Summer Recipes For a Sensational Spread

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When I entered my daughter’s home on a recent scorching day, she greeted me by urging, “Try this! It’s summer in a glass.” The coconut-water base in her watermelon icy turns it into an electrolyte-balancing wonder. I could feel little energizing charges regenerating my neurons. Well, not really, but the lime and mint made it taste zippy! It sent me on a summer quencher quest. Why not cucumber, berries, herbs and melon? The recipes included here are great nonalcoholic options for post workout or lazy-day porch sitting. They are clean with a bite that offers a little complexity for a sophisticated palate, though children like them too. The flavored waters are subtle and restorative. Slake away!

Though we love a good beef burger, it’s fun to mix things up. Ground lamb offers that rich and unique flavor that blends so well with spices. While it stands on its own, it is also very receptive to enhancements. On a recent cooking stint at the Nashville Food Project, I walked into the prep kitchen and smelled lamb. The cooks confirmed that they had, indeed, just put away some lamb meatballs. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. That concoction haunted my taste buds until I made this burger. Adding a cucumber yogurt sauce and herb relish made it even better. I tried burger buns, pita bread and naan to hold all of this yumminess in one place. I settled on an open-faced naan option, but a burger bun also works well. Chef’s choice! A slice of Tennessee tomato, red onion and spinach dress it up perfectly.

Good old-fashioned pies never go out of style. The simple ingredients in this cherry pie make a welcome comfort food addition to any summer meal. My cherry pitter (my husband) is kind to lend a hand on this one. It’s a messy job that really is, well, the pits. Accept help if you can get it!

After a few tries, I learned that cherry juice is very plentiful and runny when baked like other fruits. The first two attempts at baking this pie ended up making super-juicy cobblers instead. The crusts were nearly ruined by the watery nature of the leaky fruit. Because of this, I consulted several bakers with years of hands-on cherry pie experience. I learned that cherry pie filling is best precooked with a bit of cornstarch (rather than the flour we add to most fruit pies). After trying this method, I was pleased with the result. Billy Boy would be too.

Cherries don’t grow as well in humid Tennessee as in drier and cooler northern locales. Fear not! The stores are full of Washington, Wisconsin and Michigan cherries this time of year. If you want to get fancy, you can make this dessert French – serve it a la mode.

By now, many of us have purchased a zucchini noodle maker. As seen on TV! Spiralizers, peelers and a plethora of kitchen gadgets offer veggie options for all things “pasta.” Though the veggie noodle is popular with vegans, vegetarians and the gluten-free and dairy-free folks, I’m turning that concept over by adding meat and dairy. Bring it on. This salad is chock-full of squash, peak tomatoes, pepperoncinis, olives and green onions. But, it is also packed with salami and mozzarella. Of course, you can omit these if desired. It still rounds out the burger plate very well. Chase it down with a refreshing drink and polish it all off with a slice of pie.

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