When my sister and I were young adults, my dad and his wife bought a house with a pool. As a kid, a pool was something for which I’d campaigned heavily and was always pointing out how much yard space we had for one, telling my dad that I would clean it, doing the math on the initial installation costs, etc. Alas, it wasn’t until I was 23 or so that a pool came to pass, and at that point, I was out of the nest (more or less).
During this period of time, while we were in and out of first jobs/summer jobs we’d stop by for a swim and dinner during Maine’s short summers. My Dad has always been wonderful at (and I believe, loves) putting yummy meals together for friends and family. When we were lounging by the pool he would bring us orange Polar seltzers in frosty mugs from the freezer (usually reserved for beer). We had loved Orangina growing up and he hysterically referred to the orange Polar seltzer as “fake gina” pronounced with a long “i” sound. One day were were there for cocktail hour (we’re all adults at this point remember) and he brought out some frosty mugs of orange Polar seltzer with a splash of vodka and announced he came up with a new cocktail “I call this the Frosty Gina!” We almost peed our pants laughing and still chuckle about it to this day. I still drink variations on the Frosty Gina on hot summer nights.
Another thing we’d do together on these evenings is shuck Maine sweet corn and prepare what my Dad referred to as “Summer meals for chicks” – light meals, made of cold crunchy salad – fruit and veg.
These days I live by “summer meals for chicks” and have put farro salads in heavy rotation. If you haven’t discovered farro, it’s gonna blow your mind. I guess it’s kind of like barley in that it’s chewy and satisfying and so versatile and filling. It cooks waaaay faster than barley, so is much better suited to quick salads and less time in the kitchen. You can pretty much add whatever veggies / herbs / dressing you like but my favorite is basically the following:
2 cups (dry) farro – cooked according to package directions. When cooked, I rinse in a mesh strainer with cold water (or make ahead and leave in fridge).
1 large European cuke chopped (or multiple smaller ones from the farmers market when fresh and local)
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (go for local and organic when available)
I can chickpeas and/or 1 can brown lentils, rinsed and drained ( I know, I know, I do the canned – I am a busy gal)
1-2 cups of gigantic green olives or a combo of these and pitted kalamata olives, (you can also add or use artichoke hearts instead) – chop or don’t chop – up to you.
LOTS of chopped fresh flat italian parsley
1-4 cloves of garlic run through the smasher (amount according to your taste, I like A LOT)
1 shallot, minced, or 1 bunch green onion, chopped, greens and whites.
Balsamic vinegar and olive oil to taste (I have an immersion blender and usually make a lot of vinaigrette at a time and just dress it to taste)
S&P to taste
Hemp seed or chopped walnut sprinkled on top adds a satisfying crunch.
Mix all ingredients and dive in!! This is especially good atop arugula and pea shoots or any fresh greens. You can get as complex as you like, and I’ve added all of the above, but also gone with the farro, parsley, green onion, cukes and toms only and it’s divine that way as well.
Now go for a swim and stop by the Hannaford on the way home to get some farro and get your summer meals for chicks going!!!