Come summer, with so much of nature’s bounty available, it is easy to eat healthy i.e. five fruit and vegetable portions a day. While that may sound like the diet of a rabbit or a supermodel, summer months offer healthy albeit delectable treat. Even if you add a few naughty calories by way of delicious cream or full-fat Italian cheese, the five portions of fruit and vegetables a day will not only taste good, they will also counter the negative effects of the fat rich calories.
There is no better way of taking advantage of what nature offers in the summer time than by making beautiful summer salads and dishes from seasonal fruits and vegetables. Tantalise your taste buds and refresh your palate with fruity flavours and a touch of the Mediterranean in your healthy summer diet plan. Your health will benefit from eating fruits and vegetables that have plenty of essential nutrients, but of course, the extra calories are your choice.
However, before you go out and raid the market for you five a day of fruits and vegetables, first ensure you know what to look for, how to keep them and how best they are devoured.
The best aubergines are firm and rubbery in texture, shiny and with a deep purple skin. You will find that large aubergines tend to have a bitter flavour; while the medium to small ones taste young and sweet. These are best stored in the salad crisper section of your fridge.
If, you want draw out the bitter juice and flavour of the larger aubergines, slice and coat them in salt for half an hour before rinsing them thoroughly with water. Slice breadthways and griddle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and serve with a Mediterranean salad.
Figs are best enjoyed when they are fully ripe, soft with an almost shrivelled look. The skin must be intact, not broken and mould free. Coming in both black and green skins, to derive the best benefits, wash the figs thoroughly and eat with the skin.
To store figs, place them in a paper towel-lined closed plastic bag in the refrigerator for two to three days.
To eat, stuff them with goat’s cheese, wrap with pancetta and griddle. Alternatively, cut figs into quarters and add to salads or serve with prosciutto also known as parma ham, which is dry, cured and salted ham, sliced thinly.
Buy tomatoes that are firm not hard, aromatic and have full colour, unless they are sun blushed. Vine like the smaller and sweeter cherry variety tomatoes tend to have the best flavour.
Do store tomatoes in the fridge, as they are best stored at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. The perfect accompaniment to any summer salad, eat them fresh or roasted to bring out their natural sweetness. For insalata caprese top fresh, sliced, flavoursome tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, torn basil leaves, lashings of extra virgin olive oil and ground pepper and serve immediately.
The best cantaloupes are a dull yellow colour with raised, lighter coloured textured netting. All melons except watermelons should smell sweet at the stem end. If the stem is still attached, it is an indication that the melon is not ripe and has been picked too soon.
Unripened melons should be stored at room temperature, while the ripe ones can be placed in the fridge.
For a perfect salty sweet Italian starter, slice melon overlay with prosciutto. Alternatively, sprinkle with lemon juice, salt or liqueur and savour the exotic flavour.
Pre-packed berries should be fragrant, fresh and brightly coloured and are best eaten at room temperature. Else place them on a paper towel in the salad crisper section of your fridge.
Delicious, just as nature made them, they are even better combined with thick cream or melting ice cream.
With such a rich harvest of Nature’s Bounty, it is not difficult to remain healthy by eating five portions of fruits and vegetables in summer. Come summer and you feel like breaking out Nancy Sinatra’s song all about ‘Strawberries, cherries and an angel’s kissing spring!’, just glad to be alive when everything is so perfect around you!