10 Foods to Include in Your Summer Meals (And Fruit Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing Recipe)

Written by Kate Tietje, Contributing Writer

In the summer time, there is an abundance of fresh food available, no matter where you are.  At farmer’s markets and even local grocery stores, you’ll find locally-grown fresh produce in all varieties.  Some of these you may not be familiar with.  Time to try some new foods, and celebrate interesting ways to prepare familiar ones!

Additionally, summer lends itself to some unique preparation methods.  I always crave fresh, simple, and often cool dishes in the summer, like salads, grilled meats, and ice cream desserts.  It’s no wonder – who wants to eat a heavy, hot meal when it’s so hot outside?

Try these ten foods this summer, or try a new way to prepare an old favorite.  You’ll love it!

1)      Tomatoes

Tomatoes are an old standby.  Chances are you’re familiar with them in all sorts of dishes.  In the summer time, though, when they’re fresh off the vine, they’re delicious in a way that tomatoes never are otherwise.  Try stuffing them, creating fresh salsas, adding them to sandwiches and salads, or just eating them plain!  Try Bacon, Spinach and Tomato Pasta from my new book, Simply Summer.

2)      Zucchini

Zucchini are pretty common too, so chances are you’ve had them.  Try adding them to salads, creating an “au gratin” dish, adding them to stir-frys, or grating them to make some zucchini bread!  These are also delicious when combined with tomatoes (in my opinion).

3)      Peaches

I only learned that peaches could be grown in my area (Ohio) a couple years ago.  Prior to that, I thought they only grew in the south!  Fresh peaches off the trees are unbelievably sweet and delicious and nothing like the grocery store variety.  Enjoy them fresh, make them into ice cream, try peach tea, or try peach upside-down cake from Simply Summer.

4)      Swiss Chard

This is admittedly not my favorite, but a lot of people love it.  Swiss chard is an extremely high-producing leafy green.  The leaves are large and taste like a cross between lettuce and spinach.  Try serving them in salads or cooking them in bacon grease.  They’re easy to grow, too, so you could even plant your own if you like it!

5)      Basswood Honey

This is a harder-to-find variety of honey, made from basswood trees (hence the name).  It’s a very light honey with a slightly minty flavor.  It goes great in summer iced tea drinks and more.  If you can find some, snap it up!  Make black or green tea with a fresh mint leaf and a bit of this honey for an awesome summer treat.

6)      Okra

Okra is a traditional southern food, so you may have had it already.  It’s often added to gumbo, or fried.  If you haven’t had it, try cooking it in one of these ways.  You can add it to stir-frys or mix with sausage and rice for a unique Cajun-style dish.

7)      Kohlrabi

This is a pretty weird vegetable, but a lot of CSAs are offering it now.  It can be sliced or chopped and cooked, or served in salads.  It’s supposed to be tender and delicious, although I admit to being a bit afraid of it.  I hear my father-in-law loves it!

8)      Garlic scapes

These are a curious, curly green vegetable.  They are the tops of garlic plants and have a very mild garlic flavor.  I was first introduced to these just a couple years ago, and indeed, they’ve really only been on the market for a few years.  They can be sliced and added to stir-frys, baked potatoes, or used in place of chives or green onions in many dishes.

9)      Fresh herbs

Chances are, you usually cook with dried herbs.  Why not?  It’s convenient, and they last a long time.  Fresh herbs need to be used quickly or they go bad.  But they’re so flavorful and they’re easy to obtain in the summer.  Toss some fresh thyme into soup or ground meat; try some fresh sage with a chicken dish.  Use fresh cilantro in salsa.  Fresh dill goes great with fish, or to make dill pickles!  Bunches of herbs are pretty cheap, so buy one or two and give it a shot!

10)   Sugar snap peas

These are tender, young pea pods that are sweet and great in stir-frys.  I only just tried them this year!  Try adding them to salads or even just eating for a snack.  Look for other unique recipes too!

Simply Summer Cookbook

These are some awesome summer foods!  I love to eat these fresh foods in the summer…which is one reason I wrote Simply Summer, my new cookbook that was released yesterday.  You can get 35% off through tonight with code SUMMER35.  If you miss that, you can get 20% off through Friday, 6/22 with code SIMPLY20.

You can also participate in a fun contest!  If you make the recipe below, send comments on how you liked it and pictures to contest@modernalternativemama.com for a chance to win a free copy of the book!  10 people will win, and winners will be announced and emailed on July 5th.

Today I want to share with you one recipe from this cookbook: Fruit Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing.  It’s a sweet, fresh and versatile treat.  Try the basswood honey in this recipe; it’s amazing!

Ingredients:

  • ½ medium watermelon, cubed
  • 1 lb. strawberries, stems removed and sliced
  • ½ lb. blueberries
  • ½ lb. sweet cherries
  • 2 medium peaches, diced
  • ¼ c. raw honey
  • ¼ c. water
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tbsp. poppy seeds

Directions:

Choose whatever fruit you like that is in season – these fruits are suggestions.  Try raspberries, sour cherries, pineapples, bananas, papayas, mangoes, etc. if these grow in your area.  Use about 3 lbs. of fruit, wash it, and cut it into bite-sized pieces.

Put your fruit in a large bowl, preferably glass or wood.

In a small saucepan over low heat, mix the honey, water, and lemon juice.  Heat very gently, just until honey and water is slightly warm and combined.  Add the lemon juice, vanilla, and poppy seeds and stir until combined.  This is a great project for small children to help with!

Pour the dressing over your fruit and toss gently to combine.  Serve immediately.

Makes 6 – 8 servings.

What summer ingredient are you most looking forward to?

Top image by nocivegelia

About Kate Tietje

Kate is a work-at-home mom to (almost) 4 kids -- Bekah, age 4.5; Daniel, age 3; Jacob, 1; and baby #4, due mid-March 2013. She is married to Ben, a wonderfully supportive husband! She blogs at Modern Alternative Mama, where she writes about natural health, real food, parenting, and all things “green.” She also recently launched Modern Alternative Kitchen, a site about traditional cooking, and is about to launch Modern Alternative Pregnancy. In her “free” time, she enjoys sewing, crafting, cooking, and playing with her children. Follow her on Facebook!

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Comments

  1. Watermelons, peaches,cherries and mango with the poppyseed dressing…one word…Yum!
    Just what I was looking for :D

  2. Beatrice says:

    It’s not the healthiest way to eat kohlrabi but if you slice it and bread it (like chicken parmesan), it’s very yummy!

  3. Swiss chard grows so easily in the garden and you can harvest off the same plant for months and months, well past the first mild freeze! Here is a recipe I like:
    saute 1 lb swiss chard leaves (cut out larger portion of stems) in olive oil with 1/4 diced onion and 1 minced garlic clove – sprinkle with 3/4 t salt and cook until just starting to wilt – place greens in bowl and add: 2T parmesan cheese, 2 t balsamic vinegar, and 1/2 C fresh bread crumbs – mix and serve. It’s yummy, I promise!

  4. Just got a garlic scape from our farmers market this week for the first time. I mixed it into butter and served it with grilled halibut. Delicious!

  5. I’m not crazy about swiss chard either, but I grow and eat it b/c it’s one of the few greens that will grow in the summer Texas heat.

  6. I can hardly wait for my tomatoes to ripen! I am looking forward to making salsa, tomato sauce, canning for soup, and more.

  7. Hi Kate. Thanks for the great post! My DD loves the nasty poppyseed dressing from the store on her regular salads. Of course, I’m excited to make this dressing instead for her. Any idea how long it would last in the fridge if I made it to store and use occasionally instead of all at once? Thanks so much!

  8. Christina Y. says:

    I am looking forward to summer tomatoes! I cook with them almost every day in the summer! I add them to pastas, salads, chicken, veggie burgers on the grill, k-bobs… the list goes on and on! Great post!

  9. I sent my husband to pick up our CSA shares and asked for a good dipping vegetable for a veggie platter. The farmer requested kohlrabi, which to me looked like something out of an alien movie! It was a little strange to peel and cut, but it’s really good. Holds its shape well and great for dipping. I thought it tasted a bit like a mild radish.

  10. Michele M says:

    Great post! We’re growing kohlrabi for the first time this year. When I was growing up, my parents grew it in their garden and we all liked it a lot.

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