Summer rains mean fresher, lighter fare reigns

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By: Rachel Shenk

Rachel Shenk/La Bonne Vie

It has been a steamy week. Even though it is only the beginning of June, the temperatures are already in full summer mode.

When we walk or run at the park, we feel the heat and we climb to the top of the new tower to catch any breeze that might be blowing. And any outside time needs to be planned according to the latest thunderstorm coming through or else we will get soaked.

The vegetable and flower gardens love it, though, and are thriving.

In the kitchen, I am feeling a shift. Gone are the days of oven baked dishes and hearty soups. Instead, I am now drawn to lighter fare. Fresh, cool and light come to mind as I plan my daily menus.

I go back to my simple recipes — the ones that do not require much effort and time spent over the stove. And then there’s always grilling, which keeps the heat outside.

Fresh vegetables available at the market or farm stand provide the backbone of my summer eating. What is available right here gives me plenty to work with. Instead of adding this and that, I like the fresh flavour to stand on its own.

So this week, strawberries made their appearance in salads, on top of granola, in a pie, over a blintz, with ice cream and as simply themselves. I know that they taste so much better in season, so I get my fill right now.

Just last night, I had my first batch of green beans and, cooked just right, they melted in the mouth.

And then there is bread and cheese. The variations are baffling! Sandwiches can turn into main dishes, depending on what you put in them. In Paris, the baguette sandwich is always popular. Spread with butter, the bakeries just add various toppings and they are ready to grab and go.

When I lived in Spain, my Spanish mother used to scramble eggs and slip them into a baguette along with ham and onions and cheese.

This summer, I am into spreads. Make a batch ahead and you have some to put on your bread all week.

As the daylight gets longer and the air gets more humid, I follow nature’s patterns. My body tells me to slow down and enjoy. Spend time on the front porch or the back deck. Take time to be outside in nature. And lighten up the kitchen work load. It’s summertime and the living is easy…

Here is a salad recipe from southern France that I use a lot.

Salade Niçoise

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
  • 2 large potatoes, cooked
  • 20 green beans, cooked
  • 2 tomatoes, cut in wedges
  • 1 cup Niçoise olives
  • smoked salmon for four
  • 1 bag of mixed greens

Directions

  1. Put the greens down on four plates.
  2. Divide all other ingredients and place artistically on top of greens.
  3. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette.

Note: You can substitute asparagus for the green beans.

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