Five Fabulous Summer Staples!

Today, we are featuring a guest post by Minni from Cooks and Travel Books.   Enjoy!

Summer is my favorite foodie season. It’s an ideal time to experiment with fresh local produce, to make lighter, healthier meals, and to make use of your outdoor grill. But my summers are also usually pretty busy, and cooking every day isn’t always practical. Cooking can also heat up the house, something I try to avoid when the weather gets warm.

I’ve learned that keeping a few staples in the kitchen can provide quick, easy and surprisingly diverse meal choices. These five foods are summer staples that can be tossed, steamed, grilled and simmered into sweet or savory goodness.

Chicken: One of the healthiest proteins there is, and one of the most adaptable. Aside from its ability to serve as a substitute for other meats, it can be grilled, pan-roasted, or even steamed or poached. My go-to summer favorite is chicken salad, chock-full of walnuts and grapes.

Once an exotic food, this tiny North African pasta is finally coming into the mainstream. It’s perfect as a stand-in for pasta salads, or as a side dish that can take the place of rice. And like rice, it can be used in both sweet and savory dishes; one of my favorite summer desserts is couscous with fresh berries and crème fraiche. There are several brands of quick-cook couscous in supermarkets that offer coupons regularly, which will save you both time and money.

Lemons: They’re just about the perfect summer fruit! Lemons are versatile enough that they can be used as an ingredient for every part of a meal. Grill some chicken breasts and asparagus and finish them both with lemon basil dressing, serve rich lemon pudding, and wash it all down with a pitcher of lemonade.

Fish: Almost always a healthy option, fish is another ingredient with multiple uses. Canned tuna and salmon are great in salads, or you can grill some nice tilapia or trout fillets. Steamed fish fillets—seasoned with a little salt, pepper and lemon juice—are an easy, low-fat choice for summer dinners.

Tomatoes: If there’s one vegetable that represents summer to me, it’s tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes off the vine (after a quick wash, of course), with a dash of salt, remind me of helping my grandmother in her garden as a kid. Tomatoes can be used in just about anything, but a good gazpacho is the quintessential summer dish. Or for a simple snack, toss sliced tomatoes and fresh basil with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.

One of the most enjoyable things about cooking in the summer is the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Take advantage of your local farmer’s markets and find summer staples of your own—and mix and match to discover new ways to use some of your favorite produce. Stocking your kitchen with just a few fresh ingredients can help you stay well-fed during the season.

Don’t forget to check out Cooks and Travel Books for more great posts like this!

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