Ah, the dog days of summer. What is it about later sunsets that makes us so decadently lazy? Every year it’s the same: Memorial Day rolls around and, like clockwork, we grill burgers five nights a week. Don’t get me wrong—I love burgers as much as the next girl—but if you venture past the culinary usual suspects, summer has so much more to offer.
Don’t miss these five quintessential summer experiences:
- Drink fino sherry. Made from the Palomino grape in Spain and allowed to oxidize in a tiered system of barrels called a solera, sherry ranges from pale and light (fino) to dark and deeply nutty (oloroso). These wines are fortified and typically have between 15 and 22 percent alcohol. They age under a layer of yeast called flor, which gives them a unique woodsy characteristic. Refreshing fino sherries make a great aperitif on a warm night and—bonus!—go really well with summery food.
- Pickle something. It’s not as difficult as you think. Mix one cup of vinegar with one cup of water, add half a cup of sugar and a quarter cup of kosher or sea salt, and heat in a saucepan until everything is dissolved. Fill a glass jar with some kind of amazing summer produce (yes, fruits work too—try cherries) and pour the pickling liquid in to cover them. Stick the jar in the fridge overnight. Eat the pickles within 3-4 days. Easy, right?
- Make your own limoncello. This Italian liqueur, made from the lemons that weigh down the trees of the Amalfi Coast, is typically served after dinner as a digestif—but I like to use it as a base for grown-up lemonade too. To make your own, dissolve 1 3/4 cups of sugar in 2 1/2 cups water, add the zest of 10 lemons and a bottle of high-proof vodka, and steep the mixture in a clean glass bottle for 6 weeks. Then filter it a few times through a chinois or coffee filter, return it to the bottle, and keep in the freezer.
- Grill a pizza. Get your grill as hot as possible. Roll your pizza dough out so it’s super-thin. Brush the grill grate with vegetable oil, then slide the round of dough onto the grate and cook for about 1 minute, then flip the crust over and cook for another minute, until the bottom of the crust is browned. Add your favorite toppings and warm the whole pizza on the grill. Pro tip: grilled pizza goes really well with a Bandol rosé.
- Get crazy with your strawberries. It’s tough to improve on one of nature’s most perfect foods, but I know of two oddball ways to do it: macerate the berries in balsamic vinegar, or toss them with fresh basil. Or both. Seriously.
What do you love eating and drinking in the summer? Let me know in the comments!