It’s extremely necessary to not heat up the kitchen in the summer. Even assuming that your a.c. works perfectly (and that isn’t always the case), if you live in an area that tends to get the 9,000 degree heat with 500% humidity, heating up the kitchen defeats the purpose.
There are tons of recipes for the slow cooker, the grill, or that are not-to-be-cooked for main dishes (and even some desserts or sides), but a visit to my sister’s recently reminded me of other options that are cooling (and healthy to boot!).
Yes, I said healthy. It’s not a topic often covered by this blog, but the summer is the time of year when I tend to reduce–a bit. It’s too hot to eat for one thing.
For another, and the focus of this entry, there are so many yummy fresh fruits and vegetables available during this time.
While at my sister’s last week, for each meal eaten at home (and a particularly memorable snack time), she served a veggie tray and a fruit tray.
Let’s examine the complexity of the veggie tray. At Christmas and Thanksgiving (with pickles and olives), we call such a thing relishes. If you are attending a pinkie-extended cocktail party, you may speak in an upper-crust accent and call them cruditees. If you purchase such a thing pre-made at the grocery store, you will see it called a vegetable tray.
In the summer, it should only be called a veggie tray, bringing to mind the idea of lazy summer days cooled by the crisp fresh veggies and dip (which could be sour cream-based, yogurt-based, or salad dressing).
Really, any raw vegetable is awesome. Grape tomatoes, carrots, celery sticks, radishes, green onions, pepper strips (or mini bell peppers), broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber…the possibilities are endless.
I have been guilty (in the past) of purchasing veggie trays. That’s okay (especially if they are marked down as reduced produce). But there is something so satisfying about arranging them in a colorful melange of flavors and textures.
On Sunday, for the Father’s Day celebration, I created the one below. I also made one to serve with the leftovers yesterday. But Muffin started scarfing the tray before I could snap a pic. Muffin loves the veggie trays a lot. My mom even mentioned that, when he visited them on Saturday for lunch, he did a good job of decimating the veggie tray.
Note: We’ve enjoyed the veggie tray for two days in a row. I can definitely see this as becoming a regular side at our table (for supper or lunch…it would make a great addition to a ploughman’s lunch!).
They can also be as simple or elaborate as you wish. The sky’s the limit!
And what, may you ask, is Muffin’s new favorite dessert? One that would make the federal lunch guidelines happy, that’s for sure.
Muffin is very much fruit-obsessed. I have seen him offered a choice of cake or fruit, and he will choose fruit almost every time.
While at my sister’s, he tried to decimate her fruit tray, gobbling handfuls of red grapes and wedges of watermelon interspersed with copious amounts of strawberries.
On Sunday, throughout dinner, he kept wheedling (there is no other word for it) to have some of the fruit tray that I made below. I specifically kept it in the fridge so that he would eat some of the main part of his meal (other than the vegetable tray above).
Fruit trays can always be the most beautiful, decorative element on the table. You can have the green of honeydew or kiwi, various berries in shades of red or blue (or purple), the many hues of grapes, the orange of cantaloupe, the red of watermelon, the oranges of various tropical fruits. As you can see, I compiled chunks of honeydew (that I cut down some because I couldn’t find a whole on in the store, blueberries (Muffin ate the rest of the pint for breakfast), cherries, strawberries, cantaloupe, and watermelon (I had purchased a personal watermelon, sliced off the ends, and peeled the rind off the rest before cutting it in disks, and then fingers.).
There wasn’t much left of the tray (and the rest was gone the following morning after Muffin hit it). The honeydew disappeared before we returned home with the tray.
The next day, I decided that would be the ideal dessert with the leftovers, so I replenished the tray. I even bought strawberries and had leftover cherries that never made it on last night’s tray. I purchased some organic blackberries that were 99 cents a 6 ounce package (that I didn’t realize were on sale). I ended up buying two of them. They were perfect. Tight little berries. If you were to paint a still life of blackberries, these would be your muse to recreate.
So, last night, for dessert with the leftovers (as well as a lovely chilled bedtime snack), this is what we feasted upon:
What are your favorite warm weather sides and desserts?