So what if my mosquito bites are gone, the pool bag has been replaced by book bags, and our weekends have been taken over by football — it’s still summer, dammit, and I for one am not so ready to let go. Okay sure, we have to get up at 6:30 in the morning, so the al fresco dinners at the pool are probably not such a good idea. But, even though we have homework and soccer practice, we can still have picnic suppers and make homemade popsicles, can’t we?
One of the things I’ve tried to do with this blog is show that family meals don’t have to be painful exercises in cajoling and whine-endurance. And never is that more true than in the summertime, when meals can involve campfires and interludes of skateboarding. But once we get into the grind of after-school activities and math worksheets, it’s easy to understand how we leave all that summer fun behind and find ourselves in a dinnertime rut. But I contend it doesn’t have to be that way — at least not all the time, and at least not yet. And yes, if you think I’m writing this for myself as much as anyone, you’re right.
So, in the spirit of keeping summer alive — if only for the food — here are some strategies that seem to be working for me.
Pick one night this week to have a family picnic. Pack your supper in a basket (the cuter the better) and bring it to a park. It’s amazing what kids will eat when it’s been pulled out of a picnic basket, plus you really don’t have to cook — which is nice, seeing as how it’s still summer. We did this the other night, and this is what we brought: one rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, one dry sausage (I used to get these at Napa Style, but they don’t have them anymore, so I now order from Il Mondo Vecchio in Denver; the Vero y Pepe Salami is incredible.), raspberries, cheese (Rembrandt aged Gouda), grapes, a chocolate bar, and of course a baguette. Oh and a bottle of Bandol. Don’t forget: knife, plate or cutting board, and napkins.
Go to the farmer’s market. We think of this as a family activity, but even though the kids are in school and playing sports on Saturdays, I still try to swing by and pick up my summer food trifecta: corn, tomatoes, and peaches. These three items are at their peak of perfection as I write this. How can it not be summer when we’re grilling ears of corn and making peach ice cream, right?
Cook outside. Not revolutionary, I know. In the summer, we do this almost every night because our house in not air conditioned — and sometimes if I’m cooking inside I tend to get a little cranky. Then, as soon as school starts, it’s tempting to boil pasta instead of grill fish. But I am resisting as long as possible; the pasta days will be here soon enough. I suggest eating outside, too. A little bit of backyard skateboarding or baseball throwing during the meal is okay (since it’s summer).
Grill peaches. The peaches are perfect right now in case you hadn’t notices, and it’s too hot to bake a pie or cobbler. Grilled peaches make a perfect, relatively healthy dessert — they caramelize and sweeten into something satisfying and really, really delicious. Here’s the recipe:
6 Peaches (they should be ripe but not overly ripe; they should also be organic because peaches are one of the Dirty Dozen)
1-2 tbs. balsamic vinegar to taste
Olive oil (not the fancy oil you drizzle on salads; basic olive oil is best as it adds less flavor to the already perfect-tasting peaches)
Preheat your grill if it’s not already hot from dinner. Rinse and dry the peaches. Cut them in half and remove the pit. Pour the vinegar in a small bowl and brush onto peaches with a pastry brush or paintbrush. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Brush the grill with a light amount of oil. Place peach halves on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes. Turn over and cook for a few more minutes until very soft but not falling apart. Serve with ice cream. Or not. Swoon.