Banish the bikini, bring on the grill
Summer brings out the best in seafood, cocktails
By Stephanie Snipes
(CNN) -- As summer approaches, bikini wearers near and far (not to mention those guys with washboard abs) are chomping on carrot sticks and celery stalks, neglecting the finer delicacies of the summer season -- all in a last-ditch effort to squeeze into their barely-there "swimming" gear.
For the rest of us, the more realistic draw of summer comes in the form of seasonal taste sensations just right for the warm weather.
Whether grilling on the back porch or packing a picnic for the beach, there are many cookbooks available to guide you through the best of the season's culinary treats.
So, put down the soy nuts, step away from the rice cakes and enjoy the best of what summer has to offer.
"Bobby Flay's Boy Gets Grill: 125 Reasons to Light Your Fire" by Bobby Flay (Simon & Schuster)
Chef Bobby Flay, Food Network regular and owner of NYC's Mesa Grill, debuts the second companion cookbook to his popular cooking show, "Boy Meets Grill."
"Boy Gets Grill," chock-full of recipes that feature familiar ingredients in creative combinations, includes detailed grilling instructions and a wide variety of techniques which can be used on the grill -- or, for the meek, at the kitchen stovetop.
"I think people are intimidated by grilling ... maybe it's the flame, maybe it's the big grills, maybe they've had some bad childhood experiences ... but I think that grilling is actually the easiest technique in cooking," said Flay.
The book offers valuable insight into the pros and cons of gas versus charcoal and gives instructions on testing grill temperatures and knowing when food is done.
Recipes include "Grilled Quesadillas with Sweet Corn, Grilled Shrimp, and Jalapeno Pesto," "Rum-Brown Sugar-Glazed Shrimp with Lime and Cilantro," and "Caribbean-Spiced Chicken with Mango Yogurt Sauce."
(Try a recipe: "Rum-Brown Sugar-Glazed Shrimp with Lime and Cilantro")
"Viva Margarita" by W. Park Kerr (Chronicle Books)
What summer shindig would be complete without a frosty cold margarita? In the new book, "Viva Margarita" author W. Park Kerr delves into the tequila-laced cocktail and provides a wide sampling of variations on the Mexican favorite.
The book is packed with full-color pictures and includes several appetizer recipes that make good accompaniments to the creative concoctions.
Recipes include "The Ultimate Margarita or Uber-rita," "Tiki Tequila-a-go-go" and "Midnight Muchacho."
(Try a recipe: "The Ultimate Margarita or Uber-rita")
"Crazy for Crab" by Fred Thompson (Harvard Common Press)
Ahhh, crab. There's nothing more summery than a big plate of fresh-from-the-sea crab legs. In "Crazy for Crab," author Fred Thompson offers over 60 recipes that tantalize the taste buds.
"Crazy for Crab" includes an explainer on the different types of crab and an entire chapter devoted to the "elusive perfect crab cake."
Recipes include "Crab and Tomato Napoleon," "Mendo Bistro's Award-Winning Crab Cakes With Tarragon Aioli" and "Soft-Shell Crabs in Spicy Peanut Sauce."
(Try a recipe: "Mendo Bistro's Award-Winning Crab Cakes With Tarragon Aioli")
"Picnics" by Sara Deseran (Chronicle Books)
In "Picnics" author Sara Deseran provides a wide variety of portable goodies that are perfect eats for whiling away a lazy summer afternoon. Full of color photos, the book also provides a "packing list" so outdoor adventurers don't forget any necessary elements for the perfect picnic experience.
Recipes include "Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil Sandwich," "Melon Skewers with Lime and Mint" and "Watermelon-Lime Agua Fresca."
(Try a recipe: "Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil Sandwich")
"Icebox Pies" by Lauren Chattman (Harvard Common Press)
In "Icebox Pies," Lauren Chattman takes the guesswork out of pie making with straightforward and simple recipes. Perfect for cooling off on hot summer nights, Chattman's refrigerator creations are full of fresh summer ingredients including mango, blueberries and lemon.
Recipes include "Banana Split Ice Cream Pie," "White Chocolate and Raspberry Pie" and "Kiwi and Cream Pie."
(Try a recipe: "Kiwi and Cream Pie")