Lighter Summer Options

Story by Dave Eckert    |    Intro photo courtesy of Pearl Tavern

If the 100-degree temperatures didn’t convince you, nothing will-it’s going to be a long, hot summer. Venturing out in this heat and humidity is daunting enough but cooking and dining in it is even worse. Luckily, there are plenty of options for lighter, low-calorie, even chilled options for cuisine around town. Let’s start at the supermarket.

Specifically, Hen House, which works hard every day to live up to its “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” slogan. “I think it all goes back to the beginnings of Balls Food Stores, which turns 100 next year. It’s always important for the family to support local farmers-then, now, and in the future,” Lou Maliponti, Balls Food Stores’ Director of Produce/Floral Ops told me.

Maliponti says Hen House buys from more than 200-local producers, so the products they offer are as fresh as you can get outside a farm or a farmer’s market. And, he says, they use those products to create practical, delicious, and nutritious recipes customers can replicate at home. “So, what you’ll see is a code in our ads where the customers can go right to the recipes and utilize the items that are at the peak of their freshness,” Maliponti said. At Hen House, it literally is farm to table.

From the supermarket to the restaurant, many businesses are offering lighter fare as the temperatures rise. At Pearl Tavern in Lee’s Summit, those options are available year-round: healthy, low-cal, and delicious. “We have a list of fresh fish that are available daily. You can find a great piece of fish that can be grilled or blackened. I prefer grilled to keep it nice and light,” Po Wang, Pearl Tavern’s Executive Chef said.

Wang says the restaurant doesn’t make changes to the menu during the summer heat because there are already plenty of options to keep things light. “You can start with some chilled oysters, then move into ceviche or a shrimp cocktail, just to name a few. All of those are chilled, low calorie, and tasty,” Wang shared. “Plus, we can put any protein you like on a salad-a great piece of fish, a crab cake, or even calamari. We aim to please.”

You wouldn’t necessarily think of a Mexican restaurant as offering light and refreshing fare, but they certainly do at Barrio KC. Barrio now has four locations throughout the metro, and you will find light and delicious Mexican appetizers, entrées, and even drink options at all of them. “We like to say that we’re more of a California-style Mexican restaurant, lighter fare where you can dine here, have a good meal, and not leave feeling stuffed and weighed down,” Luke Pickett, Barrios Operating Partner told me.

To prove his point, Pickett offered me lunch. I started with shrimp and scallop ceviche, which I consumed with sans tortilla chips, fish tacos with grilled fish, a slice of avocado, and some pickled onions, along with a “skinny” margarita using agave syrup in place of sugar. Everything was super fresh, extremely light, and definitely tasty. “We also offer chicken lettuce wraps, and we can do lettuce wraps in place of tortillas, which we often do. There’s even the option of chicharron chips instead of tortilla chips as a keto-friendly substitution,” Pickett said.

You don’t have to visit a sit-down restaurant to find lighter and healthier dining options. I stumbled across some at The Italian Sausage Company in Gladstone. The ISC has some of the best sandwiches in this, or any, metro, but tons of meat, cheese, and dressings on thick-cut Italian bread doesn’t exactly scream healthy. So, as Ross did on Friends, the Italian Sausage Company pivoted, taking their favorite sandwich, the number 7, and offering it in a bowl. “This is a quintessential classic Italian deli sandwich consisting of ham, capocollo, genoa salami, pepperoni, provolone, crisp shredded lettuce and arugula mix, sliced onion, sliced tomato, pepperoncini, house-made garlic aioli, mustard, and oil and vinegar all piled high on a half or whole loaf of Italian seeded bread. Our customers love the number 7, but many asked for something lighter. So, we offer it as a bowl-all the same ingredients and amazing flavor, but without the bread,” Italian Sausage company co-owner Michelle Brancato explained.

Finally, some thoughts from Amy Williamson, owner of the Flavor Spice Shop and the new Downtown Deli and Market in Lee’s Summit. With more than 180 bulk spices available in her shop and all sorts of delicious vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options in the deli, Williamson says eating lighter, but also deliciously, is an easy option at her shops. “One of the things I always recommend is for people to make their own salad dressings with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Olive oil is not just tasty, it also lowers your cholesterol. Plus, the dressings have other uses like marinades. And, if you’re a person who says ‘I can’t do olive oil. I need butter’ well, we have a butter-flavored olive oil,” Williamson shared. Williamson also says there will always be healthier and lighter options in the deli for folks with dietary restrictions or people who are just trying to eat lighter. “We will always have gluten-free and vegan options in our salads and our soups, and you can always order the sandwich in a lettuce bowl rather than bread,” Williamson commented.

So, there you have it-a myriad of options for lightening things up on the plate as temperatures soar over the summer. Stay cool everyone.

Photo credits in order, Hen House, Pearl Tavern and Downtown Deli and Market