Delightful Summer Eats

You know, there really is something to the idea of seasonal eating. My husband would love it if I made chili year round, but I just cannot bring myself to do it. I can’t. It’s cool weather food. I need to be able to smell the crisp air and hear the football game on the tv in order to start a big pot of chili. Heavy meals are best eaten in cooler months to me. They are the height of comfort food; evoking feelings of warm lights, soft blankets, glowing fires juxtaposed against wintry skies.

That is not the current meteorological state right now. It’s hot, humid and wilty outside. It’s sunny and bright. Days are punctuated with children running through the sprinkler and baskets full of garden goodies. Lemonade and iced tea. Ice cream and ice smoothies.

This is the time of year that my menu reflects a desire for cooler, lighter meals. Crisp, cool salads are the fare of the day. Fresh vegetables in abundance add so much variety to our normal meals. A tomato and mozzarella sandwich with a layer of basil fresh from the garden, dressed with a touch of olive oil and generously sprinkled with salt for lunch…yum!

With grocery prices rising (along with the price of everything else) I find I need to stretch meals further as well. I’ve found the best way to stretch a meal is with a pantry staple around here – black beans. Certainly, these beans can be bought in bulk, soaked, cooked and frozen in small, meal-size portions for convenience. But, cans of black beans are perhaps the most convenient and readily available option. High in protein, these beans offer a really tasty punch to just about anything they’re added to. I added them to my spaghetti last week and found them a nice twist. It did stretch my meal much further as well.

I was so excited with the meal I came up with last night, that I really wanted to share it. It was so tasty, and my husband is still raving about it. Praise indeed from my meat and potatoes guy – this meal is meatless! Dinner last night was a pasta salad. I added 2 cans of black beans and 2 large bags of frozen sweet corn (off the cob – the corn is frozen from my dad’s garden – you could use 1 bag of regular frozen sweet corn as a substitute.) It was dressed with an olive oil vinaigrette and an envelope of Italian dressing. We devoured it. It is wonderful chilled, and with the black beans the meal has enough bulk to make you feel full. It was so delicious I had to share!

Black Bean and Pasta Salad

1 lb of pasta, cooked and drained
1 bag of frozen sweet corn
2 cans of black beans
1 envelope Italian seasoning (any seasoning could be substituted here)
3/4 cup of a really good extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar (I like the Spectrum brand)

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and toss gently making sure to cover all of the pasta with the vinaigrette. Serve chilled. It could not be easier! This meal serves about 6 – adjust the portions to serve your family.

You could use any pasta you have on hand, but a pasta with ridges or holes would hold more of the vinaigrette – something like fusili, radiatori (what I used), or rotini. Here is a delightful site with everything you ever wanted to know about pasta! Sometimes the internet can be so fun!

Here’s to lemonade and cucumber salads – enjoy!

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