Dining Out(doors) in July

A pandemic can’t stop a picnic

Summer is usually a time for parties, festivals, barbecues, weddings, and all kinds of fun outdoor activities. Unfortunately, COVID-19 and recommendations to limit group gatherings put a bit of a damper on this. But it’s still OK to be outside, and we can even get together with small groups of friends as long as we’re safe. That’s a perfect recipe for an outdoor meal. Here are some ideas for how to incorporate fresh, tasty, in-season local foods into your picnic basket.

The first and most important menu item for me is a good pesto. Traditionally this is a combination of basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, and parmesan cheese. Some quick substitutions can make this recipe more local, and even more affordable, though. Basil is in season and easy to find, but you can substitute any leafy green if you prefer the flavor. Dandelion Organics imports olive oil for sale on their website. Using green garlic and hazelnuts helps to support local farms. And finally, using a cheese like the asiago from Ferndale Farmstead or a parmesan from Appel Farms keeps your dollars in the community while providing delicious ingredients.

Now what to do with the pesto? I personally like to spread it on a nice hearty bread. My personal favorite is Raven Breads Red Wheat. It’s dense, has great sourdough flavor, and is made from local grains. If you’re looking for something on the fluffier side, Breadfarm is a great option, and Avenue Bread also offers locally-baked breads.

If you’re avoiding gluten or carbs, you can also use veggies to dip in pesto. Carrots are great for dipping, as is kohlrabi and raw broccoli. Radishes, snap peas, and salad turnips also provide a crunchy vessel for your dips, and you can find all of these tasty veggies at the Bellingham Farmers Market, Community Food Co-op, or Haggen.

Another great summer treat is a tomato and cucumber salad. Tomatoes, cucumbers, oil, balsamic vinegar, red onion, and a bit of salt & pepper make for a simple yet decadent taste of summer. A pinch of fresh thyme and basil just makes this even more mouth-watering.

You also can’t forget is the berries. In July, raspberries are in full swing, blueberries are just starting to ripen, and strawberries are getting ready to come back for a second round of production. U-pick options are available throughout Whatcom and Skagit Counties, and fresh-picked berries are also for sale at farm stands and in grocery stores and markets in the region.

Finally, you’ll need some beverages to wash down all this tasty food. I would never encourage drinking alcohol in public, but if you’re in your back yard you can enjoy a beer, cider, or cocktail from Aslan Brewing, Lost Giants Cider, or Probably Shouldn’t Distillery. If you’re out in public or prefer non-alcoholic beverages, try a shrub from Shrub Farm or a ginger beer from Bright & Sunny Ginger Beer.

This summer may not be what we were all hoping for, but taking some time to have a meal and a beverage outside, made from locally grown ingredients, is one way to nourish ourselves and the people we love.

Find more restaurants, farms, fishers, and markets on eatlocalfirst.org!