With the official start of summer just around the corner and a glimpse of those long, hot L.A. days bound to overwhelm us, it’s the ideal time to turn to recipes that tantalize the taste buds even as they cool us down. Summertime begs for quick, easy recipes that privilege fresh, seasonal ingredients and won’t break the bank. Be sure to try and find the freshest fruits and veggies when you can — the Farmer’s Market at Third and Fairfax is a great option, though chances are you’ll leave with twice the amount of things on your grocery list simply because everything looks so good.
Always remember that those favorite summer treats — from frozen yogurt to gourmet Niçoise salad — are usually extremely simple to make at home and worth the effort, if only so that you can claim your summer was “productive.” Below are a couple of ideas to revitalize your summer menus and impress your friends:
This is a simple salad based on the perfect marriage of flavors between ripe figs — get them from mid-July to late August — prosciutto and mozzarella. Salads of all kinds are ideal during summer, and a little fruitiness can always transform a simple green salad into something memorable.
(Makes 4 servings)
– 4 green or black figs
– 4 slices prosciutto
– Buffalo mozzarella, sliced
– 1 bag mixed greens
– 1 bag baby spinach
– Green or purple basil
– 3 tablespoons lemon juice
– 1 tablespoon honey
– 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– salt and pepper to taste
Arrange the mixed greens and spinach in a large salad bowl. Add the figs after making small cuts to expose the insides. Weave in the prosciutto and slices of mozzarella, sprinkling the basil over them as you go. To make the dressing, simply mix the lemon juice, honey, oil, salt and pepper in a smaller bowl and drizzle over the salad for a lush finish. Serve with lemonade and some bread for that extra-summery feel.
Banana Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Ever heard of ice cream without cream? This recipe is healthy, super easy and incredibly refreshing. Best of all, it hits that sweet spot in just the right dosage. This is the perfect recipe to keep up your gourmet façade — your friends will love it and they never need to know it was so quick and simple to make.
(Makes 4 servings)
– 4 bananas
– 4 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter
– Almond milk as needed
Cut the bananas into small slices. Place them in a bowl and leave them in the freezer until they are frozen over (usually about 2-3 hours). Once ready, blend the frozen bananas with the peanut butter in a blender or food processor until thick and creamy. It can take a while for the mix to reach a truly ice cream-like texture, so check on it frequently as you blend. Add some almond milk if the mixture becomes too clumpy or sticky. Remove the ice cream from the blender and serve with fresh banana slices to garnish.
Mushroom and Zucchini Pita Pizza
This is a very easy recipe that’s quicker and healthier than actual pizza and useful for using all those leftovers you’ve had lying around: veggies, pasta sauce, etc. Another plus of this recipe is that you can add or subtract ingredients as you see fit — meats like ham or cooked chicken can be added and other veggies such as bell peppers or eggplant are equally welcome. It’s a wonderful way of making your own pizza with half the calories and twice the flavor.
(Makes 1 pita pizza)
– 1 whole wheat pita
– 1 garlic clove, crushed
– ¼ cup sliced mozzarella
– 3 teaspoons Parmesan cheese
– 4 tablespoons tomato-based pasta sauce
– 2 teaspoons dried oregano
– ½ cup sliced mushrooms
– 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
– Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the pasta sauce with the garlic and spread over the pita until it is evenly covered. Arrange the mozzarella, mushrooms and zucchini on the pita, adding salt and pepper to taste. Top with the oregano and parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the edges of the pita begin to turn brown. Serve with a cherry tomato salad as an ideal accompaniment.
Spice up your regular lemonade recipe by adding a touch of mint for that extra-refreshing taste in the height of summer. Fresh mint leaves are preferable (try to make it the same day you buy the ingredients) but dried ones will do if necessary.
(Makes 1 jug)
– 6 cups water
– 2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 2 cups granulated sugar
– ½ cup fresh whole mint leaves
Combine the sugar and 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil to make the syrup. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and set aside to cool down. Combine the lemon juice and remaining 4 cups of water in a large jug. Add 1 cup of the syrup and taste. Add more of the syrup depending on desired sweetness. Add the mint leaves and stir. Place the jug in the fridge and allow to cool for 1 hour. Serve over ice with a lemon slice garnish.