Chilled Cream of Basil Soup with a Corn + Cucumber Salad

Chilled Cream of Basil Soup with a Corn + Cucumber Salad | @withfoodandlove

I really don’t mind cooking when it’s hot outside. I actually love to cook in the summertime, and I know this makes me a crazy person. My love for cooking in July started long before I had central air conditioning. In Philly, I’d crank my oven so high I swear my tiny apartment was about to burst into flames.There’s something about the produce in the heat of the summer that inspires me on a primal level. The colors. The textures. The plentiful bounty, at the market, in my CSA box and {now} in my garden. I think we probably all feel the same way, like we can never get enough of the summer veg.

We become vegetable hoarders. We covet them. And we literally fight people {or squirrels} for them until they literally run out. Often I’m drawn to roasting them. Eggplants, tomatoes, zucchini. I pop tray after tray of them into the oven. Keeping it simple, all with just a little sea salt and a splash of olive oil and whole garlic cloves right in their skins. The flavors deepen, the notes soften, and everything tastes the perfect amount of sweet. I don’t know why. It doesn’t matter the season, or temperature outside. Roasted food always tastes the best to me.

Chilled Cream of Basil Soup with a Corn + Cucumber Salad | @withfoodandlove

Corn + Cucumber Salad | @withfoodandlove

Chilled Cream of Basil Soup | @withfoodandlove

Chilled Cream of Basil Soup with a Corn + Cucumber Salad | @withfoodandlove

And even though eating trays of roasted summery veg isn’t too heavy, there are still some summer days when all I want to eat is raw, lighter foods. Like smoothie bowls for breakfast, salads for lunch and raw soups, like this one for dinner. This cream of basil soup is totally raw and vegan and naturally gluten-free and requires practically no work at all to throw together. It has a smooth finish and it’s herby in spirit. But please don’t miss the corn and cucumber salad, it totally makes the dish and rounds out all the flavors with a little acid. Also, this soup is perfect thing to make with the abundance of basil I have right now. I seriously have, so, much, basil.

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Cabbage Wedges with Corn + an Herby Spicy Zesty Vinaigrette

Cabbage Wedges with Corn + an Herby Spicy Zesty Vinaigrette | @withfoodandlove

This week I harvested my first vegetables. Hungarian hot peppers, and folks, I have a lot of them. Somehow through the process of growing all of my vegetables from seed, caring for the seedlings indoors, potting them up, hardening them off outdoors, and finally transplanting them into their forever homes – I’ve made a big mistake. I have seven hot pepper plants, and sadly, zero bell peppers.

I had planned to put in two hot pepper plants and a variety of heirloom bell pepper plants, but somewhere along the process I must have mislabeled my seedlings. And in went just Hungarian hots. Umm I’m a moron, HA! But also, I was actually pretty bummed when I realized what I did. I just had such big dreams for my sweet peppers! But I guess hot peppers need some love too. So I hope you guys are down with spicy food.

What do you do with your hot pepper harvests?

Cabbage Wedges with Corn + an Herby Spicy Zesty Vinaigrette | @withfoodandlove

Cabbage Wedges with Corn + an Herby Spicy Zesty Vinaigrette | @withfoodandlove

Cabbage Wedges with Corn + an Herby Spicy Zesty Vinaigrette | @withfoodandlove

Cabbage Wedges with Corn + an Herby Spicy Zesty Vinaigrette | @withfoodandlove

I’m thinking a lot of preserving and pickling and lacto-fermenting will happen. Also a lot of roasting and whizzing into dressings like this herby spicy zesty one. I got the idea of adding a roasted hot pepper into my sauces, and vinaigrettes from Sara and her roasted jalapeno dressing she posted a while back. I’ll be making big batches of it all summer long. It’s the perfect amount of heat and brightness and tang. It’s great on this roasted cabbage, and it’s fantastic as a dressing on grain bowls, pasta salad and grilled vegetables.

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Spicy Ginger Watermelon Popsicles for #popsicleweek!

Spicy Ginger Watermelon Popsicles | @withfoodandlove

We headed to the airport at five in the morning with sleepy eyes, bags packed, an Airbnb booked and a head full of Cape Cod daydreams. But there were other plans in store for us. All of the flights back east were either overbooked or cancelled because of maintenance issues. So we had two choices. Go back home. Or go west. We chose west and hit up San Diego for a few nights. It was great to sink my toes into the ocean – something I miss so much. And then we headed to the desert. If I can’t have the Cape, my happiest place on Earth, I’ll take the desert. The desert is my spirit animal. I feel free there. Although it wasn’t the trip we dreamed of, it was a good lesson in staying flexible and open to possibilities. And we got in plenty of margaritas + tacos so that’s something, right?

I’ve talked about it a lot in the past, but mentioned in my last post that we fly standby on my husband’s airline whenever we go anywhere. Which lends a tremendous amount of privilege and opportunity, but it also totally sucks. I hear all the time ‘how lucky we are’ and that may be true. I honor my blessings, and I am full of gratitude for everything I have in my life, but it sure as hell ain’t about luck. I have some serious thoughts/rants about the word lucky. But that isn’t for today.

Today is for watermelon popsicles. Two-ingredient {booze optional} spicy ginger watermelon pops. Because it’s #popsicleweek you guys. Billy is back at it again like a boss, organizing the hell out of like the biggest blogger event of the summer. You may remember these strawberry basil creamsicles I did for last year’s Popsicle Week.

Spicy Ginger Watermelon Popsicles | @withfoodandlove

Spicy Ginger Watermelon Popsicles | @withfoodandlove

Spicy Ginger Watermelon Popsicles | @withfoodandlove

For the complete list of Popsicle Week participants, head over to Billy’s blog Wit & Vinegar, right now.

Here are some of my favorites so far.

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Raw Chocolate Tart with a Cashew Coffee Crust

Raw Chocolate Tart with a Cashew Coffee Crust | @withfoodandlove

Every year, around the end of May, I totally have a nervous breakdown about my summer plans I want to do everything. I want to go on every road trip, have every picnic, swim in every ocean. Go on every hike, shop at every market, eat on every patio, throw barbecues every night, and visit all of my friends and family in every state and in every country. Daydreaming about the summer tends to consume me, and it has especially done so since moving to the Midwest. But two things are different this year, and I’ve decided to take my summer planning a bit more seriously because of it.

The first. Everything is new to me here in the middle of the country. St. Louis, the Mississippi, and like the eight states {yes, 8!!} that border Missouri. My time here is limited, I don’t know how many more summers I’ll be around to adventure here. And, the Midwest is proving to be quite beautiful, lush and green and even pretty magical at times. They say there is plenty of water here, I haven’t seen much yet, but I’ll be spending a lot of my time trying to discover where it’s at. I miss the coast and my life on the water so much – the Jersey shore {never thought I’d say that}, the Cape and the Finger Lakes.

The second. Because Chris now works in aviation, I fly standby. Everywhere, I, go. Which is of course a really beautiful thing. I can literally go to any airport on any given day and hop on any plane and go anywhere in the world. I’m acutely aware that this privilege allows me to travel as often as I want, visiting people and places I may not have been able to see ordinarily. And, I’m very grateful for this.

Raw Chocolate Tart with a Cashew Coffee Crust | @withfoodandlove

Raw Chocolate Tart with a Cashew Coffee Crust | @withfoodandlove

Raw Chocolate Tart with a Cashew Coffee Crust | @withfoodandlove

But! With flying standby comes one great disadvantage, the inability to have any real control over your travel plans. You must stay flexible, be open to change, and be totally okay with not making it somewhere you had your heart set on. You can map out a whole summer full of vacations and weekends away, but when you go to the airport and the flight you want to get on is oversold, you might not be going where you thought or even anywhere at all. Things we’ve learned by flying standby. If you must be somewhere really important, you must buy a ticket, as painful as that seems. And you should make some backup plans, lots of backup plans and alternative destinations.

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Balsamic Grilled Summer Squash with Lemony Garlic Scape Tomato Salad

Balsamic Grilled Summer Squash with Lemony Garlic Scape Tomato Salad | @withfoodandlove

I appreciate rainy days just as much as sunny ones. I love the way the rain makes the Earth smell sweet, and the soft beats it leaves on my back porch. The way it relaxes my mind and body and heart. I’m even starting to embrace the vicious thunder and lightning storms here in Missouri. Really, they are wicked. The days when it pours endlessly, those are my favorite. They give me a reason to stay inside and work all day and all night if I want to without feeling guilty about it. And they lend permission to Bravo-marathoning-it in my pajamas, and baking cupcakes and eating them for dinner.

But too much rain, too much of anything is not good. And the rain in St. Louis has been relentless. Today was the first day in I think seven or eight days that it didn’t rain, at all. And it felt pretty wonderful. I wandered out to the garden after the sun rose. Early mornings here in the Midwest are my favorite – before the sun gets too hot and the humidity is still thin. Mostly all of my plants have loved all this rain, thriving because of it. There were six casualties though. The bean plants did not make it, and I think I’ll probably plant some more and see what happens.

Balsamic Grilled Summer Squash with Lemony Garlic Scape Tomato Salad | @withfoodandlove

Lemony Garlic Scape Tomato Salad | @withfoodandlove

Lemony Garlic Scape Tomato Salad | @withfoodandlove

This garden has taught me a lot, mostly that gardening is an acquired skill and I have a lot to learn. And also it’s brought this person out inside of me that I never knew existed. It’s actually quite an amazing thing that’s happened. I used to be a catch-and-release kind of girl. Like trap bugs and spiders in mason jars and release them back outside, couldn’t stand to kill the smallest pest. Now I’m hissing at squirrels, cursing at rabbits and squashing green caterpillars beneath my feet. I don’t know who I am anymore, but I’ll pretty much do anything to protect my garden babies.

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Savory Roasted Cherries + Cherry Panzanella Salad with an Herby Vinaigrette

Cherry Panzanella Salad with an Herby Vinaigrette | @withfoodandlove

Over the last few weeks I’ve been consuming A LOT of cherries. Some days maybe a few too many, if that’s even a thing.  Dark sweet ones, Rainier ones – raw, roasted, blended, juiced, frozen, with and without booze, basically in every way you can imagine.

The reason for all this cherry consumption, other than just genuinely loving them {because who doesn’t} is because I’ve partnered up with the folks and farmers over at Domex Superfresh Growers. They approached me to help generate some cherry buzz and to try to get people really excited about eating more fruits and vegetables this summer season. I’ve created a series of recipes for them and they’ll roll ’em out on their website over the course of the next few weeks. The first recipe is up, and you can go check it out! It’s a popsicle made with dark sweet cherries and black tea, because they’re the bomb dot com. Also coming, black bean street tacos with tangy yogurt and cherry salsa, a sweet + spicy bourbon smash cocktail, a gluten-free flatbread with cherries, ricotta. gorgonzola + arugula, and this salad!

Cherry Panzanella Salad with an Herby Vinaigrette | @withfoodandlove

Savory Roasted Cherries | @withfoodandlove

Savory Roasted Cherries | @withfoodandlove

The Superfresh Growers are stewards of the land committed to conservation, resource management and sustainability all the while dedicated to growing safe and nutritious fruit. Their focus is to sustain resources for future farming generations, and food safety is a critical component of their environmental commitment.

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Basil Infused Collins

Basil Infused Collins | @withfoodandlove

I think the best part about moving to the Midwest, and I’ve written about this before, is the ability to have a house with a outdoor space and a garden and a grill and a patio set and all of those adult things we never got to do/have while living in our city apartment. Last night we officially kicked-off our backyard barbecue season with some grilled veggie fajitas and some grilled garlic scapes and some great guacamole and beer and really, really good company.

And while though there are still some days where I feel totally displaced and lonely here in the Midwest – the connections and friendships we’ve made here in St. Louis in such a short time are real and meaningful and vital. There’s something about the genuinity of Midwestern people that I can get down with. So if you’re a STL local and you’ve reached out to say hello, thank you, I really mean it!

Basil Infused Collins | @withfoodandlove

Basil Infused Collins | @withfoodandlove

Basil Infused Collins | @withfoodandlove

I’m in the mood this season to roll out a bunch of summer cocktails. Mostly ones infused with ingredients from my garden, starting with this Basil Infused Collins you guys! This collins cocktail is sponsored by the awesome folks over at Sonoma Syrups, and they were kind enough to send me a giant box of syrups to sample. Out of their massive syrup collection, I sampled the White Ginger, amazing in sparkling water! The Vanilla Bean, and it’s best in iced coffee! The Mint, put this in your lemonade, obviously. The Pomegranate, mix this into a balsamic reduction and drizzle over berries. And a splash of the Lavender makes a mellow summer sangria. But for this recipe I ended up going with the Classic simple syrup because it’s so versatile.

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