Photography by Naomi Lynn Vacaro
Styled by Daniel Barceló

Pack your baskets, get outside, and enjoy some of our favorite summer recipes.

Remember the youthful joys of summer break? Campfires, pool parties, summer sports, and picnics. This season not only offers the most bountiful array of local produce but also the most reasons to get outside.

This month in Taste: the perfect summer picnic menu for your family and friends. The recipes can all be made the day before, highlight summer’s flavors, and will travel well in your picnic basket. As fun as cooking can be, I think we can all agree, eating it with your loved ones is even better!

Summer Salad

4 cups rocket arugula or spring mix

1/2 cup parsley

1/2 cup mint

Watermelon, cut into small cubes, as much as you like!

1 cup or more of Kalamata olives

1/2 red onion, sliced very thin and soaked in cold water for 30 minutes

About 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles

2 tablespoons olive oil

Fresh juice from 2 limes

Salt and pepper to taste

Toss together the greens and herbs, and set aside.

Toss together remaining ingredients and then dress with olive oil and lime juice. Top off the greens with the watermelon-olive mixture and season with salt and pepper.

Cauliflower Pesto Pasta

One head of cauliflower

1/2 pound mini shell pasta

1/2 cup parmesan

1 cup fresh basil

About 3 tablespoons olive oil

Fresh juice from 1 lemon

1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts

Salt and pepper to taste

Break and chop the cauliflower into small florets. When you’re left with the main stalk, peel and shop into small dices. Cook the stalk in boiling salted water for about 3 minutes. Add the florets and continue to cook about 3 more minutes and tender. Use a mesh spider to lift all the cauliflower out, then transfer to ice water to stop the cooking process. The boiling water can now be used to cook the pasta.

While it’s cooking, set aside a few florets for garnish. The remaining cauliflower, basil, oil, lemon juice, and nuts can be combined in a food processor and pureed. When the pasta is finished cooking, drain and toss with the pesto. A little dash of pasta water can be folded in so that the pesto coats everything evenly. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Cool and store covered.

Picnic Cheese Boards

It boggles my mind that cheese and charcuterie are not commonplace in American homes. If the last time you saw a composed cheese board was at your cousin’s wedding, it’s time to take back these salty delicacies. Cheese boards celebrate variety and adventurousness. There are no rules; they’re easy to throw together for guests and always impress!

1. First-time connoisseurs should start with just three cheese selections (mild, medium, and strong). Look for a variety of textures such a soft, creamy, and savory brie on the mild end; a crumbly salty aged cheddar for the medium; and perhaps an adventurous stilton or fun strong cranberry goat cheese.

2. If you have some extra room on your board, splurge on a little prosciutto; fold each thin slice and layer across the board. If your cheeses can be sliced, arrange them in a similar way. Extra soft or crumbly items can be cut and displayed as a wedge (just don’t forget to pack the cheese knife for your picnic).

3.  Is your cheese board looking fancy yet? Time to show off your homemade multigrain crackers and fill in empty spots with fresh fruits such as Florida strawberries, grapes, oranges, and sweet noshes such as honey or preserves. Congratulations, you have curated fromage fit for a picnic in the gardens of Versaille!

A Note on Selecting Wines for this Menu

Supposing you’ll be enjoying an elegant and refreshing summer lunch outside using the menu above, the ideal accompaniment will be a cooler full of perfectly matched wines. Due to the summer heat and light nature of the meal, a sparkling white or rosé will do nicely. Ask your wine seller for a rosé from Province or Sancerre from the Loire Valley. Something with a lingering fruity finish and refreshing acidity. Stick with very dry wines, which will pair much better with the savory and salty recipes we’ve included here. Alternatively, a mimosa or Bloody Mary is appropriate any day of the year!

Multigrain Crackers

1 1/4 cups cornmeal

1/2 cup sesame seeds

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup flaxseed

1 cup boiling water

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Stir all the seeds and oil together in a bowl, and stream in the boiling water. Keep stirring until a thick, chunky paste forms. Using a greased spatula, spread the paste over the surface of a parchment-lined baking sheet (if you have a silicone mat, this is a great opportunity to use it).

Garnish with salt and pepper and bake at 350°F until golden and crisp, about 40 minutes. The crackers can be broken into portions after cooling fully. Store in an airtight container or Ziplock bag.

Breakfast Cookies

At Honeycomb, we make hundreds of these cookies each week, and they sell faster than the chocolate chunk! If you plan ahead and chill the cookie dough overnight, the fruity, citrus flavors marry into a truly special and unique flavor. Sliced almonds lend a wonderful crunch to a typically ultra-soft oat cookie.

76 grams sugar

154 grams brown sugar

170 grams softened butter

The zest from 1 orange

5 grams vanilla extract

2 large eggs

160 grams all-purpose flour

4 grams salt

8 grams ground cinnamon

8 grams baking soda

173 grams old-fashioned oats

86 grams sliced almonds

86 grams dried cranberries

Use the paddle attachment of a mixer to cream the sugars and butter until light and creamy. Add the zest, eggs, and vanilla, and stir until evenly chunky but not smooth. Add remaining ingredients, and stir gently until the cookie batter forms and no dry flour or wet batter remains. Scoop into cookie portions. For best flavor, wrap the dough and let rest in the fridge overnight.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F and arrange the chilled cookie portions onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake about 14 minutes or until the cookies are mostly golden with a pale center. Let cool fully before gobbling down. Seriously, let them cool first!

We are truly fortunate to live in Central Florida: a land of sun, of stately oaks, cool breezes drifting off the lakes, of local farms and fresh produce. The purpose of these recipes is not for you to toil away over a hot stove in your kitchen. We hope you will be inspired to get outside with your friends, share a drink and a bite to eat, and live your best life in this beautiful world of ours.

Benjamin Vickers is the founder of Honeycomb, an artisan bread bakery. For more information, visit honeycombbread.com.

Find more recipes, kitchen tips, and food explainers online in the Taste section of thelakelander.com.