BRATTLEBORO—Even if you’re one of the lucky ones who has air conditioning in your house during the summer heat waves, it’s pretty likely you want your meals to be as low-maintenance as possible.
It’s great that all these lovely vegetables are available this time of the year so you can make simple salads, but nobody but a rabbit wants to eat salad three times per day, every day.
To make life more interesting, you could add some cheese to your summer diet.
Unlike with meat or beans, with cheese you don’t have to cook or even open a can to get the protein you need. Cheese has already gone through the fermentation process and is more easily assimilated into your body, so it’s less likely than fresh milk to upset your stomach on even the hottest days, and you won’t have to worry about not getting enough calcium in the summer.
A very easy way to prepare a lovely summertime meal is to borrow from the Italians and put together a cold antipasto plate.
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I grew up in a region of the United States with a great many Southern Italian immigrants and their descendants, and in any Italian restaurant, from the most casual pizza joint to the fanciest white-tablecloth establishment, you could be sure to find a cold antipasto plate — for me, a childhood comfort food — listed as an appetizer.
Usually divided into rough sections on a large oval platter: crisp iceberg lettuce dressed with a vinaigrette, mixed olives, big chunks of aged provolone cheese, slices of Genoa salami and pepperoni, strips of roasted red pepper, marinated artichoke hearts, big chunks of dark tuna packed in olive oil (not light tuna, and not packed in water!), and a few long anchovy fillets draped over the top.
Your antipasto can incorporate pretty much anything you like, but the general idea is to arrange a variety of chopped or sliced foods that you could eat with your fingers if you’re too lethargic to set out the forks: some fresh vegetables, some pickled vegetables, cured meats (or chilled cooked meats), cheese and olives.
Serve bread alongside, and that’s it.
You have all of your main food groups there, the food is filling without being heavy, and if you’re sharing this plate with friends or family, just put out a big platter in the middle of the table and everyone can take what he or she wants. The only labor involved is chopping, and you can recruit help.
You can go even simpler than that: make a salad, get a loaf of bread, and find a cheese you like. There’s dinner.
Some of the smaller sized cheeses are ideal for this purpose, especially if it’s a dinner for two. Willow Hill Farm’s Summertomme, Alderbrook and La Fleurie come to mind, as does Jasper Hill’s Moses Sleeper. For goat fans wanting an ideal “cheese for two” for a meal, try Blue Ledge Farm’s Crottina.
Once the tomatoes are ready to be plucked from the vine and the basil is begging to be picked, don’t forget the classic salad of fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, and fresh basil.
Dress with salt, pepper, oil and vinegar; no other preparation is necessary. Round it out with some bread and perhaps some chilled roasted ham or chicken, and you’ll find yourself full and happy.
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Maplebrook Farm in Bennington makes not only wonderful fresh mozzarella but also an exemplary burrata, another fine summer cheese.
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