Summer can be short in Chicago, and I don’t want to spend mine in the kitchen. I take my cue from Ina Garten, a cook I try to emulate. She suggests using the best ingredients and preparing them simply. Fortunately, I have the popular Evanston farmer’s market to keep me supplied with fresh picked fruits and vegetables from farms in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
I like soft cheeses like fresh mozzarella and it’s creamier cousin, burrata to transform my market finds into a meal. Best when freshly made, these semi-soft Italian cheeses have a delicate milky flavor. The firm elastic texture of fresh mozzarella makes it easy to slice and layer. In fact, my go-to summer lunch is an open-faced Caprese sandwich with smoked mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes.
I discovered nirvana early in the summer when I ordered a salad of burrata, strawberries, sugar snaps, and hazelnuts at Pacific Standard Time, a great new restaurant in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. I couldn’t stop making it at home while the strawberry season lasted. New berries have taken now their place in the recipe. I also want to try it with peaches and toasted pecans.
New Summer Berries
My newest fruit discovery is the saskatoon, also known as a serviceberry. Highly nutritious, it looks like a blueberry but grows on a tree. I have one in my garden, which is how I’ve come to eat so many. A wet spring, followed by hot early summer weather made everything grow spectacularly. I’ve never had a comparable crop. Sweet and delicate, the Saskatoon Berry Institute of America describes the berry as “having as sweet, nutty almond flavor.” Although I snacked on many of them, I also put them in a tart and paired them with some light whipped cream.
Another favorite summer treat is fresh limeade. Sweet, sour and refreshing it’s just what I want after a walk or a trip to the beach. A longtime favorite, it was the highlight of my trips to Drake’s Sandwich Shop, an old-fashioned luncheonette that was once adjacent to the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. I use Elise Bauer’s limeade recipe from Simply Recipes. I like the extra punch of lime the addition of lime zest gives to the drink. Although I don’t add the mint, I do sometimes infuse the syrup with basil.
Everyone is thirsty in the summer so I feel encouraged to be creative, I grew up drinking iced tea, so that’s always in my rotation. Try my grandmother’s recipe it only takes a few minutes. If you like a sweeter drink add 1/3 fresh lemonade for an Arnold Palmer.
Other Summer Drinks
When I overbuy at the market I make fruit drinks. Watermelon agua frescas are always my first choice, Both sweet and refreshing, the pulp helps keep you hydrated. Try my recipe from my post on 30seconds.com. When I have a wider array of ingredients I make a green juice; try my recipe it even wins over novice green juice drinkers.
No Calorie Drinks
I have to admit that my ultimate discovery of the summer has been Spindrift. It’s a no-calorie sparkling water that has actual juice flavor, not just fragrance, l can’t get enough of the grapefruit version. I even got a subscription. My family laughs, but I haven’t found anything as refreshing.
Changing the Name of My Blog
As I’ve mentioned I will be changing the name of my blog to “A Chicago Life,” so look for it in the future.