Summertime Blues (and Greens)
I don't know how anyone can be blue in the Summer! Although, as adults, we don't get that same rush of freedom from the end of work as kids do from the final day of school. It's hard to deny the carefree attitude in the air and increased sense of play, no matter what your age. Longer days beckon us to be active long past quitting time, as daylight meanders slowly into night.
And, while this may be a vain and slightly female-skewed perspective, I love the decreased sense of appetite that seems to be directly proportionate to the increase in temperature. The thought of eating anything more than romaine lettuce and smoothies in over 90 degree heat makes me ill. A full departure from the root vegetables and hearty cooked food I crave in the winter. Often, we talk about conducting a Spring cleaning in our homes and our bodies, but I'm all about a Summer scrub. It's as if Mother Nature is begging us to get healthy!
The concept of eating according to the seasons and biological cravings is intrinsic to the ancient Indian philosophy of health, called Ayurveda. In simple terms, there is a time for sweet potatoes, and there is a time for salads. If you haven't guessed already, Summer is salad time!
So, what foods will cool us down as the thermometer rises? Simple, it's what nature produces in abundance during these warmer months.
Here's a good list with some familiar faves to get you started:
- Asparagus: We're nearing the end of prime asparagus season, but I will still count July as a good month, mostly because I love it on the grill. Simple. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill. Done.
- Arugula (See recipe below!)
- Avocado: I have yet to meet a human being who doesn't like avocado. Packed with healthy fats, it's one of Mother Nature's gems.
- Blueberries: Blueberry pancakes, blueberry pie, blueberry cobbler, blueberry jam, blueberry muffins. Any questions?
- Blackberries: See list above for ideas.
- Okay, really ANY berries are in season in summer.
- Cucumbers: Their high water content makes them a perfect Summer snack. Slice some up with your avocados, squeeze some lime juice on top, sprinkle with salt and, if you can stand the heat, cayenne pepper! One of my favorite simple treats.
- Green Beans: An often overlooked rock star veggie. When fresh, they bear no resemblance to the army green, mushy, out-of-a-can counterparts your mom used in some casserole.
- Zucchini: A great replacement for heavier, starchy pasta in the summer. Yes, you can slice zucchini in spirals (use a spiralizer or a mandoline slicer.) I like my zucchini noodles raw with traditional toppings such as marinara or pesto sauce.
Want to find a way to eat not only seasonally, but locally to keep your dollars close to home? Find a farmer's market near you, and buy whatever they're selling! Farmer's markets are the best way to learn what's growing now in your area and expand your palate. Pick up something you've never seen, eaten or heard of, and look online for a recipe that appeals to you. Having lived in LA for many years, I can tell you, Californians have it best when it comes to fresh produce year round. Here's a site to find one near you: http://www.localharvest.org. It also includes resources to find local CSA's, markets and Co-Ops in your area.
The best advice I can give? Listen to your body. The healthier we become, the more in tune we'll be with signals from our inner guide, which is often, not coincidentally, in the gut. Stay tuned for more about Ayurveda as the months go on and summer lulls into Fall. But let's not think about that right now. Go out and enjoy!
Arugula and Asparagus Salad
Arugula, with its spicy peppery flair, is one of my favorite greens. This is the perfect summer accompaniment to a grilled fish or other light protein. It's also great with grilled shrimp.
- 12 ounces fresh organic Arugula, rinsed and dried
- 12-15 stalks Asparagus
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup shredded pecorino or manchego cheese
- 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
Begin by grilling the asparagus in a grill pan or on an outdoor grill for best flavor. If using a grill pan, coat with about 1 tbsp. of olive oil and heat on medium high. Add asparagus and cook until tender and browned. If using the grill, coat asparagus liberally with oil, and place on grill until tender and browned. Remove from pan or grill, and allow to cool slightly while shredding your cheese. Squeeze about ¼ to ½ cup of lemon juice, depending how citrusy you like your salads. Slice asparagus into 1-2 inch pieces, discarding ends. Toss together with your greens and drizzle with remaining olive oil and lemon juice. Add cheese last and toss well, then finish it with a bit of salt and pepper to taste.