Easy, breezy recipes for outdoor dining

Editor's note: You can page through the complete issue of the summer Sound & Country on The Day's new iMag, here.

Ah, summer. Lazy days lounging away on my lawn chair, as the warm summer breeze gently caresses my cheeks. I reach for my glass of Chardonnay, take a small sip, and then bury my nose in a good book. An hour passes, and a butterfly lands on top of my book binder. He studies me intently. After several seconds, this beautiful winged creature flutters away. I decide to close my book, shut my eyes, and fall gently into a peaceful slumber.

Wait a minute…that’s not quite right. Let’s start this scene over again.

It’s 6 p.m. on a hot and muggy summer evening. I reek of mosquito repellant. The air is as thick as pea soup — a little hard to take full and deep breaths. I’m lying flat on one of those folding beach chairs, bitterly complaining.

OK, I admit it — I’m more of an autumn/winter baby. I love the crisp chill in the air and all the “fun” holidays that come with it. Halloween (candy), Thanksgiving (massive amounts of food) Christmas (cookies)! Holidays equal good grub!

But even I have to admit, the dog days of summer hold a special place in this foodie heart of mine. There are certain things that just taste so much better when the sun is shining bright:

A tall cool glass of lemonade

An ice cream cone with 2 huge scoops of vanilla ice cream

A summer-ripened peach

A huge slice of juicy watermelon

And with warm temperatures, comes the onslaught of backyard barbecues and dining al fresco.

As much of a food hound that I am, the last thing that I want to do is to spend my hours slaving over a hot stove when the outdoors resemble a sauna. I mean seriously, try baking a cake or slow roasting something in an oven when you feel like sweaty mess. Here are some easy summer recipes that you can whip up and bring to your own (or a friend’s) backyard.

The Blushing Susie

I’ve always loved pink lemonade on a hot summer day. One day, I was fiddling around in the kitchen and decided to create my own pink lemonade — the “Blushing Susie.” After many tries, I came up with the recipe below. This is definitely NOT for the kiddos.

INGREDIENTS:

Citrus starter

1 /2 cups of water

1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice

1cup of freshly squeezed lime juice

1 ½ cups sugar

For the “Blush”

3 ½ oz of the Citrus Starter

3 oz club soda

2 oz vodka

½ oz grenadine

PREPARATION:

For the citrus starter

In a medium saucepan, heat water until nearly

boiling, combine sugar and stir until dissolved.

Remove from heat and allow to cool down.

In a 32 oz air tight container, combine the simple syrup and lemon and lime juices and store in the refrigerator. This can keep for up to 1 month in the refrigerator.

For the “Blushing Susie”

In a cocktail shaker or glass, combine the citrus starter mix, vodka and grenadine and shake or stir well.

Pour drink over ice and top with club soda. Gently swirl.

Garnish the glass/cup with a lime or lemon slice.

Salsa Fresca

I know, I know — there are a lot of great jarred salsas out there. But once you make your own salsa, you’ll never go back.

Ingredients:

2 large, fresh, ripe tomatoes, chopped. (For thicker, less watery salsa, take out some of the seeds before you chop.)

1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced. (If you like it super spicy, leave the seeds in.)

1/2 large white onion, peeled and chopped finely

1/4 teaspoon minced raw garlic

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice

Preparation:

Combine all ingredients, taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Let the flavors work together for at least for 15 minutes or so before serving, but serve within a couple

of hours, with your favorite tortilla chips!

Deviled Eggs With Goat Cheese and Asparagus

This is a riff on a classic recipe. Yes, there isn’t any paprika in here, but don’t panic. What you get is a nice texture contrast of the crunchy asparagus and soft eggs. The goat cheese and lemon juice adds some tang, and these 2 ingredients will help cut through the yolks and mayonnaise.

Ingredients:

1 dozen eggs (Preferably organic – it’s not crucial, but the yolks will have a richer taste to them if they are organic.)

2 tablespoons of fresh goat cheese

Juice of half a lemon – (about 2 teaspoons)

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

6 tablespoons of mayonnaise

2- 3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives

Kosher salt/freshly ground black pepper

Blanched asparagus tips, thinly sliced, for garnish

Preparation:

Hard-boil the eggs. Put them in a pan, make sure they are covered by one inch of water. Bring the water to a boil, then shut off the burner and let the eggs sit for 12 minutes. Use a timer. Yes, a timer. Otherwise, you’ll walk away from the stove, overcook the eggs, and end up with gray-green yolks. That’s not pretty to look at, trust me on this! Cool, peel, and halve them. Carefully remove the yolks and reserve the whites.

Note: If you use really fresh eggs, they will be hard to peel, so use older eggs. Or if you must use fresh eggs, after they are done boiling, dip them in super cold water.

Combine the egg yolks, mayonnaise, mustard, goat cheese, lemon juice, and chives in a medium, nonreactive bowl (plastic or glass). Season well with salt and pepper, then mix well until the yolks are broken up and the ingredients are evenly incorporated.

Notice that I didn’t tell you HOW much salt or pepper to use. This is where your taste buds come into play. Start with a tiny pinch of each and then taste. Just fine? Leave it. Needs more heat? Bump up the black pepper. You get what I mean…

If you want to be real cute — get a piping bag and equip it with a star tip. Transfer your yolk mixture into the bag and pipe the mixture into the egg halves. Or, if you can’t be bothered and you would rather just start eating these lovelies sooner, spoon the yolk mixture into the reserved egg white halves. Top with thinly sliced, blanched asparagus tips.

Blanched? What the heck does that mean?

All this means is that you are going to boil the asparagus to the desired tenderness. Then you dip the asparagus into a bowl of ice water. This stops the cooking process and helps retain the bright green color. Once you blanch the asparagus, cut the tips off and save the remaining asparagus stalks for a salad or crudités. Don’t cut the tips off before you cook the asparagus. Been there, done that, and it’s a hot mess.

Chicken Soba Noodle Salad

I love macaroni salad during the summer. But sometimes, all that mayo kind of weighs me down. Here is an alternative to the classic summer staple. Do yourself a huge favor – grab a rotisserie chicken from the market. It’s faster and easier than roasting a chicken from scratch for this recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

One rotisserie chicken

3/4 cup rice vinegar

Scant 1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Zest of one lime

1 jalapeño chili pepper, seeded and minced (If your guests can

handle it, leave the seeds in.)

1 tablespoon sesame oil

3/4 teaspoon salt

3 large garlic cloves, minced

12 ounces soba noodles

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

1 cup chopped roasted and salted peanuts

Lime wedges for serving

PREPARATION:

Remove the skin from the chicken. Take the meat off of the chicken and shred. Set aside.

Place the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat for 1-2 minutes until the sugar and salt dissolve. Stir in the garlic and jalapeño, and allow the liquid mixture to cool down. Add the lime juice, lime zest, and sesame oil and mix well.

Cook the noodles in salted water, according to the package instructions. (Don’t skip salting your water. This is the only chance you get to “season” your pasta.) Drain and then rinse well under cool water. Transfer the noodles to a large bowl and toss with the dressing.

Add the shredded chicken and mint. (You don’t have to use all the chicken unless you want to.) Toss and plate. Allow guests to top with chopped peanuts, and provide them with lime wedges if they want to make the noodle salad a bit tarter.

Susan Duong blogs about food at http://thoughtforfood.us/ from her home in Waterford.

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