Sweet grape tomatoes

Today’s dream is to be studying in Alice Water’s kitchen by day and gardening in her organic fields by night. I’d be begging David Tanis to teach me all he knows and watching the people flow in and out of Chez Panisse in Berkeley. One day. Today, in the heavy heat of Phoenix, I’m thinking of creative menus for the summer that require little energy and much refreshment.

Last night I sat under misters overlooking a lake and watching the sun dip below a tangerine horizon,  sipping a cold glass of sauvingon blanc and enjoying a chilled bowl of gaspacho topped with spicy pine nuts. I left the table full but light, feeling like I’d earned another Arizona summer day survivor badge. While last Saturday I spent 8 hours roasting and baking in my tiny kitchen, I’ve decided now to leave the oven off until September. It is time to celebrate summer foods that require little heat but burst with flavors of the season.

I’m thinking summer green salads with almonds, berries and pulled chunks of cold chicken. Bowls of cold cucumber soup topped with generous dollops of yogurt. Cereal with cold fruit in lieu of steamy nutty oatmeal for breakfast. Less bread, more raw fruit and vegetables. Less meat, more dairy. And everything cold.

If I had the chance to bbq, this post would be entirely different. More like, “An ode to my father’s cooking: BBQ chicken, watermelon and a side of chlorine.” We ate most of our summer meals as children on the patio, sitting on towels in wet bathing suits, running away from my mother’s 30-minute warnings as we dove back in immediately afterward. Alas, while the quickest smell of charcoal brings me right back those blissful childhood memories, I’ll have to wait until I have a proper house to plan summer menus around his secret recipes.

Do you have a favorite summer food?