By Lia Jonsson

Summer is a time for simple meals – how often have we all said that?
Here’s a sampling of summer treats – all easy, tasty and quick – perfect for summer:

Summer Shrimp and Grits
This rendition of a low-country favorite has every bit as much appeal and character as the more substantial version made with andouille sausage. It’s light, flavored with citrus, and true to the tradition of a “fresh fisherman’s catch.” The basic recipe is courtesy of Elise Bauer at simplyrecipes.com, family-tested in the best sense of the term. This version varies slightly from hers, but that’s the beauty of cooking: Results are always individual.
Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. butter
2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese (I had only mild yellow; white is more traditional)
4 slices cooked bacon
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup chopped white onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper (I also added about 1/2 a fresh jalapeno, chopped, seeds removed)
1 cup seafood stock (lighter than the traditional chicken stock)
A bit of chopped fresh parsley from the garden
Freshly-squeezed lemon juice
We also used (please don’t be horrified!) quick-cooking white grits; we found the taste and consistency to be just fine.
Instructions:
Fry bacon until crisp and set aside. Drain all but a small amount (2-3 tsps) of the bacon fat.
Depending on the type of grits you use, the shrimp mixture should be started about 10 minutes before the grits are ready.
Reheat bacon fat; saute onion and peppers gently about 4 minutes. Add minced garlic, shrimp and bacon; Toss to combine all ingredients.
Add the stock and let the mixture reduce for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, as soon as the grits are ready, stir in the butter and add the grated cheese. Mix well. Season as desired.
Serve in large, flat bowls: Top a spoonful of grits with the shrimp mixture; garnish with whole shrimp, and parsley, drizzling just a bit of lemon over each serving.
Add a tossed green salad and fresh bread, if desired, along with a tall glass of your favorite sparkling beverage or a light ale.
This recipe is ample for three substantial servings or four smaller portions. Adjust as necessary.

Cool Smoked Salmon
If you enjoy grilled salmon for light summer meals, try this take on a favorite.
Add some hickory chips to the grill, let a whole salmon filet cook slowly over the coals with the cover closed and then let it cool. Serve it with capers and onions and perhaps a yogurt and dill sauce.
Bring out some farmers market homemade dill pickles and a hearty loaf of rye bread, and serve it all up with baby yellow potatoes tossed with oil, garlic and parsley and some sliced ripe tomatoes.
Set it all out as a buffet and just watch the food disappear. It requires very little preparation. Cleanup is easy; and the meal is satisfying and delicious, full of the colors and fresh flavors we all love for summer.
End the evening with homemade ice cream – maybe fresh peach?

Italian Artichoke Omelet
No, omelets aren’t only for breakfast. This one is just as suitable for a late lunch on a lazy weekend as it is for a quick dinner before some evening activity with the kids. Prep time is minimal; so is cooking. Add some cherry tomatoes, marinated olives, oven-roasted kale chips, and a crusty loaf of bread; maybe some watermelon to finish off the meal. Light, easy, healthful and good!
Ingredients:
1 bag of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup all-purpose/plain flour
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 large fresh eggs
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste.
Instructions:
Squeeze lemon juice over the artichoke hearts; lightly pat them dry and coat with flour, shaking off excess.
Heat all but 2 Tbsp of the olive oil until very hot in a non-stick skillet and fry the artichokes for about 8 minutes, turning them frequently so they brown evenly. Drain on paper towels.
Replace the frying oil with the remaining fresh oil. Heat to medium and add the artichokes. Meanwhile, beat the eggs, season with salt and pepper to taste, add a bit of lemon zest if desired, and pour the mixture on top of the artichokes. Cook for 4-5 minutes; then turn gently and cook for 3-4 minutes longer. When lightly browned and firm, slide it onto a heated serving plate and enjoy!

I hope you’ll try at least one of these this summer; we’d love to hear your comments and suggestions.

Photos:
Shrimp & Grits – Adrienne Cohen;
Resources:
SimplyRecipes.com
Personal Cookbook Collection: “Flavors of Italy – Tuscany,” by Sara Vignozzi and Gabriella Ganugi, published originally in 1999 by Time-Life Books