21 Delicious Summer Food and Drink Tips
Get the most out of your summer months with these 21 delicious and helpful tips!
1. When grilling an assortment of summer vegetables, try to cut them as uniformly thick as possible. This ensures they cook evenly and makes for a better presentation when serving.
2. Another tip when grilling fresh vegetables is to cut them so that the maximum amount of surface area is exposed. The more surface area exposed to the grill grates, the better the taste will be.
3. Want a perfect rim on your margarita glasses? Try this: Instead of dipping your dampened glasses straight down into a plate of coarse salt, sugar, or other mixture, moisten only the outside of the glass. Then, roll the dampened outer edge of each glass at a 45-degree angle around the plate. This will create a nice looking rim, but will keep the salt or sugar from getting into the drink and affecting its taste.
4. Next time you make peach or other fruit cobbler, break out of the “plain-old-vanilla-ice-cream” routine. Instead try pairing your creation with ice cream flavored with the same ingredients as the recipe itself. For my warm peach cobbler recipe, try cinnamon or peach ice cream. ‘Salted Caramel with Pecan’ is another great choice because it brings out the tiny hint of saltiness found in the recipe.
5. Did you know that not all sweet potatoes are orange? It’s true. Some varieties have a light yellow or almost white color instead. Although they look more like typical white potatoes than their orange-fleshed siblings, they don’t taste anything like a traditional baking potato. However, they aren’t identical to their orange counterparts, either. They are a little less sweet and a bit more starchy than “normal” sweet potatoes.
6. Mini sweet peppers are great for snacking on right out of the bag, but they are even better when stuffed with your favorite blend of cheeses, fresh thyme and bacon. Pop under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until nicely browned and voila! You have a perfect warm and delicious appetizer in less than 15 minutes.
7. It’s easy to take basic lemonade to a whole new level with some quick and easy tweaks. Instead of making a basic simple syrup of 1 part water to 1 part white sugar, try adding some chopped lemongrass and fresh, peeled gingerroot into the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Cool slightly before straining to remove solids. Use the cooled infused syrup to sweeten lemonade to taste.
8. Many popular culinary herbs are available in citrus varieties and can be used to add an extra dimension to your recipes. Lemon balm, basil, thyme, mint, and lemongrass are popular and readily available examples. Choosing citrus varieties of herbs will allow you to add another subtle layer of flavor to your dishes.
9. Speaking of lemongrass, it is very easy to grow from seed and can act as a pretty ornamental in your garden, as well. Because it is from the tropics, it won’t survive cold winters in northern areas. However, it can reach 3-5 feet in height in a single growing season, so be sure to give it ample room to grow.
10. Lemongrass is a popular ingredient in many Thai recipes. Different parts of the plant have different uses: The base of each stem has a strong lemony flavor ideal for infusing simple syrups or cooking oils, while the more tender leaves are great for making tea or soups.
11. Fresh herbs are abundant during the warmer summer months so it makes sense to pair them with season’s most popular cooking method. Herb salts and compound butter are 2 super easy ways to add extra flavor to grilled meats and vegetables. Simply combine chopped fresh herbs with either salt or soft butter. Be creative! Add some fresh citrus zest to salt combos for even more flavor variations.
12. Salt-cured lemons are great to have on hand because there are so many ways to use them. Preserving slices of fresh lemon between 2 slabs of Himalayan salt greatly intensifies the natural citrus flavor by reducing the water content while simultaneously infusing the slices with salt. The result is a concentrated, briny treasure that is perfect in pasta dishes or wherever you want to add an unexpected intense “pop” of flavor and seasoning.
13. Himalayan salt blocks are very versatile kitchen tools that can be used to cook, chill, cure, or serve food. Caution should be exercised when using the blocks with heat, however. The blocks may contain small amounts of moisture inside that can cause them to break or even explode when heated. It is very important to follow directions carefully and temper salt blocks over moderate heat before placing them in a hot oven.
14. When selecting a Himalayan salt block for heat applications, be sure to choose one that is “cooking grade.” Also, look for one that has a minimal amount of pattern to it. The gorgeous grain pattern that makes for a beautiful presentation block becomes a liability in the oven. Each striation indicates a fissure or potential weakness that could cause the block to break apart or explode when heated.
15. Technique is everything when using Himalayan salt blocks to cure, cook or serve food. It’s easy to end up with overly salted foods if you aren’t careful. For example, when serving watermelon and feta salad on a salt plate, arrange the watermelon slices so that only a small portion of the exposed surface area is in direct contact with the salt. This will give a perfect hint of salty flavor without overpowering the entire bite.
16. Unlike red meats that can be seared on the outside and rare-to-medium on the inside, pork needs to be more uniformly cooked throughout. When grilling, a medium, direct heat is the best way to ensure the inside cooks evenly with the outside.
17. The pork available today is a lot leaner than it was a couple generations ago. This means it can dry out quickly if overcooked. For years, pork was always served well done due to fears of trichinosis. As a result, an entire generation grew up believing tasteless, dry pork was the norm!
However, in 2011 the USDA dropped the recommended internal cooking temperature of pork down to 145 F – a full 15-degree drop from previous recommendations. This means it is now okay to serve pork that is still juicy and a little pink inside. Just be sure to use an instant-read thermometer to confirm the meat has reached a safe internal temperature before serving.
18. Warm goat cheese croutons are a great way to make any salad seem more like a full meal. For best results, make sure the croutons are at least ½” thick and not too wide across or they are more likely to break apart while handling. Also, be sure to get the oil hot enough before frying them, because they need to cook quickly or the goat cheese will start seeping out of the crust.
19. Most recipes for warm goat cheese croutons call for using vegetable or canola oil for frying. However, coconut oil is a delicious, healthy alternative that does not infuse the melted cheese or breadcrumb crust with an overbearing coconut flavor. I highly recommend it!
20. No ice cream maker? No problem! It is possible to make creamy, delicious ice cream at home without buying special equipment. The base for the ‘Salted Caramel and Pecan Ice Cream’ consists of just 2 simple ingredients: sweetened condensed milk and heavy whipping cream.
21. Want to enjoy raw kale outside of juices and smoothies? Although the tough, somewhat bitter leaves can be a bit unappealing raw, there is a simple fix for that. Simply massage each leaf with olive, sesame or other oil until they become more tender. Then enjoy kale in mixed green salads just like you would any green, leafy lettuce.