean to Asian, these burgers are as nutritious as they are fun, flavorful, and redolent of homey goodness. The Naked Kitchen duo also present their favorite burger buns, condiments and toppings, sides and salads, fresh beverages, and "beyond burgers" recipes--for a superlative burger experience.

The author notes that all the recipes in this book focus on a whole-foods, plant-based diet. Consisting of organic vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes, eliminating artificially processed and refined foods, meat, dairy, and eggs. Turn to page 7 for a quick FAQ session where the author answers questions about the recipes. I started to page through quickly noting the softly muted, healthy and tasty looking foods. The book is not just about “burgers” as there are quite the variety of dishes, sides, drinks and condiments. There are even recipes to make the burger buns. After each recipe, the author lists Fun Facts highlighting a health benefit of one or more of the ingredients, which I appreciated. One recipe that I will be trying is the Pecan-Crusted Sweet Potato Burger on page 47. It may take a little bit of time in preparation, but the combination of ingredients such as maple syrup, chipotle powder, and cinnamon have piqued my curiosity. The Sweet Roasted Garlic Mustard on page 114, again with maple syrup as an ingredient, can be made and stored for up to a year. A fun fact the author notes is that mustard seeds are high in selenium and magnesium and both components give it an anti-inflammatory property. Consumed regularly, mustard is known to control and keep the symptoms of asthma, cold and chest congestions at bay. I will have to go slowly with the recipes in this book, but all looked pretty tasty and healthy and worth a try.

Summer Cocktails: Margaritas, Mint Juleps, Punches, Party Snacks, and More by Maria del Mar Sacasa
Summer Cocktails: Margaritas, Mint Juleps, Punches, Party Snacks, and More by Maria del Mar Sacasa
The relaxing cover art on this book by photographer Tara Striano is what got my attention. Striano, a native New Yorker like myself, has had her photographs published in various publications such as House Beautiful, Redbook, People and Lonny. I plan to try the “La Dolce Vita” featured on page 64, which is described as a Sparkling Sangria Gone Blonde. I will substitute with a non-alcoholic sparkling wine for a “mocktail” version for all to enjoy. Turn to page 126 for “Shrubs” which are fruit-flavored sweetened vinegars. They can be prepared and stored in the refrigerator all summer. Use them to flavor club sodas, sparkling waters or even just a tall glass of ice water. “Mocktails” and “cocktails” from the book will be sure to add a nice touch to any summer cookout you may have. Get some fun, colorful plastic drinkware to go along with the drinks!

Here are some of my photos from past summer foods I have made. Summer is all about food and fun for me!

Cake and Kabobs
-Lisa A.

Comments

  1. Loved this blog! I loved the way the blogger gave her own personal insight, opinions, and comments about the recipes. I also was happy that certain recipes with pages were pointed out. I will definitely be taking out some of these books based on her opinions, especially the drinks! Thanks!

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