Summertime and the Eating's Easy

09 Jun 2024

Seasonal recipes crafted with convenience in mind

Photos and recipes by Fanny Slater

Is it just me or is everything suddenly designed to be taken on the go? I blame the Stanley® craze. Tumbler trends aside, let’s talk food. We’re shifting into summer weather, which signals extended outdoor days ripe for picnicking. I’ve curated a compact menu of portable pleasures ideal for all your cooler-packed adventures. You’ll need to beat the I-70 rush by skipping the drive-thru for your morning buzz and breakfast. Make my frothy coconut-chocolate coffee smoothie instead. Cocoa powder lends a mocha vibe, coconut milk brings tropical flavor and frozen bananas and honey add sweetness. A wax-paper-wrapped sandwich is a picnic basket’s BFF and a generous helping of gooey cheddar and buttery avocado give this handheld its creaminess. Lightly toasted bread, sprouts and peppery arugula add crunch while juicy heirloom tomatoes are a mouthful of summer.

Squash is at its peak this time of year and these tangy, turmeric-infused bread and butter zucchini pickles are a genius way to preserve the vegetable’s bounty. Slip these briny bites in your sandwich or snack on them between meals. If you’ve got BLTs on the brain, your taste buds will do somersaults for my ranch-spiked pasta salad complete with crispy bacon and cherry tomatoes. A light, lemony supper is clutch after a day in the sun. After swimming in a tangy pan sauce, tender chicken breasts are dotted with briny capers and scattered with fresh parsley in this simple buttery Picatta. Serve hot for dinner or stick a few pieces cold in your cooler. From salty to sweet, last up is a fruity spin on tapioca pudding loaded with red berries and vanilla. Rich cherries, strawberries and tart raspberries come together with the starch to create a sweet, jelly-like dessert that’s heavenly solo or spooned with cream. Eat warm at home or chill and layer parfait-style and enjoy lakeside.

Mocha-Coconut Coffee Smoothie

Yield: 2 servings

• 1 cup coffee or cold brew, chilled or cooled to room temperature

• 1-1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk beverage (not canned)

• 2 teaspoons honey or agave

• 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

• 2 ripe bananas, frozen

• 1 cup ice cubes

• 2 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes, for garnish

1. In a high-powered blender, pulse the coffee, 1 cup of coconut milk, honey, cocoa powder, bananas, and ice cubes until frothy and smooth.

2. Check for consistency and make sure the smoothie is pourable. If it's too thick, add a little more coconut milk, a few tablespoons at a time, until it's at your desired thinness. If it's too thin, add more ice.

3. Divide among glasses and garnish with the coconut flakes.


Bread & Butter Zucchini Pickles

Yield: 2-3 16-ounce pint jars

• 1 pound zucchini (about 3-4 medium-size zucchini), trimmed

• 1 small sweet onion (about 1/2 cup), very thinly sliced into half-moons

• 1/4 cup plus one tablespoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt (not iodized), divided

• 1 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar

• 1 cup apple cider vinegar

• 1/2 cup granulated sugar

• 3 tablespoons light brown sugar 

• 2 teaspoons mustard seeds

• 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds

• 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

• 2-3 whole allspice berries (optional)

• 2-3 whole cloves (optional)

1. Using a sharp knife or mandoline, slice the zucchini into 1/2-inch-thick chips. Place the zucchini and onions in a large bowl, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the salt, and toss to combine. Cover the veggies in a layer of ice and then pour in enough water so it comes up about 1 inch above the surface of the topmost veg. Soak for 2 hours.

2. In a medium saucepot over medium heat, add the white vinegar and apple cider vinegar. Whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup salt the granulated sugar and brown sugar until dissolved, about 5 minutes. Bring the mixture to a boil and then remove it from heat.

3. Drain the zucchini and onions and evenly divide them between sterile canning jars, so they fit comfortably.  Add the mustard seeds, celery seeds, turmeric, allspice berries, and cloves, also evenly distributed between the jars. Pour the brine into the jars leaving 1/2-inch headspace from the top.

4. Tightly screw on the lids and process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the pot (making sure that the lids have popped) and set them aside to cool completely before storing or refrigerating.

5. Store the pickles in a cool, dry place like a pantry for up to 1 year. Once opened, refrigerate, and consume within about 1 month for best quality and flavor.

Avocado, Heirloom Tomato, & Cheddar Sandwiches

Yield: 4 sandwiches

• 8 slices whole wheat or seeded multigrain sandwich bread 

• 8 thick deli slices of mild or medium cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)

• 1 large ripe avocado, pitted and lightly mashed

• 2 cups lightly packed arugula 

• 1 large heirloom, sliced

• Extra-virgin olive oil

• Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper

• 1 cup lightly packed sprouts (such as alfalfa, clover, or radish)

1. Lightly the bread, then preheat the oven or toaster oven to broil.

2. Arrange 4 slices of toast on an unlined baking sheet. Top each with 2 slices of cheese. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and broil until the cheese is melted (about 1 minute). 

3. Arrange the plain toasted bread slices in a row on a clean cutting board or work surface.  Top each with even portions of the mashed avocado, arugula, tomatoes, a drizzle of oil, a pinch each of salt and pepper, and sprouts.

4. Top with the remaining slices of toast melted cheese-side down.

Ranch-Spiked BLT Pasta Salad

Yield: 6 servings (at about 1 cup each)

• 1 1/2 cups good-quality ranch dressing

• 2 tablespoons minced green onions, green parts only

• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

• 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste

• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

• 8 ounces rotini pasta (about 2 cups uncooked)

• 1/2 cup chopped cooked bacon (about 5 ounces), divided

• 2 cups roughly chopped Romaine lettuce

• 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

• 1 cup cubed mild cheese (such as Swiss, • Monterey Jack, or cheddar)

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the ranch, green onions, parsley, dill, salt, and pepper.

2. Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package instructions. Drain and add to the bowl with the dressing. Toss the noodles with the dressing until thoroughly coated, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled (about 1 hour). 

3. Just before serving, fold half of the bacon, lettuce, tomato, and cheese into the pasta salad. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if necessary, top with the remaining bacon,
and serve.

Classic Chicken Piccata

• 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to 1/2-inch thick

• 1 teaspoon coarse salt

• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

• 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

• 2 large cloves garlic, minced

• 1 cup dry white wine

• 1 cup lower-sodium chicken stock

• Zest and juice of 1 large lemon

• 2 tablespoons capers

• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

1. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and then dredge them in the flour. Shake off any excess.

2. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter begins to foam and sizzle, add the chicken, and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the chicken and set it aside on a plate.

3. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and swirl to coat the pan. Add the garlic and cook until it becomes lightly golden brown, about 30 seconds. Whisking as you pour to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom, add in the white wine, chicken stock, lemon juice, and capers. Bring the mixture to a boil, return the chicken and its juices to the pan. Simmer uncovered, occasionally spooning the sauce onto the chicken, until it's cooked through and the sauce reduces by about half, 3-5 minutes. 

4. Divide the chicken among 4 plates, and then vigorously whisk the remaining butter into the pan sauce. Once the butter has melted and the sauce has thickened, whisk in 1 tablespoon of the parsley.

5. Season the sauce to taste with additional salt and pepper, and then evenly pour over the chicken and garnish with the remaining parsley.

Vanilla-Berry Pudding

Yield: 4 to 6 servings (1 1/2 cups)

• 1 1/2 cups pitted sweet cherries

• 1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped

• 1 cup raspberries

• 1/2 cup unsweetened black or tart 100% cherry juice

• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

• 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more to taste

• 2 tablespoons minute or instant tapioca

1. In a medium saucepot over medium-high heat, add the cherries, strawberries, raspberries, cherry juice, vanilla, and sugar. Stir to combine.

2. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is very soft and has begun to break down, about 10 minutes.

3. Place a strainer or colander over a bowl, and gently separate the cooked fruit from the juice. Being careful since the mixture is hot, taste and add additional sugar if necessary. Set aside.

4. Add the liquid back to the pot and whisk in the tapioca. Cook according to package instructions until the liquid has gelled. Return the reserved fruit to the pot and stir to combine. 

5. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled with dollops of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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