Are you prepared for the leap into summer? I am afraid that the abrupt jump to hyperspace happens here on the ground as well as in the Star Wars universe. There is no going back; cool, limpid spring is about to sail into hot, humid summer. It’s time to think about minimizing time spent in the airless kitchen, and maximizing time spent outdoors, searching Quixotically for cool breezes. Otherwise we’ll be sitting squarely in front of the A/C unit tearing through trashy novels and binge watching Stranger Things for the next few months.
During the week I like to rely on leftovers to spackle over the deeply flawed reality that I am not a very good meal planner. I like to think that Meatless Mondays (which are always a pasta variation) and Taco Tuesdays give me street cred as a planner. Along about Thursday I have run out of steam, and I start rooting around in the fridge for inspiration. Invariably there will be some leftover grilled chicken, or salmon, or sometimes even skirt steak nestled in ubiquitous Rubbermaid tubs in one of the drawers. Voila! I knew I was a genius. Luck, I think, is as good as actual planning skills. And I am certainly lucky that it is grilling season. All that is left to do is to find a good, crunchy base for the protein. This is where you can get show-offy and clever: greens, beans, kale, spinach, tomatoes, roasted corn, asparagus… Hint: you don’t even have to re-heat the meat – serve it cold, or at room temp, on a chilled bed of salad.
Our modest container of home-grown lettuces is full of bolting, leggy plants right now so I’ve been buying more local produce at the farmers’ market, amassing an admirable array of fruits and vegetables that add sparkle not found in grocery store Romaine or rocket. There is nothing like the novelty of biting into a sweet, antioxidant and flavonoid-rich blueberry when you have been dulled into submission by too many wintery carrot slices. Here is a handy-dandy what’s-in-season reference for your shopping list: https://marylandsbest.maryland.gov/wp-content/uploads/Maryland-Fruit-and-Vegetable-Seasonality-Charts.pdf You’ll know what’s in season, and you can plan accordingly. You can add some color and excitement to what will soon become your summer routine.
I have a fine crop of basil plants this year, and this pesto steak salad will be sophisticated and different. I love shaving the Parmesan curls:
Our friends at Food52 like boozy themes: Bloody Mary Steak Salad
This will liven up a potentially boring mid-week dinner. I’ll skip the Bloody Mary, though.
This listicle will make your life much easier: https://www.myrecipes.com/course/salad-recipes/steak-salad-recipes
Ina Garten makes a leftover salmon salad that is very close to the tuna salad of our childhoods:
https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/salmon-salad-recipe-1940531 Capers make it grown up!
This is an easy and summery chopped salmon salad: https://www.primaverakitchen.com/easy-chopped-salmon-salad/
If you have a leftover rotisserie chicken, or an extra grilled breast from the weekend, try this: https://alexandracooks.com/2019/01/25/what-to-do-with-leftover-roast-chicken-make-a-salad/
I am a big fan of panzanella salad, and usually make it with fresh mozarella cheese, and since I am loathe to waste any food these days, so I’m going to try it with chicken. There are lots of ideas here: https://www.foodandwine.com/meat-poultry/chicken/12-salads-make-roast-chicken
We are all cutting back on unnecessary driving now, while using up every bit of food, while avoiding unavoidable plastic, and still maintaining social distancing. Phew! No wonder we like watching the birds fly home at night, with the setting sun gilding the tops of the trees, with the first fireflies blinking back there in the hydrangeas. Summer is almost here.
“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald