Conscious Cook: Eating joyfully in June

“Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.” — Al Bernstein

June is a month filled with joyous celebrations and fabulous food. Whether you are honoring your father figure with a delectable barbecue, congratulating your graduate with a gourmet gathering, or joining your heart with another to say “I do,” June is truly joyful.

June also celebrates National Dairy Month, providing an opportunity to prepare tempting recipes featuring delicious dairy products. Hors d’oeuvres, salads, dips, desserts, baked goods and entrées prepared using milk, buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt and cheese can all be a delicious component of June celebrations.

Dairy products may not be well tolerated by every body type. Listen to your body after eating dairy and if you feel uncomfortably bloated or gaseous or experience stomach cramping, then limiting or avoiding dairy completely may be necessary.

For those who thrive on dairy, you are reaping the benefits of a food group that offers healthy nutrients such as calcium, potassium, vitamin D and protein. The United States Department of Agriculture states “An intake of milk products is especially important to bone health during childhood and adolescence. Adults who consume dairy products may reduce the risk of low bone mass, thereby reducing the risk of osteoporosis.”

Although dairy products are readily available in low-fat and non-fat versions, this conscious cook is an advocate of enjoying moderate amounts of full-fat, high-quality dairy products. Locally farm produced cheeses, yogurt and milk are not only full of fantastic flavor, but you will be satiated by much smaller portions.

Exploring the world of artisanal cheese is a journey filled with gustatory glory. Seek out hand-crafted, locally produced cheeses and dairy products at farmers’ markets, health food stores, gourmet grocers and cheese shops. A platter prepared with a variety of cheeses and embellished with fresh berries, roasted nuts, and good bread is a great way to kick off any celebration. Nibble a bit of French Beaufort with a plump, juicy strawberry. Offer a Spanish Cabrales, a superb, soft blue cheese, with a rhubarb compote and crispy baguette. If the day is damp and rainy, serve a warm feta and welcome your guests to a celebration filled with love, life and lusciousness.

This excellent appetizer may just become a regular part of preparing your delicious life.

Joyous June Cheese Plate

Serves 4 nicely

8 oz. feta

1 baguette

extra virgin olive oil

minced oregano

minced basil

minced chives

lemon juice

black pepper

Crumble one eight-ounce block of good feta cheese into good size chunks. (Liuzzi’s in North Haven, Conn., carries an excellent French feta.) Line a casserole or baking dish with toasted baguette slices. Place cheese pieces on top of bread slices. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and pop the dish in the oven, under the broiler for a few minutes, until cheese is warmed through and bubbling a bit. Remove from oven. Sprinkle the cheese with very finely minced fresh oregano, basil and chives. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil, add a couple of spritzes of fresh lemon juice, grind a bit of black pepper over all, and serve on a platter accompanied by sweet cherry tomatoes and your favorite olives.

For more on Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, The Conscious Cook, go to www.theconsciouscook.net.