This post has been generously sponsored by Chateau Ste Michelle, producers of award-winning, premium wines from their vineyards in Washington.
The days are hot, the farmer's markets are bursting, and the cool lake beckons.
Chateau Ste. Michelle is celebrating the best moments of summer with a 10 Perfect Sips contest, offering a trip for two to Seattle and tickets to their winery concert series, plus weekly prizes themed around their own lists of perfect sips - secluded beach getaways, girls’ weekends on the West Coast (I pinned a bunch of those!), pool-side reads, and lots of other ideas to make you sigh with summery contentment.
And I’m sharing 10 perfect recipes for those delicious days of warm sun, freedom, salt-air breezes and plush grass: flavour-packed portable salads featuring juicy, peak-season fruit and vibrant dressings; quick, flavourful meals; easy grilled dishes and stunning desserts.
1. Spicy Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw and Lime Crema. Obviously when the pool is shimmering and the lounge chairs are vacant, you do not want to be stuck in the kitchen. This spicy fish requires literally just a flash in the pan (and if that pan is cast iron, you can do it on the grill!). Plus the rest can be made in advance. The recipe is actually one of your own most loved - it continually ranks in the top 10.
2. Soba & Cabbage Salad with Snap Peas, Herbs, and Spicy Peanut Dressing. Potluck in the park, anyone? This packable salad features crunchy vegetables, salty peanuts, chewy noodles and the most delicious, creamy peanut sauce. Find a picnic table under a shady tree with this salad in one hand and a bottle of crisp Chateau Ste. Michelle Horse Heaven Sauvignon Blanc in the other.
3. Panzanella. The classic Italian bread and garden-fresh tomato salad is pretty spectacular no matter what, but this version is epic. With grill-charred focaccia to soak up the tangy-sweet tomato juices and creamy mascarpone on every forkful, you may not want to eat any other salad, ever. Perfect for an al fresco dinner when tomatoes are at their prime.
4. Cucumber, Mango & Avocado Israeli Couscous Salad with Mint-Chili Vinaigrette. This cooling salad with crisp cucumber, fresh mint, juicy mango and creamy avocado is always a hit. The kinda-sweet, kinda-spicy vinaigrette with citrus, honey and chili is totally addictive on fruity salad (try it and you'll make it all summer). It keeps well, so carry this one along when you head to the lake for the day.
5. Cherry Cheesecake Popsicles. The giddiness of childhood pops and a knock-your-socks-off cheesecake. Here's what you need to do: hang fairy lights outdoors (whether you have a 5"x5" high-rise patio like me, or a sprawling lawn under beautiful trees), throw a pretty tablecloth over a table (or right on the aforementioned patio floor), light several candles, fill a vase with flowers and grasses you gather, and invite your friends. Cork a bottle of chilled Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Columbia Valley Chardonnay, enjoy a magical dinner, and serve these under the warm, starry sky.
6. Strawberry Goat Cheese Crostini. The recipe that wins my Instagram (earning my most likes on two separate occasions), and also wins at appys on the beach. Grab a crusty baguette, salty goat cheese, a pint of sun-warmed berries (raspberries, blackberries or blueberries are all good) and a bottle of chilled Eroica Riesling, then go find the log with the best view of the ocean. Perhaps enjoy the reflection of blue sky in your glass, and sigh the deep contented sigh reserved only for perfect summer moments.
7. Blueberry pie. A beloved dessert that pretty much epitomizes the season. This one uses a flaky, all-butter crust (the best) and a mountain of fresh, juicy blueberries. Bring it along to a summer dinner party and you'll be everyone's favourite person.
8. Watermelon Caprese Salad. Crisp, juicy watermelon is a refreshing stand-in for tomatoes in this summery salad with fresh mozzarella, homemade (very easy!) sweet balsamic reduction and fresh basil (or mint). Pack the ingredients separately and take them along with you to assemble at a sunny picnic! Pairs well with Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Columbia Valley Riesling.
9. Mexic-Indian Grilled Corn. Guys, drop everything. You need this grilled corn in your life. You might be familiar with Mexican-style grilled corn, brushed with mayo, rolled in cheese. You're probably less familiar with the Indian counterpart, with lime, chili and salt. This recipe marries the two in what just might be perfect summer food. Pin this one for your next backyard BBQ.
10. Grilled Chicken Thighs with Chipotle-Peach BBQ Sauce. These spice-rubbed chicken thighs are grilled to juicy perfection and slathered in a BBQ sauce made with fresh peaches, pretty much epitomizing summer cooking. The sauce is so good you'll be brushing it on everything. The chicken is as delicious cold as it is hot, so make a double batch and pack the leftovers up with an ice pack to an outdoor festival, movie, or just a date night under the stars.