Gin and San Pellegrino
I like my women like I like my drinks — chilly and with a bite. So, a gin and tonic is a staple. But as longer days and hotter weather rolls around, a touch of extra sweetness and citrus doesn’t hurt. For a refreshing summer drink, might I suggest swapping out the tonic for a San Pellegrino? Any flavor would work — clementine, orange, blood orange — but my personal favorite to mix with is lemon. Add a slice of lime on top with a generous amount of ice, and you have the perfect drink for an evening on a South Oakland porch.
Simple Summer Ratatouille
For all my love of cooking, I’ve never seen the Pixar film with the same name of my go-to summer dish — ratatouille. My understanding is that the movie doesn’t explain what’s in ratatouille in the first place. To make it simple, it combines the freshest summer vegetables you have in a tomato-based stew. The veggies can be cooked separately or together, and the end product can be either stewed or baked.
This version is simple and minimal to avoid any anxiety for the culinarily disinclined, but it will still fill you up and save a cow or chicken for another day.
2 12 oz. cans of stewed/chopped tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Dice garlic and onion. Seriously, use real garlic and onion, not powder or dried out crap. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil on medium in a large pan. Once hot, add parsley, oregano and red pepper to let them “wake” in the oil, about 30 seconds. Then, add the garlic and onion.
Let mixture cook until light brown bits appear at bottom of pan, 3 to 4 minutes. Then, add tomatoes. You can break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon as you cook, or leave them in chunks — your choice. Lower the heat to a simmer. Cut off the ends of the zucchini and dice in quarters into roughly 1-inch chunks. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil on medium in a another large pan. Once hot, add zucchini. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, or until it starts to brown slightly. Add contents of pan to tomato-spice mixture. If you don’t have a second pan, just push the tomato mixture to the side and cook the zucchini next to it. Let cook in pan for at least another 8 to 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over rice.
And with that, you have yourself a nice home-cooked and vegetarian meal, which can be changed in a million ways. Popping over to the Carnegie Library’s herb garden and grabbing fresh basil would also help season the dish — just chop it up and add it to the rest of the spices. Don’t like zucchini? Try eggplant or peppers instead — or add them all for a heartier meal.
A little cayenne at the start — or a dash of hot sauce when bringing it to a simmer — can give the meal some spicy kick. Capers and olives will give a salty, puttanesca-like flavor to the dish. Parmesean can also give the dish more depth and texture. And if the idea of a meatless meal really hurts you that badly, a few chunks of sausage could go a long way.
For the truly ambitious, you could use fresh tomatoes by slicing them up, reducing them in some olive oil over a low heat and adding some tomato paste to shore up the flavor. But I’d only try that if you feel as confident as the eponymous mouse.
Strawberry Basil Shag
If you’re looking for a lighter summer cocktail, look no further than Homestead. Burgatory is famous throughout Pitt’s campus for their wide selection of virgin and boozy milkshakes, but don’t rule out their regular drinks. From classic margaritas and an ever-changing sangria to their house-infused jalapeno rye whiskey, the Burgatory bartenders offer a spectrum of flavors. But their best by far? The Strawberry Basil Shag: a divine mixture of Vintage vodka and muddled strawberries and basil. Only three ingredients, but this drink really packs a punch.
Lemon Berry Sangria
I tried this drink recently at a friend’s Fourth of July party. It’s a great option for summer parties — or smaller get-togethers — and it looks a little fancy, but isn’t too difficult to make.
2 thinly sliced lemons
1 cup of blueberries
1 cup strawberries, sliced lengthwise with the tops cut off
1 750 ml bottle white wine
1/2 cup light rum
4 cups lemon-lime soda
Add lemon slices to a large pitcher, then the blueberries, then the strawberries, and pour the wine and rum over top of the fruit. Cover with cling wrap and place in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 hours to chill. Remove from the refrigerator and top your drink off with the lemon-lime soda. Add a few pieces of the fruit to your glass for a dose of freshness and pour sangria over before serving. Cheers!