A Mediterranean Salad with falafel at Luna Grill in Encinitas is a delicious way to cool off on a hot summer day. Photo via Facebook
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Cool foodie favorites for hot weather

The recent heat wave has had me seeking out meals that tend to be more healthy, light and refreshing than I may normally partake in — and that’s been a good thing overall. Between this development and the general sweating that happens during a hot spell, I’ve manage to shed a few pounds. 

With that, I’ve put together a list of food and a newfound summer cocktail, some I whip up myself and others from North County restaurants that offer up lighter, seasonal fare.

My go-to summer healthy breakfast at least five days per week has been a smoothie concocted in my Nutri Bullet and with all of the ingredients from Trader Joe’s. I fill the Nutri Bullet to about three quarters full with a mix of banana, blueberries, carrots, sliced apple, a handful of Trader Joe’s Power Greens, ground flax seed then pour their Very Green juice over that until it fills up. The blueberries and apple make it plenty sweet enough and there is some serious fiber and nutrition happening in that drink. I’m thinking my colon likes me for it but that’s just speculation.

That mix makes at least two days’ worth and because I need a little more substance than that for breakfast, I toast an English muffin and put peanut butter on one half and raspberry jam on the other.  I feel satisfied yet not weighed down at all after this, a perfect way to start a hot summer day.

Restaurant options for light summer fare include the ubiquitous acai bowl that can be found on just about every menu in San Diego but are sometimes so big they hardly qualify for a light way to start the day. And seriously, what breakfast joint does not offer this these days?

Healthy smoothies and cold-pressed juices are another way to go and my favorite on the smoothie side is Nekter because it’s like “totally nectar.” Sorry, a bit of 80’s valley talk just comes out of my mouth when I say that word, but they do offer up some really nice smoothies. Fully Loaded Micro Juicery from my friend Kaz Murphy in Leucadia is another fine way to energize on a hot summer morning.

On the savory side of things, the Chicken and Artichoke Quiche at Pannikin, eaten inside in the shade with some iced tea, is one of my favorite ways to start the day regardless of the weather. That said, it’s the perfect portion and has such a nice fluffy filling that it can easily be a fabulous savory start when the temperature is high.

I’m going to throw this one in the mix at my own risk but I am totally prepared to own it. The Egg White Delight at McDonald’s totally works for me if I’m in too much of a hurry to make any of the above mentioned happen. The key is only eating one and doing so while sitting in your air-conditioned vehicle.

Moving on to lunch, there is a lot in this category but I will narrow it down to a few hot-weather lunches. Ceviche tops the list, and it seems like this is the new poke as it is popping up everywhere. Juanita’s does a decent job, Oscars Mexican Seafood is right there at the top of the list, and up Oceanside way Mundo De Mariscos is my choice. The combination of chilled shrimp or fish cooked in citrus acid with a sliced avocado and limes with some chips on the side makes this such an obvious choice for hot weather and keeping things light at lunch. 

And even despite the poke overkill, it still needs to be included in this category. I like what they are doing at Kai Ola if I had to choose my winner. 

I’ve written about Luna Grill before and specifically their Mediterranean Salad with chicken. The combination of Israeli couscous, tomato, cucumber, red onion, fresh mint, parsley, green onion, feta cheese, tossed in house vinaigrette and served on a bed of lettuce is almost lunch perfection. I’m going back to the Pannikin for the Curried Chicken Salad … just the salad, though I crave the sandwich I try to avoid the bread during hot weather. Ridiculous, I know, but I’m avoiding food coma at all costs here folks and heat and bread are prime inducers of that condition.

Seafood is my choice for hot summer night dining as well, and there is no better way to start a night off than to enjoy a couple dozen oysters paired with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or Alborino white wine. My only request is that when doing oysters, please select a joint that sells a lot of them on a regular basis. Fish 101, Moonlight Lounge and Brigantine are all solid choices that meet that condition.

I’ve also found a delightful hot summer night dish at Rosanna’s Pasta in Encinitas, which is not the obvious choice for a light meal. However, the Caprese California Salad fits all the criteria I’ve mentioned so far and then some. Sliced tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella, avocado, hearts of palm with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette all work together perfectly. My only problem is walking out of there with just that, a feat that is next to impossible given all the goodness they have to offer. But for those of you with any willpower at all, give this one a shot.

I’ll leave you with my new favorite summer cocktail and while you may need to hit up a couple stores to gather the ingredients, this is one special drink that will be worth it. It comes from a seafood restaurant in Ferndale, Michigan, where I asked the bartender for a bourbon-based, refreshing summer drink. He did not hesitate and said, “Oh that would be my Eastwood Maui Mansion.” Well alright, I thought, sounds fabulous and by gosh is sure was. 

Here are the ingredients should you be so inclined to try this at home. Combine bourbon, coconut cream, pineapple juice, a spoon of lingonberry jam and a whole lot of mint then shake well. If you need more specific instructions shoot me an email and I will put you in touch with the bartender responsible.

Until then, stay cool and eat well!