Many restaurants change their menus for summer, exchanging the winter’s heavier fare for lighter, more seasonal dishes.
I like the idea of doing this at home, too. It’s not so much that P.E.I. temperatures have soared, but more that new inspiration accompanies the change of season. Salads, cool summer soups, kebabs with dips, sandwiches thick with cheese and herbs and lots of fresh vegetables and fruits make ideal summer menu items.
What about cold soups? Leek and potato soup is a year-round favourite, served hot in cold weather and cold in warm weather; it’s a good use for old potatoes that look less than appealing at this time of year.
Leek and Potato Soup
Adapted from Young, Donna and Marg Routledge: “New Maritimes Seasonal Cooking”. Nimbus Publishing Ltd., Halifax, 1996.
5 mL (1 tsp) olive oil
1 large leek, white and light green parts, sliced
50 mL (¼ cup) diced celery
375 mL (1½ cups) chicken broth, preferably reduced-salt
375 mL (1½ cups) sliced potatoes
1 mL (¼ tsp) salt (less if broth is salty)
0.5 mL (? tsp) freshly ground pepper
snipped chives for garnish, optional
Heat oil in heavy saucepan. Add leek and celery. Reduce heat and cook for 3 minutes.
Add chicken broth, bring to a boil, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add potatoes, and continue cooking until potatoes are very soft, about 10 minutes.
Pulse in blender or food processor until mixture is a coarse, rather than a smooth purée. Add salt and pepper. Add milk, using more or less to adjust thickness. Warm to desired temperature, and garnish with chives, if using.
Soup may be chilled and served cold.
Makes 4 servings
Many other soups are also based on vegetables and fruit. There are numerous variations of gazpacho, the chilled tomato- and pepper-based soup that originated in Spain.
I have two summer soups on my “try-it-soon list”: a chilled borsch that I just read about and a strawberry-rhubarb soup to make as soon as local berries are available.
Most cold soups are seasoned a little more heavily than hot ones because heating brings out the flavours in foods. Instead of leaning too heavily on salt, though, try using pepper, spices, lemon juice, hot sauce or herbs to enhance flavours. A garnish of snipped chives, as suggested in the Leek and Potato Soup recipe, minced herbs or chopped green onions will perk up the taste as well as looking nice.
Salads are naturals when it comes to summer meals, and you could make a different one every day of the summer. You can have starter salads, side salads of leafy greens and other spring vegetables such as radishes and spring onions, main dish salads of greens with meat, cheese, nuts or berries, old-fashioned potato salads made with hard cooked eggs and homemade salad dressing, hearty lentil salads or refreshing fruit salads.
This salad partners cool, crisp watermelon with the Mediterranean flavours of olives, herbs and olive oil.
Adapted from Keogh, Laura & Cari Marsh: “How to Feed a Family” Appetite by Random House, 2013.
750 mL (3 cups) cubed watermelon (2.5 cm- 4 cm/1 inch-1½ inch cubes)
250 mL (1 cup) coarsely crumbled feta cheese
½ small red onion, finely chopped
75 mL (? cup) black olives, pitted and chopped
small handful of fresh herbs (mint, parsley, basil or oregano), minced
45 mL (3 tbsp) olive oil
15 mL (1 tbsp) fresh lemon juice
1 mL (¼ tsp) Dijon mustard
1 mL (¼ tsp) sesame oil
Cube the watermelon and remove seeds if necessary. Crumble feta and set aside.
In a large serving bowl, gently mix the watermelon, cheese, onion, olives and herbs.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and sesame oil. Pour vinaigrette over the salad, and toss gently.
Makes 6 servings
Summer is the time for fresh, crisp, colourful, flavourful foods. There are days when a hot and hearty dinner hits the spot, but I’m all for embracing the new season with a changed menu. Time to brighten our dinner tables – or picnic tables – with foods that reflect this tie of the year.