Bleah! It’s still searingly hot outside. (Too hot for grilling, imho.) Who wants to cook anything, even if your kitchen is in air-conditioned comfort? OK, A/C does help. But still. Who wants to eat a heavy cooked meal when it’s 100 degrees out? (Have some more water.)
So what can we do to feed ourselves and beat the heat, short of eating ice cream three times a day? (wait, not such a bad strategy …) Here are some reminders of cool basics for summertime meals that might spark your imagination. (Find more ideas here.)
• Remember the “beeg salad”? Invite it to dinner. On a bed of lettuces and/or greens (raw kale, cabbage shreds), add something starchy and/or grainy (cooked quinoa, pasta, bulgur, beans, potatoes), some cooked meat, chicken, tuna or hard-boiled eggs, veggies galore (tomato, chopped celery, onion, shredded carrot, cucumber, zucchini, olives, cooked beets, etc.), maybe some dried fruit, nuts and cheese cubes. Spoon on your favorite dressing, enjoy bread or crackers on the side — this is a refreshing way to douse the summer heat.
• Then there’s the sandwich. What’s for lunch can also be for dinner. (This goes for breakfast, too.) If your regular bread is plain old wheat or white, time to bring in the rolls, baguettes, loaves of marble rye or multigrain, country loaves like Trader Joe’s Pain Pauline, bagels, Indian naan breads …
New ingredients will perk up the fillings. Sure, ham and Swiss or tuna are OK, but layer some sliced avocado in there too. Cucumber slices and hot pepper rings will awaken those taste buds. Tired of white onion? Go for red onion, or slice in some scallions. Slice in some olives while you’re at it.
Or a new spread (have you tried Brian’s Mustard yet?) — tapenade, maybe, or whipped cream cheese, cranberry sauce, artichoke spread. (Just not all at once.)
• Wrap it up: Yes, burritos and/or wraps make cool meals. Just the other night we blended leftover Spanish rice (try the recipe on my Facebook page), a couple of spoonfuls of beans, about a half-cup of chopped turkey meat, salsa verde and some cheddar cheese. This works with lots of things: chopped or sliced roast beef, chicken, shrimp. Or go with an all-veggie version, spread with hummus.
Combine your ingredients in a bowl, warm it slightly in the microwave, then spread some down the middle of a large flour tortilla or wrap. Add cheddar (or other favorite cheese) in strips or small dice. Wrap it up burrito-style (spread your filling in a strip close to the middle of the tortilla; fold over at one long side of the strip, then fold in the sides, finish rolling so the sides tuck in). A pop in the microwave melts the cheese nicely; top with more salsa and guacamole, if you’ve got it.
• Quesadillas. See above. Fold tortilla in half instead of rolling it, and warm in a frying pan or microwave.
• Apply the appliances: Don’t forget your toaster oven, microwave and slow cooker. Just put the latter in the garage or on the patio so it doesn’t heat the house. Or use it overnight, or at a cooler time of day.
“I use my George Foreman grill a lot,” e-mailed Lyn A. “Besides the usual meat and veggies, it makes great panini (which is just a fancy Italian word for grilled sandwiches).”
Yes, and didn’t these used to be called melts? If you don’t have a stovetop grill, use a skillet: Melt a pat of butter in the pan and lay your sandwiches flat to brown on each side for a minute or two. Especially good with cheesy ones. Try a plain old grilled cheese, or do a tuna or veggie melt with a slice of cheese inside. (I think that’s our dinner tonight.)
• Tons more ideas: fruit-and-cheese plates; antipasto plate (sliced salami, cheese, marinated artichokes, Italian bread); veggies and dips; cottage cheese and fruit (or vegetables, if you prefer); scrambled eggs; cereal and fruit; and there’s always take-out. Treat yourself. It’s hot outside!
This unusual salad is from the first issue (2011) of the now-gone “Master Chef” magazine, based on the TV show. It sounds cool and delightful.
WATERMELON, TOMATO AND MOZZARELLA SALAD
2 1/2 to 3 cups watermelon, cut into about 1-inch cubes
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups ripe yellow tomatoes, cut into about 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup (1/4 pound) fresh mozzarella cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 large fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
6 large fresh mint leaves, cut into thin strips
In large salad bowl, toss together the watermelon, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, half the basil leaves, half the mint leaves, salt and pepper. Top with remaining basil and mint leaves. Serves 4.
(c) copyright 2015 Laura Groch