Summer is here! It’s the time we’ve been waiting for, long evenings, warm breezes, and reacquainting ourselves with outdoor pastimes like gardening, beachcombing, and backyard barbeques. Cooking outdoors is wonderful because it keeps the heat out of the kitchen; during the carefree days of summer you don't always want to spend a lot of time on meal preparation. Sometimes you just want to throw something on the grill, add some easy side dishes, and dine on the back porch. So before summer swings into full gear, take stock of your pantry and get it ready for summertime meal planning and entertaining. Having a well-stocked summer pantry will make impromptu meals much easier, leaving you more time to relax and enjoy being outside.
Our Guide to a Well-stocked, Healthy Summer Pantry
Oils and Vinegars
Summertime calls for plenty of cool salads made from fresh, local, organic veggies so you want to have a variety of oils and vinegars for salad vinaigrettes. These two ingredients are also the foundation of good marinades for grilled meats and veggies.
Oils: extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed, coconut, walnut, avocado
Vinegars: balsamic, red wine, white wine, apple cider, rice wine, flavored
Condiments and Sauces
For meat eaters and vegetarians alike, condiments and sauces come in handy for making your own marinades or using as is for marinating chicken, beef, pork, or seafood and garden-picked veggies such as zucchini, onion, green peppers, and tomatoes.
The short list: tamari, Worcestershire, hot sauce, teriyaki sauce, barbeque sauce, fish sauce, salsa, pesto, ketchup, mustards (Dijon, yellow, stone ground), bottled salad dressings
For entertaining or just for snacking, a colorful, tasty antipasto plate is a snap to assemble with a few ingredients. What to have on hand: olives, marinated artichoke hearts, pickled asparagus, roasted red peppers, pickles, dolmas, or Food for Thought marinated veggies, in addition to sliced cheeses, crusty bread or crackers, seasonal fruit, or home-grilled veggies.
Grains and Pasta
Warmer months call for lighter, cooler fare and grains and pasta serve as the basis for flavorful, main dish or side salads such as tabbouleh. Tis also the season for pasta with fresh, homemade tomato and pesto sauces. Polenta, either homemade or in a tube, can be sliced and grilled.
Grains: brown, white basmati, and wild rice, bulgur, quinoa, couscous, barley, polenta
Pasta: macaroni, spaghetti, rotini, penne, rice noodles, spinach linguine, udon noodles, soba noodles, corn, rice or spelt pasta
Potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, and garlic
These wintertime staples are must-haves for summer too. Potato salad and summer go hand in hand so keep a supply of Yukon gold or redskins or any firmer variety. Marinated, sliced potatoes and sweet potatoes are easy to grill and make a great side dish. You’ll need sweet and red onions for salads, and thick-cut onion slices (held together with skewers) grill up nicely. Garlic is in season all year round for flavoring sauces and marinades and sautéing with fresh veggies. Wrap cloves of garlic in heavy-duty tin foil with a drizzle of olive oil, and sprinkling of salt and pepper and cook in the grill.
Fresh summer fruit is a fantastic treat to eat all by itself but should you be inspired to make a special summer dessert, you will need maple syrup, Sucanat, and/or honey for fruit crisps, cobblers, shortcake, frozen treats, yogurt, whipped cream or crème fraiche-sweetened toppings.
Also good to have on hand: baked beans to go with your tofu or beef hot dogs, canned chickpeas, kidney beans, cannelinis, or red beans for cold salads, canned tuna or salmon for salads.