My favorite time of year to cook is summer. Growing up in Northern California taught me an appreciation for seasonal and fresh foods, and while I enjoy every season’s own taste and goodness, Summer has a sweetness, a freshness that is all its own. There is something magical about biting into the first local strawberry, or the last cherry tomato of the harvest. Choosing my menus based on what is in the garden or at the farmer’s market makes cooking a bit more fun and spontaneous.
One of the requests that I hear from my boys every year is to take all their meals out of doors. Picnics become the norm, and our kitchen table is replaced by our patio table as we eat breakfast and lunch and dinner under the sky. There are a few staples that I just could not go without, and this year flavored lemonade, veggie pasta with basil aioli, and raw vegan pie are just a few that will grace our table (or picnic blanket) often.
Making homemade lemonade is one of those sticky sweet traditions that I remember with such fondness from my childhood in the northeast. My tiny town in suburban Boston would be littered with stands selling fresh lemonade for a nickle, and there was never a hot day that went by that my mother did not allow me to indulge.
Today making fresh lemonade holds the same appeal, and adding pureed fruit has become a welcome addition. Cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are perfect for changing this up, and the addition of rosemary, mint and basil adds a special kick. Cherry lemonade is on our summer solstice menu, and steeping this drink with rosemary for a few hours creates an aromatic drink for both children and adults alike. It can also become the base for an afternoon cocktail with friends.
Cherry Rosemary Lemonade
3/4 cup raw sugar
1 cup water
Juice of 6 lemons
4 cups cold water
1 cup cherries, pitted and chopped.
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
In a small sauce pan, combine sugar and water and heat on low until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool. Add the syrup mixture to the lemon juice and the 4 cups of cold water and stir. Pour the lemonade into a blender and combine with the cherries. Add the rosemary sprigs to a pitcher and pour the cherry lemonade over it. Allow to steep for 2 hours. Serve over ice.
No matter where a picnic is held, from our backyard to the banks of the Poudre River, I like simple and fresh cooking. Packing my basket should be simple, and clean up almost non-existent. Pasta salad has been a tradition in my family since long before I came along, and that tradition has come along with me as I have had children. Although a great pasta salad is always a hit, we are also a gluten free family who has had their fair share of misses in the pasta department.
Gluten free pasta tends to soak up sauce quicker than standard pasta, and so when creating a cold (or room temperature) pasta dish, I like to make a sauce that is thick, creamy, and will hold up to the GF pasta.
Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Prosciutto, Zucchini, and Lemon Basil Aioli
4 oz prosciutto
1 small zucchini
16 golden or red cherry tomatoes
Basil, torn as a topping
1 lb pasta
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
Juice of one lemon
1 medium garlic clove
2 tbsp mustard
zest of 1/2 a lemon
pinch of salt
1/2 cup light olive oil-based mayonnaise
Pinch of cayenne
Cook the pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, add your prosciutto to a pan and sautee until golden brown. Set aside. Slice zucchini in ribbons, and cut the tomatoes in half. Set aside.
To make the aioli, process of all of your ingredients together in the bowl of a food processor, and set aside.
Once your pasta is done cooking, add to a large bowl, and toss with vegetables. Add the aioli and stir until the pasta is completely coated. Top with torn basil and prosciutto.
Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.
Of course, no picnic is ever complete without the addition of pie. Recently I have fallen in love with the creamy and incredibly good for you raw vegan pies. There is something so satisfying to eating a delicious and healthy treat at the end of each meal. I first learned about how to make this type of pie from Heather of Beauty that Moves, and her recipes continue to inspire many changes in our diet and well being.
On of our family’s favorites is raw vegan lemon cream pie with blackberry coulis. The recipe is simple, the taste fresh, and the smiles plentiful. We hope that this recipe will be enjoyed by your family as much as it has been by ours.
Raw Vegan Lemon Cream Pie with Blackberry Coulis
1 cup pecans
1 cup walnuts
1 cup dates (pitted and soaked overnight)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 tbsp agave nectar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 cups of whole cashews (soaked overnight)
1/2 cup agave nectar
Juice of two lemons
1/4 cup coconut oil melted
3 tbsp. cold water
Blackberry Filling Base
6 oz. Blackberries
Place the pecans and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add remaining ingredients. The crust should just stick together. Press it into the bottom of a deep dish pie plate, and freeze until filling is ready.
Blend your blackberries in the bowl of a food processor or a blender until just slightly pureed. Pour into your crust.
For the filling, add all of your ingredients into a blender and blend until creamy. If the mixture is too thick, add 1 tbsp of water at a time. Pour the filling over the blackberry filling, and freeze until firm. You can eat as is, or top with blackberry coulis.
Add one cup of blackberries and 2 tbsp agave nectar to the blender and blend until smooth. Pour over the pie and enjoy.
Summer in the kitchen is so very sweet, and from our table to yours, we wish you the best that the season has to offer.