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Kara's Sights and Bites: Dine al fresco whenever the mood strikes...and the weather allows

By Kara Kimbrough

Kara's Sights and Bites: Dine al fresco whenever the mood strikes...and the weather allows
There's nothing like the first grilled burger of the summer, especially when it can be enjoyed outdoors.

Memorial Day marked the official start of summer and that means it's time to enjoy the great outdoors. An easy way to do that is to dine al fresco, or outdoors, as often as possible. By that I mean, as long as our tepid Mississippi weather allows you to eat a meal beside the pool, on the patio or porch or sitting around a picnic table without suffocating in the ever-increasing heat. 


Whether you're grilling burgers, serving a cool salad or presenting a light dessert, here are three of the best summer recipes that are perfect for serving outdoors...again, as long as the thermometer doesn't exceed 90 degrees.


Mediterranean Pasta Salad

8 ounces fusilli pasta

1 cucumber, diced

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup baby spinach

½ red onion sliced

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

¼ cup kalamata olives, halved


 Dressing:

 ¼ cup olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon dried mint

1 garlic clove minced

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper


    Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water until completely cool. Set aside.


     Meanwhile, make the salad dressing in a large serving bowl by whisking together the dressing ingredients until emulsified.


     Add the pasta on top of the dressing and toss to combine. Add the remaining salad ingredients, and toss the pasta salad until everything is evenly coated with the dressing. Serve immediately or allow to chill in the fridge until ready to eat.


Sheet Pan Burgers

 Spicy Mayo:

 1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 to 2 tablespoons sriracha


 Burgers and Toppings:

 4 green leaf lettuce leaves

1 large tomato, sliced

Dill pickle spears

2 pounds lean ground beef

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 strips bacon 

2 sweet onions, sliced into 1/4-slices

8 slices American cheese 

4 burger buns


     For the spicy mayo: Combine the mayonnaise, ketchup and sriracha in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.


     For the burgers and toppings: Prepare a grill for medium heat.  Put the lettuce, tomatoes and pickles on a cutting board or serving platter. Form the meat into 8 thin patties and season with salt and pepper.


     Arrange the bacon, onions and peppers in 4 quadrants on a sheet pan. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Put the pan on the grill, cover and cook until the bacon begins to turn golden on the bottom, about 10 minutes. Using tongs, flip the bacon and toss the vegetables in the bacon drippings. Cover and continue to cook until the vegetables are soft and the bacon is crispy, about 10 minutes more. Move the pan to the side of the grill off the heat to keep warm while you cook the burgers (if you have a small grill, remove the pan entirely). 


     Grill the burgers until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook on the second side for 2-3 minutes. Top each burger with a slice of cheese, cover and cook until the cheese melts and the patties are browned on the bottom and cooked to the desired doneness. Toast the rolls on the grill during the last 2 minutes of cooking. 

    Stack two patties on the bottom half of each bun. Serve with the spicy mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, cooked toppings and potato chips. 


 No-Bake Peaches and Cream Pie  Shortbread Crust:

 2 cups shortbread cookies, crumbled fine

1/4 cup butter, melted


 Peach Filling:

 3 fresh peaches, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced

½ cup sugar

1½ teaspoons corn starch

1 tablespoon lemon juice

 Whipped Topping:

 1 pint heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup confectioners' sugar


 Cream Filling

 1 box (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix

1 cup half and half, cold

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature


 Directions:

 Shortbread Crust:

     Mix shortbread crumbs and butter in a medium bowl. After it is well combined, press into the bottom and barely up sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Let it chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the recipe.


 Peach Filling:

      In a medium saucepan, add peaches and sugar and mix together. Let the peaches rest in the sugar for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and lemon juice. Mix well and then pour into the peach mixture. Mix to combine everything and then set over medium-low heat. Cook for 7-8 minutes or until the liquid has thickened slightly. Set aside while you make the whipped cream and cream filling.


 Whipped Topping:

     Add heavy cream to a mixing bowl. Start mixing at the lowest speed, and then gradually increase speed to medium until the cream starts to get thicker. (The gradual progression prevents you from spraying yourself with cream.)


     When the cream starts to thicken, stop the mixer. Slowly add in the confectioners' sugar and then resume mixing again, starting with low speed and increasing to medium speed and eventually moving to a high speed. The cream will thicken and start to peak. Mix on high until the cream is thick and stiff. This happens quickly, the stage between soft and stiff peaks, so watch it closely.


 Cream Cheese Filling: 

     In a medium bowl, mix together pudding and half and half. Whisk until well combined and thickened with little to no lumps. Add in room temperature cream cheese and half of the whipped topping and combine well, removing all lumps. Set aside.


 Assembly: 

     Spread the peach filling evenly into the prepared crust. Spread the cream cheese filling over the top of the peach filling. Spread the remaining whipped topping over the top of the cream cheese filling. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours. Serve cold. 


Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer from Mississippi. Email her at kkprco@yahoo.com.





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