What’s in Season for Summer?

Get excited about . . .

You wander into the market and your senses delight in that first fragrant whiff. Basil is back in leafy profusion. Home-made pesto pasta flashes to mind, beside a fresh garden salad uplifted by a lick of basily zest. Or maybe your hunger dives into a virgin-olive-oil-drenched bruschetta the moment you spy those bursting new season tomatoes. You can feel the cherry toms explode in your mouth and savour the hot, sweet, diced red onion(newly dug).

Summer’s table is all about vital, lively tastes that lift the residue of winter-thick palates. The appetite prances in anticipation: the cleansing sours of plum, nectarine, passionfruit, raspberry andblackberry, the bitter cut of radish through an orange-mustard salad dressing, and sweet juices that slake a year-long thirst, burst from peaches, watermelon and Valencia oranges.

Summer comforts

Even with summer’s exciting social verve, you still need a few comfort foods that hug you on the inside, without feeling too heavy, in warm weather. Thank goodness for fat, creamy avocados, velvety apricots and dusky nights of marscapone-slathered figs.

It’s time to enjoy delicately stuffed zucchini flowers at your favourite Mod Oz restaurants or comforting okra fried, pickled or gumbo’d in Middle Eastern, Caribbean or African-inspired ones.  For summer picnics, track down fresh vine leaves from your local market deli and brush-up on your dolmades-making skills.

Summer staples

The nourishing crunch of steamed butter beansin a warm salad is welcome, and you’ll want some crisp, lightly-salted celery sticks for the hottest of summer days, and cucumber discs drowned in cool yoghurt and garlic dressing.  Then wrap your appetite around some eggplant fries, steepled beneath morsels of peppered lamb fillet.

What’s exotic? 

If you never have, you absolutely must peel the red, knobbly skin off a lychee (or its cousin, the hairy red rambutan) to reveal the translucent, silky dome beneath  ̶   ‘pop’ and its subtle perfumed juice streams in.  Come late summer, easily bruised Nashi pears arrive, often foam-net-wrapped. They look very much like pears but are rounder, and produce a quenching gulp of delicate juice each bite.

Figs are always worth the wait at $40-$50 a kilogram and turn either entrée or dessert into a seductive interlude but keep an eye for a local tree laden with bulbous, ripening fig-bellies. When they’re purple and soft to touch, the feast begins! 

‘Junk food’ 

You’re quick-fix summer besties are chilled, grab ‘n’ go grapes and peeled luscious mangos thatfall apart in your mouth. Mangos are great for home-made pickling and chutneys too, so ask your friendly green grocer to keep an overripe box aside.

Celebrate Summer Recipes

Fig Seduction

You’ll need:

  • Ripe figs
  • Good quality goat’s cheese
  • Prosciutto

Finely cut the prosciutto and crisp it under the grill.  Cut the figs in half, length-wise, so the pink seeded flesh is gloriously exposed. Spread a layer of goat’s cheese over the top, leaving some of the sweet flesh visible, then warm under the grill.  Top with threads of crispy (or crumbled) prosciutto. Serve warm.

Mohito Mocktail

You’ll need:

  • 1 elegant, tall glass
  • 1 portion of soda water
  • 1 portion of lemonade
  • 1 splash of lychee juice (available in canned fruit section of Asian stores, supermarkets)
  • 1 splash of white rum (if you prefer cocktail)
  • 1 squeeze of lime
  • 1-2 fresh lychees
  • 3 mint leaves
  • 2-3 cubes of ice

Mix the liquids, squeeze in the lime, plop in the lychees and ice and drop mint leaves inside the glass. Sip, pause and live well!