Summer evokes youthful images of picnics in the park, trail-side snacks, and regional cuisine sampled on road-trip vacations.
Did you know that other cultures have special summer treats? The Japanese have perfected the art of summer dining. In cherry blossom season, they love to picnic under clouds of flowers, sipping tea and refreshing themselves with mandarin oranges, rice crackers, dried squid, and other unique Japanese treats.
New Englanders go for clam bakes on the beach. And those of us who live west of the Mississippi love our barbecues.
Summer offers endless opportunities for seasonal dining. On our road-tripping, outdoor-eating, grilling, picnicking, and hiking adventures, Marcel and I have our favorite simple, healthy options.
On car trips, we pack a cooler and a picnic basket. The cooler holds foods that trend toward Mediterranean flavors: stuffed grape leaves, organic grapes, veggies and dips (hummus, yogurt, etc.), olives, raw-milk cheeses, hard-boiled or deviled eggs, yogurt, pita bread, artisanal crackers, olive oil, salt and pepper, and (of course!) dark chocolate.
For patio dining, our favorite choices include salads of every description dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, or sprinkled with balsamic vinegar.
Our favorite salad ingredients include finely chopped cabbage with cilantro, diced red onion, toasted sunflower seeds, arugula or beet carpaccio, feta, walnuts, watercress, baby greens topped with wild borage and calendula flowers or rose petals, and heirloom tomatoes with basil and feta.
For finger food, we like Asian summer rolls made of veggies wrapped in rice paper rounds. Simpler still are cherry tomatoes, baby veggies, and peas, served just as they come off the vine.
Still hungry? Try roasted sweet potatoes, quinoa with dried cranberries and pistachios, or a curried rice salad.
Got a grill? Top your salads with grilled proteins – or skip the salad and grill veggies with a protein: peppers, eggplant, corn on the cob (non-GMO), zucchini, and whatever pops out of the garden.
We all have our favorite refreshing summer drinks. Marcel and I love cold-roasted barley tea (caffeine-free), or green teas such as twig tea (kukicha), or tea with toasted rice kernels (genmaicha).
If you go for the bubbly, try mixing aromatic herbal teas with sparkling water and a splash of elderberry syrup or pomegranate concentrate, topped with mint sprigs. Native California bitter-orange fruits make a fine, refreshing lemonade.
Fresh summer foods enjoyed outdoors – what could be better?
Find out more about Dr. Connie’s work HERE.
Dr. Marcel’s Cuban Mojo Dressing
(Sour Orange Marinade or Dressing)
This delicious mojo (moh-hoh) makes a delicious salad dressing, a sauce for grilled or raw veggies, a marinade for meats, or a bread-dipping sauce.
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sour orange juice (or equal parts lemon and orange)
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped sweet onion (optional)
Grind garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle to make a paste. Alternately, combine the garlic and salt in a food processor until mixed and chopped.
Combine ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.
If you don’t own a food processor, you can use a blender, or simply whisk the ingredients.
Keeps for about a week in the fridge. Serve at room temperature.