Healthy Summer Entertaining
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Healthy Summer Entertaining

Seasonal cherry tomatoes, basil, olives and parmesan cheese are combined to create a healthy summer salad.

Seasonal cherry tomatoes, basil, olives and parmesan cheese are combined to create a healthy summer salad. Photo courtesy of Terri Carr

While summer means weekends filled with trips to the beach, backyard grilling and al fresco dinner parties, the food that accompanies these gatherings is often laden with fat and calories (think ice cream, potato salad, hot dogs, s'mores and summer cocktails) and can wreak havoc on a healthy balanced diet.

“Summer here is by the far the best time for food in the Mid-Atlantic region and it goes all the way through September,” said Nick Phelps of From the Farmer. “Unfortunately, that’s when most people are out of town."

“Summer here is by the far the best time for food in the mid-Atlantic region and it goes all the way through September.”

— Nick Phelps of From the Farmer

An online food delivery company, From the Farmer delivers fresh, primarily local produce, sustainable meats and artisanal pantry items to clients in Maryland and Northern Virginia, including Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax County.

Phelps recommends serving plenty of fresh fruit when planning summer entertaining. Fruit has a high water content and is not only refreshing, it’s also filling and can satisfy a craving for sweets. "The most exciting [locally grown producer] are fruits like peaches and plums, which come out mid-summer,” Phelps said. “There are still some spring produce like strawberries and blueberries."

Summer ushers in fresh vegetables that are bursting with color and packed with fiber. Eating them raw or cooked minimally helps preserve the amount of fiber and vitamins.

"I think entertaining is easier during the summer," said Terri Carr of Terri's Table in Potomac, Maryland. "There’s so much available that can be cooked or prepared easily, and there’s just so much that you can do with the produce and the fresh herbs that we have in season now."

The bounty even yields alternatives to ubiquitous ice cream. “You can make sorbet with fruit and beautiful berries,” said Carr. “With heirloom tomatoes, it’ll be a Caprese salad or gazpacho, and I have a tomato torte that’s made with a lot of basil.”

Carr will demonstrate her favorite summer cooking techniques and recipes in her class that teaches how to cook for hot weather. She advocates avoiding heavy dishes in favor of "healthy and beautiful combinations that can create a protein-rich and satisfying main course." Using the best of the season’s bounty, Carr will use ingredients such as fish, chicken, tomatoes and a variety of greens to show others how to create delicious salads.

Her focus on healthful eating extends beyond her classroom. "I often grill salmon and vegetables," she said. "Or I make a big bowl of pasta with heirloom tomatoes and peppers. I love entertaining in the summer. It doesn’t take as much skill and it certainly doesn’t take as much time."