None of these treats is a meal unto itself, and none of them takes very much effort to prepare. With a few of them on hand, though -- and something to throw on the grill -- you are well-prepared for anything from a quick lunch to a spontaneous feast. If only I could find someone willing to wash and chop and prep, this is what I would like to keep around:
1) Pesto. Because pesto is the little black dress of summer; goes with potatos, grilled fish or chicken, pasta (of course!), even in salad dressings. Around here, some of us have been known to eat it straight from the refrigerator, with crackers, and call it lunch.
2) Slow cooked tomatos. Start with a dozen or so perfectly ripe paste tomatos (roma, san marzano, etc.). Split lengthwise and remove the seeds. Sprinkle with finely minced garlic and a little salt, then drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 275-300 for 2-4 hours, or until they are completely collapsed but not crispy. The long, low heat accentuates their sweetness, intensifies flavors, and renders this perennial best friend of the vegetable garden into something a lot more seductive, completely irresistible. No matter how many I make, none are ever left.
3) Guacamole. To eat with chips and lots of salsa fresca (#4, below). To encourage frequent refills of excellent homemade sangria.
4) Salsa fresca: diced tomatos, chopped onions, minced jalapenos, dressed with lime juice and salt; to go with #3 and #5.
5) Sangria. The kind you make from red wine, fresh fruit, and a generous hand of brandy. The kind that will take you from sunny afternoons on the porch to philosophical reveries under the stars. Coupled with background music from Stan Getz, might even prompt you to consider taking flamenco lessons. That kind of sangria.
6) Iced tea, both black and green, with plenty of muddled mint in each.
7) The green bean salad that my friend J. makes: green beans steamed to a perfect crisp, dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and paired with thinly sliced shallots, diced tomatos, toasted pine nuts, lots of thinly sliced ribbons of basil, and the very freshest of diced, fresh mozzarella.
8) Cucumbers in a light vinegar and sugar dressing. Traditionally served with a dainty accompaniment of thinly sliced chives. In our household, more frequently clobbered with chives, mint, and dill, plus a generous dose of red pepper flakes. Very refreshing.
8) Potato salad: Preferably with lemon, olive oil & herbs, but in a pinch, I'll make do with the kind made with mayonnaise, pickle, celery, and chopped shallots.
9) Pickled carrots. One of my latest addictions, especially the spicy version pickled with garlic and jalapenos from The Brinery in Ann Arbor. Crisp, salty, spicy, even a little bit sweet, and good for you as well! Definitely addictive. Theoretically, an items I can buy (and thus, technically, not entitled to a place on this list), but given the difficulty of making it to the farmer's market this year, one of those things -- along with sauerkraut -- that I may need to learn how to make.
10) Chocolate sorbet. Because what is summer without dessert?
11) Deviled eggs. For a quick protein boost. And because we always have lots of eggs around.
12) Fruit salad, just about any kind. My current favorite is a mix of berries and nectarines with a light sugar syrup mixed with lime and mint. Am still trying to duplicate the melon salad I had at Zingerman's last year, the one with watermelon, canteloupe, blueberries and mint:
Haven't got it yet. Will let you know as soon as I do...
13) Some kind of black bean salad with roasted red peppers and roasted sweet corn. Always improvised. Different each time. Absolutely essential.
So that's my list. What's on yours?