The summer solstice is the longest day of the year. With this pleasure comes high temperatures and sometimes uncomfortable heat. As a result, cooking in the kitchen, on a barbecue or any other method which produces more heat is preferably avoided, although there are exceptions.
This is a time to enjoy simple food that can be prepared with the least amount of effort but which still provides all the nutrients for a healthy diet. It is also the beginning of the time of year when the vegetable garden is starting to produce young tender vegetables and when the soft fruit is at its peak.
Salads mean different things to different people. It doesn’t have to contain lettuce which while a useful background leaf is not very exciting to the palate. A useful version of salad is made from diced mango, avocado, red onion and one or two other vegetables which are available. Add some olive oil, a touch of red wine vinegar with pepper and salt and you have a delicious and satisfying dish which is a useful accompaniment to other foods. Another easy salad is halved cherry tomatoes, diced red pepper (bell pepper) and slices of red onion. Sprinkle with a home made vinaigrette made from two tablespoons of olive oil (or a lighter oil is you prefer) to one tablespoon of any flavored vinegar. Add a little made mustard to help the emulsion and add salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
If you can grow your own cress and sprout seedlings they add substance to any cold food and look attractive too. Kits can be bought inexpensively and it only takes two or three days to have a crop and the satisfaction of growing your own food.
With a kitchen garden or even a large pot on a balcony, there is nothing like the taste of fresh peas. They are nutritious and can be used as an informal starter for a meal, leaving everyone to shuck the peas themselves. It can be a source of conversation and help to enhance the relaxed time of year.
Part of the secret to easy summer meals is planning in the colder months. If you can stock the freezer with prepared meat dishes, which only need heating gently or can be barbecued, life becomes much easier.
This is a time of year when it is too easy to overdose on strawberries, raspberries, apricots and peaches. Served in a bowl for everyone to help themselves, or diced in a fruit salad, they make a healthy pudding with no cooking.
Summer solstice food can be a simple or a complicated as your taste, but it should be easy.