One thing is true about Canadians: Although our summers are never as long as we’d like, we squeeze the most from every glorious day. Whether we’re camping, hanging out at the beach, picnicking in a park or simply relaxing in the privacy of our own backyards, food is an integral part of a great Canadian summer. After all, what evokes the sun like farm-fresh berries or the scent of a tasty burger on the grill? Here’s a checklist of the best ways to have the perfect summer day, over and over again.
- Heat up the grill for the first barbecue of the season! There’s nothing that whets our appetites for summer quite like the mouth-watering sizzle of juicy burgers and steaks hitting the flames. Top either with a spoonful of ultra-fresh Walnut-Arugula Pesto for a hit of herbal flavour. Add a simple side dish, like Italian-Style Green Bean & Potato Salad, and stir up pitchers of lemonade and sangria to celebrate the arrival of warmer weather. (Even if “warmer” means you still need a toque in some parts of the country!)
- Sip iced tea with Mom. For Mother’s Day, steep a traditional batch of iced tea (or iced coffee) and celebrate by kicking back with a glass on the porch or deck. Savour the very civilized ritual of enjoying this crisp and cool beverage in the shade. Or make it a fancier affair with a Mother’s Day tea party that features make-ahead finger sandwiches. They’re perfect for relaxing and celebrating the day together. Take a shortcut by dressing up ready-made iced tea with slices of lemon or orange. For an elegant touch, freeze sprigs of lavender or rosemary in ice cubes and luxuriate in the herbal note they add to summer bevvies.
- Get ready for Victoria Day. May Two-Four is all about quick and easy entertaining so everyone can watch fireworks at sundown. Queen Victoria’s special day calls for a laid-back menu of hot dogs on the barbecue and ice-cold canned beverages, be they pop or beer or both, and a toss-and-serve salad kit. Impress guests with a special make-ahead homemade condiment, like Spicy Cucumber Relish or Guacamole with Goat Cheese and Tomato.
- Pack a picnic for Dad. Steaks on the barbecue are always a hit on Father’s Day, but this year, shake things up a little with a surprise picnic. Dust off the cooler; fill it with food, drinks, snacks and an ice pack or two; and stake out a shady spot in the backyard or a nearby park. Sandwiches are the ultimate portable food, and Sirloin Steak Sandwiches with Horseradish Mayo have that Father’s Day grilled flavour in a hand-held format. Add crackers, cheese and grapes for effortless, satisfying snacks, and brownies or Dad’s favourite dessert. Tip: Even if you’re having an easygoing picnic, always make sure you handle and store meat properly to keep everyone healthy.
- Bite into a local strawberry. So many juicy sun-ripened strawberries, so little time. Canadians look forward to this bounty all year and gobble up these red beauties like they’re going out of style. Core them quickly using a drinking straw and serve them up freshly sliced in simple Strawberry Cinnamon Shortcakes or pair them with basil (a scrumptious fruit enhancer) in sophisticated Strawberry & Basil Eton Mess. Always wash all fruits and veggies thoroughly before cooking, serving and eating.
- Celebrate a graduation. A special show-stopping cake is a delicious way to say congratulations for a job well done. It’s also a fun tradition to end the school year for students of all ages, whether it’s shared in the classroom with friends or unveiled as a treat at home on the last day before summer break. This ombré icing tutorial will help you give your cake a Pinterest-worthy finish.
- Have a Canada Day cookout. Big, bold flavours that herald the height of the growing season are in order for this holiday. Please a crowd with robust dishes that are simple to slap on the grill, like Spiced Strip Loin Steaks. Pair them with some vegetarian-friendly fare, such as Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad, to make the most of the early harvest. No matter which province you call home, this day deserves dishes that are celebration-calibre.
- Eat ice cream. It isn’t really summer unless you’ve cooled down on a sunny day with a frosty ice cream. One scoop or two, a waffle cone or a sugar cone, an ice cream sandwich or soft-serve — there is no wrong choice. It’s sticky, melty and one of the sweetest treats of the season, whether you’re on the beach or the boardwalk, or in the comfort of your own backyard.
- Feast on cherries. Cherries are among the most anticipated fruits of the summer, and for good reason. Biting into these juicy, plump delights is as satisfying to your sweet tooth as eating candy. Pop a handful into a snack container for the perfect pick-me-up on the go, or incorporate them into a luscious Cherry Mango Picnic Cake.
- Throw a family reunion. Connecting with loved ones and playing games with the kids are important reunion activities, but it’s not an event without a special meal. Treasured family recipes take centre stage for nostalgic reasons. And through the goodness of food, the youngest generation can participate in their cultural and family heritage in a time-honoured way. If you’re meeting up in the great outdoors, these planning tips will help you make it the perfect celebration.
- Sink your teeth into corn on the cob and peaches. August is prime time for corn and peach crops in Canada. Boiled, roasted or grilled corn on the cob — brushed liberally with butter and dusted with salt — is one of the simplest food pleasures of the summer. Fragrant peaches also beg to be eaten while they’re perfectly ripe, with that first bite releasing streams of luscious juice down your chin. Their flavour and texture make them a delicious addition to green salads. Here are 10 more fun ways to enjoy summer peaches.
- Build a campfire and make s’mores. Camping in the lazy days of late summer is a truly Canadian tradition, and it’s not an authentic experience if you don’t make s’mores over a crackling fire. Pack some chocolate, graham crackers and, of course, big fluffy marshmallows you can toast to gooey perfection. Sandwich everything together and get ready for sticky fingers and big smiles. This is the perfect easygoing dessert to cap your great Canadian summer.