Summer Recipes

photo by Stephen Gray Blancett

Pesto Grilled Corn on the Cob

A pesto-packed twist on a backyard party classic, grilling corn in its husk yields tender kernels and a delectable natural sweetness.

Yields 6 servings

6 ears unhusked corn

1 cup packed basil leaves
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp pine nuts
1½ Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbsp olive oil

1. Oil grill and preheat to medium high.

2. Fill a large bowl with cold water.

3. Keeping the husks attached at the base, peel back the husks of each cob and remove the silk. Cover the cobs again with the husk.

4. Soak the corncobs in cold water for 5 to 10 minutes to prevent husks from charring too quickly.

5. In a food processor, place basil, garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice, salt and pepper and chop in pulses for maximum mixing. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Set aside.

6. Place corn, covered in its husk on the grill. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove from the grill, let it cool enough to touch and then remove husks. Return to grill and cook, turning to lightly char all sides, for an additional 5 to 7 minutes total.

7. Remove from grill and generously brush with pesto. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper if desired and serve hot.

Brown Rice Summer Succotash Pasta Salad

This festive summer pasta medley is a great picnic food. Brown rice pasta is a tasty, gluten-free alternative to traditional wheat pasta and full of wholegrain goodness.

Yields 6 to 8 servings

1 lb brown rice pasta—elbow, penne or rotini shape
4 Tbsp olive oil; divide into two equal portions
1 cup chopped red onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
4 ears corn, kernels cut off (2 to 2½ cups)
3 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 cups frozen shelled edamame, thawed
¼ cup chopped parsley leaves
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add pasta and stir. Cook until firm to the bite, al dente, according to the directions on the package. Be careful not to overcook the pasta, as it will become mushy. Drain in a colander, rinse and drain again. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil to prevent sticking and let cool in the colander, stirring occasionally.

2. Heat up a large skillet to medium hot. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, onion and pinch of salt and sauté, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add corn, tomatoes and edamame, and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until corn is tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. In a large bowl, place pasta, vegetable mixture and parsley and mix to combine. Add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool, then place in the fridge to chill.

Napa Cabbage Asian Slaw

This colorful, Asian-inspired slaw is fresh, flavorful and a great complement to grilled foods and summer feasts. Almond butter in the dressing lends a light creaminess and scallions, ginger and garlic create a savory, spicy triumph of taste.

Yields 4 to 6 servings

3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp almond butter
1½ Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp maple syrup or honey
1 tsp bottled toasted sesame oil
¼ tsp dried chili flakes (optional)

4 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 red bell pepper, cut into matchstick strips
1 cup thinly sliced snow peas
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, rice vinegar, almond butter, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, maple syrup or honey, sesame oil and chili flakes (if desired). Dressing can be made up to one day ahead. Let come to room temperature before tossing and serving.

2. In a large bowl, mix together Napa cabbage, scallions, carrot, bell pepper and snow peas. Add dressing and toss to thoroughly coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand 15 minutes before serving for flavors to develop.

Fruit Skewers

Fresh, ripe summer fruit is a perfect, simple dessert, and serving it on skewers brings a bit more fun and pizzazz to backyard and picnic parties.

Yields 6 servings

6 cups fresh fruit chunks—peaches, plums, strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapes

1. Thread fruit chunks onto bamboo skewers, alternating colors.

2. Serve cool.

Homemade Cherry-Vanilla Soda Pop

This crimson, creamy soda is reminiscent of the classic version. Reducing the cherry juice sweetens and intensifies the flavor; no additional sugar is required. Fresh vanilla bean is key and worth seeking out.

Yields 6 servings

3 cups 100 percent unsweetened black cherry juice
1 vanilla bean (about 6 inches long)
Seltzer or soda water

1. Place black cherry juice and vanilla bean in a medium-size saucepan. Cover and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes, until liquid has reduced to 1 cup. Remove from heat and let cool until comfortable to handle.

2. Remove vanilla bean and chill the syrup in a sealed glass jar in the fridge. It will stay fresh for up to 2 weeks.

3. To serve, pour ¼ cup syrup into a tall glass, top with 6 to 8 ounces chilled seltzer or soda water, and stir. Add ice as desired.

Peach Basil Green Iced Tea

Peaches and basil are a refreshing flavor combination to embellish this cooling iced tea. Green tea is loaded with antioxidants and good-for-you phytonutrients.

Yields 4 to 6 servings

6 peaches, pitted, peeled and sliced
½ cup agave nectar
4 cups water
4 green tea bags
1 cup basil leaves
4 cups boiled water
Basil leaves for garnish

1. In a saucepan, place peaches, agave nectar and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.

2. Place peach mixture in a blender and blend until smooth (always be careful when machine-blending hot foods). Pour through a sieve or strainer lined with cheesecloth to strain into a pitcher.

3. Bring an additional 4 cups water to a boil. Pour over tea bags and basil and steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and basil. Pour into pitcher with peach nectar and chill in the fridge until cold. Stir before serving, as the peach nectar tends to separate; serve over ice garnished with basil leaves.

Strawberry Honey Lemonade

This honey-sweetened lemonade is flush with fresh strawberries for a perfect balance of flavor and thirst-quenching enjoyment.

Yields 4 to 6 servings

1 pint strawberries, washed, trimmed and cut in half
1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
2/3 cup honey
½ cup warm water
5 cups cold water

1. In a blender, place strawberries and ¼ cup lemon juice and blend until smooth. Pour through a fine sieve and press with the back of a spoon or pour through a strainer lined with cheesecloth to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard pulp.

2. In a pitcher, mix together honey and warm water and stir until honey is dissolved. Add strawberry juice, remaining lemon juice and cold water. Mix well and serve over ice.Watermelon Mint Limeade Recipe

Watermelon-Mint Limeade

1 small watermelon (or half of a larger melon), diced
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup agave nectar
2 Tbsp chopped mint
1 Tbsp chopped basil
Pinch crushed sea salt
2 cups ice

1. Using a chinois or other fine-mesh strainer, push the watermelon through the mesh using a sturdy wooden spoon, to push through all the liquid into a bowl, leaving behind the pulp and seeds. Pour the liquid into a pitcher with the lime juice, agave nectar and a pinch of salt. Chill well.

2. Just before serving, add the mint and basil to the liquid, and blend the mixture in the blender in two batches, adding a cup of ice to each batch.

Future fun: Freeze leftover portions into popsicles for an easy treat on another day.

Recipes from The Balanced Plate and Living Cuisine, by Renée Loux, and; limeade recipe courtesy of Beth Bader, co-author of The Cleaner Plate Club.

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