During summer, I try to spend as much time as possible outside the city, so for me summer food is all about homegrown vegetables, as well as berries (mostly blueberries and cranberries) and mushrooms (tiny chanterelles are the best!) you can find in the forest. My straight-from-the-garden favorites include arugula and tomatoes for salad, peppermint, spearmint, and lemon balm for tea, red onions, marrows, and bell peppers for grilling, and potatoes for coal-roasting. As for summer drinks, it’s definitely kvas – I can’t imagine drinking it during other seasons.
To me summer will forever be okroshka, the soda pop soup. My family makes it on a hot afternoon when everyone is ready for a nap and needs something satisfying and refreshing. You chop up boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, sausage, cucumbers, radishes and green onions and pour it over with cold kvas, the Russian fermented rye soft drink, straight out of the bottle. Everything bubbles and fizzes and you top it with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle it with minced dill and there’s your summer in a plate. Some people use kefir – a sour milk drink – instead of kvas but to me the tart and sweet kvas is the way to go. And no, it’s not like pouring Coca Cola over Olivier salad. It’s way more authentic.
As a kid, I once heard someone mention Dandelion wine, and though I never read the book until I was in my twenties, its very name struck me. I was dying to try it, this magic drink made from a simple but beautiful flower that’s generally considered a weed. Unfortunately, no one I knew made home-brewed wine, but my granny once made me dandelion jam – and I still remember the joy of trying it for the first time. Since then, dandelion jam has become something very special for me, and though most will say that it’s just jam, for me, it’s a childhood dream in a jar.
So for the last few weeks, I’ve been having fresh juice every morning. Yes, it’s a hassle cleaning the juice maker, but if you keep a store of apples, pears, carrots, beetroot, and oranges in the fridge (and they last for ages!), you can make all kinds of delicious orange, red and green juices and they’re FULL of vitamins. If you want to stay healthy and sharp, it’s the best thing to wake you up in the morning, especially if you throw in some lemon juice and ginger. Here are some fun recipes.
Summertime for me means that oatmeal, my regular breakfast favorite, can now be turned into a smoothie – and those are basically all I eat when it gets as hot as it is now. What I would usually do is take some fruit (half a banana and some frozen blueberries being my top combo), a measure of plant-based milk and another one of steel cut oats, of course, and then go crazy with the chia and flax seeds. Technically, this is still a smoothie but as it has predominantly oats in it, I say it deserves to be called summer oatmeal. Hope you enjoy it, if you give it a try!