Let’s Talk about Summer

Summer Food

StrawberriesI know summer is here when the strawberries bloom! As a kid, we used to visit the farm where my mom grew up and go strawberry picking. We came home with quarts and quarts of strawberries that turned into delicious strawberry freezer jam and strawberry topping and strawberry shortcake. Once I had a garden of my own, I grew my own strawberries. The harvest ranges from a handful to several quarts. They are ever-bearing, so I have berries all summer. Last year I had barely a handful, but one year I had so many that I was able to make several pints of jam and the most delicious frozen strawberry pie….
Karla Brandenburg
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Low Country BoilFor me, there isn’t a food that says summer like a Low Country Boil. Also called Frogmore Stew, it’s a staple of the coastal area of South Carolina and Georgia. The recipe couldn’t be simpler — chuck small red potatoes and onions in a big pot with enough water to cover, then add smoked sausage and boil. When the potatoes are done through, throw some shucked corn and unpeeled shrimp on top to steam. Old Bay to taste. Then dump the whole lot onto some newspapers and let everyone fend for themselves. No utensils. Lots of napkins. And only one pot to clean up. What could be better?
Tina Whittle
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My parents bought a water ski boat for their 25th wedding anniversary (they just celebrated their 71st), and weekends were spent on the water. My mom’s standard lunchtime fare was a taco salad, which included ground beef, shredded lettuce and cheese, chopped onions, beans—anything you’d find in a taco, mixed up with Good Seasons Italian Dressing. My kids vied for the right to crush the tortilla chips that were tossed in at the last minute. I used to volunteer that dish, minus the meat, as a salad offering for pot luck dinners for the supper club we belonged to in Miami. After the first time I brought it, every hostess always asked me to bring it again.

corn and bean saladLiving in Florida (we lived in Miami and then Orlando—a total of over 30 years), it was summer about 11 months of the year, and I avoided using the oven as much as possible. I accumulated main dish salad recipes galore. Now that I’m living in the mountains, we don’t have the heat and humidity to deal with, but I’ve never lost my love for salads. Our community holds pot luck suppers once a month, and my contribution is always a salad. In addition to the taco salad, some of my favorites are the classic “Fumi Salad” made with napa cabbage and Ramen noodles, and a corn and black bean salad, a sweet and sour zucchini salad (great when we had our vegetable gardens in Florida), and the list goes on and on.  I try to share recipes every Wednesday on my blog, and many of my salads have appeared there.
Terry Odell

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KP Authors Cook Their Books CoverI have to admit that Summer is not my favorite season. I much prefer either Spring or Autumn when temperatures are cooler and nature’s colors more vivid (although I do enjoy Summer’s flowers.) So when we Booklover’s Bench authors decided to write about our favorite summer foods and share recipes, I was a bit flummoxed until I thought of one of my favorite year-round foods: pizza!

For me, nothing goes better on pizza than applesauce. My series character, Seamus McCree, agrees and included appropriate recipes for both the pizza and the homemade applesauce as one of the essays in the free Kindle book, KP Authors Cook Their Books.
James M Jackson
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I have fond memories of growing up in New Jersey, and my mother serving dinner during the summer out on our screened back porch. I can’t remember a single item she made, but it was so pleasant sitting outside, listening to the crickets, and dining at leisure. My father grew vegetables in our yard, so likely his corn on the cob was on the menu along with juicy sliced tomatoes. Probably a fresh salad was part of the fare as well. On occasion, my mother made a strawberry and rhubarb pie from his prized rhubarb, but that was never a favorite of mine.

Tuna PieIt sure was nice having somebody else doing the cooking. I wish I could go back in time and revisit those summer evenings. I’d be a lot more appreciative, now that it’s me in the kitchen wearing an apron. We didn’t know how good we had it when our mothers put food on the table each meal. Now I have her recipes, which is one of the best memories to cherish.

It’s too hot in the summer in South Florida where I live now for heavy fare, so I steer away from meats and tend to prefer lighter dishes. I recommend my tuna spaghetti pie served with a salad for a wholesome meal. If you’re not a tuna fan, you can substitute canned white meat chicken. This dish makes a pretty presentation.
Nancy J Cohen

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web IMG_1301 centeredMy favorite summertime food is watermelon. Yay! I love watermelon! Growing up, we would buy watermelon from a local guy and then store it in the shed until high tide. Then we’d invite all the neighborhood kids over and take the watermelon swimming in the creek with us. By the time we were worn out from jumping off the dock, playing Marco Polo, and trying to dive, the watermelon was as chilled as it was going to get.

So how do you select your watermelon? I’ve always done it by the “knock” method. Watermelon has to sound just the right degree of crispness before I’ll take it home with me. My daughter swears by the coloration method. She looks for a white spot underneath, called the “field spot,” which indicates the melon was vine ripened. Creamy is better than white, but white is better than no spot. Also, popular wisdom is that it should feel heavy compared to others of its size.
Maggie Toussaint

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We hope you’ll share your favorite summer foods with us! One lucky commenter will receive a customized tote bag.

Also, our monthly Booklover’s Bench contest is up and running from July 1-18. It’s easy to enter. Winner receives a $25 gift card from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Click here for the gift card contest.

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Comments

  1. maggietoussaint says

    Congratulations to our Let’s Talk winner, Connie Williamson! You’ve won our Booklover’s Bench tote bag. I will be in touch with you via email to get your shipping information. Thank you, and all the others who commented, for visiting Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners!

  2. Janice Hougland says

    Thanks for the simple taco salad recipe, Terry! And thanks, Maggie, for the advice on selecting a ripe watermelon (always a hit and miss thing with me). Jan

    • My pleasure, Janice. It’s easy to do. I used to put everything except the lettuce into one bowl and let those ingredients marry with the dressing. Then, at serving time, I’d toss in the lettuce and the crumbled taco/tortilla chips.

    • maggietoussaint says

      You’re quite welcome, Jan. I love making sure I get the “right” one. My family used to look at me like I was crazy as I thumped, but a right melon sounds different to me. Maybe I’m a watermelon whisperer.

  3. Best corn tip, courtesy of author Cheryl Norman: Put corn, still in husk, into microwave. Microwave on high for 4 minutes per ear. Remove carefully with oven mitts. Place on cutting board and chop off ends. Husk will slide right off.

  4. Connie Williamson says

    Grilled fresh vegetables! Nothing like picking vegetables from your garden and grilling them up!

  5. corn

  6. I love the heirloom tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market.

  7. Colleen C. says

    I love the BBQs my family has over the summer… love having corn and watermelon… I remember my grandparents always had a garden when I was growing up… enjoyed helping with picking the veggies and strawberries…

    • When we lived in Florida, we had gardens. However, summer was usually too hot to grow anything. We had great fresh vegetables in the winter and spring.

  8. maggietoussaint says

    I really enjoy fresh fruits and veggies. At one point I had a garden but I quickly learned I have a black thumb and do better buying other people’s fresh produce. I veer off the road for any roadside produce stand!

  9. I miss the NJ farm produce where I grew up, so I know what you mean, Sandy. But our Florida corn can be just as sweet. And we’ve found a blueberry farm in Windermere where we can go picking.

  10. I definitely take advantage of all the wonderful fresh, summer fruit, but I also make a mean lemonade pie. A simple ice cream pie with graham cracker crust (or pretzel) made of good vanilla ice cream, frozen lemonade concentrate, and some real lemon zest just for good measure. So refreshing on a warm summer evening, especially after a good steak on the grill.

  11. Nancy L. Gressner says

    Most definitely the fresh fruit, especially berries. Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. Watermelon, peaches and nectarines. And fresh sweet corn on the cob. Fresh field grown tomatoes and greens. M-m-m my mouth is watering!

  12. Pat Werths says

    Fried green tomatoes, preferably in a Lowcountry BLT. And raspberries. Tum!

  13. Sandy Giden says

    I live in NJ so for me it’s summer when the local farm stand has the first corn of the season. They pick it fresh every morning and it’s really sweet.