The heat is on this summer, and the kitchen really turns on the heat.
Cold foods are the order of the day. Don't believe the adage "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." Simply avoid turning on the oven.
Salads, cold soups, tortilla wraps and pita pocket sandwiches still keep meals homemade but at a lower temperature.
Last week, I did not turn on the oven. We enjoyed cool black and bleu salads, chicken fajitas with Spanish rice, meatball gyros with homemade tzatziki sauce using homegrown cucumbers and tomatoes, and barbecued burgers done on an electric countertop grill.
These meals were nutritious and refreshing. If you have access to homegrown tomatoes, they are so flavorful this year. My husband loves tomato sandwiches, and my daughter and I can just eat slices out of hand. Homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers make me appreciate just how good these veggies can be.
Janet Commer of Saucier, Miss., put summer's best to use in her cool summer salad for one. She uses fresh gulf shrimp, blueberries, pineapple and strawberries in the salad. Need I say more? Fruit and shrimp, too. Yum!
As she says, "This is a very pretty salad that works well for a potluck or crowd, using larger and amounts and omitting shrimp if necessary."
SUMMER SALAD FOR ONE
Slowly cook a few uncooked shrimp in pan with desired seasoning, such as Tony Chachere's, then cool them.
Layer on a plate:
Lettuce or spring mix
Fresh or canned pineapple
Part of a banana
Cooked and cooled shrimp
Sliced baked almonds (choice of flavor or other nuts)
Light raspberry vinaigrette dressing
Layer lettuce or spring mix and other ingredients in order listed.
-- Submitted by Janet Commer
For the black and bleu salad, I used a beef tenderloin that came marinated in a cracked black pepper sauce. I broiled the tenderloin until the internal temperature was 130 degrees or medium and let it rest wrapped in foil for 10 more minutes. I sliced the tenderloin thinly, perfect for a salad.
BLACK AND BLEU SALAD
1 package romaine salad pieces
6 ounces bleu cheese crumbles
3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
1 large homegrown tomato, sliced thinly
1/2 Vidalia onion, sliced in thin rings
1 peeled and cubed cucumber
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated in medium-size pieces
3 tablespoons of real bacon pieces
Beef tenderloin, broiled and sliced thinly
Store-bought croutons, heated in skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle of Parmesan cheese (makes them crispy and more flavorful)
Place romaine in large salad bowl and add remaining ingredients. Toss with Caesar dressing. Beef tenderloin should be place on top of salad mixture along with Parmesan croutons. Guests can add more dressing if desired.
Making use of already prepared foods also beats the heat in the kitchen. For the chicken fajitas, I bought a package of precooked, pre-seasoned chicken fajita strips. In a bit of olive oil, I sauteed a Vidalia onion sliced thinly and red bell pepper, also thinly sliced and cooked until almost wilted. I added the precooked fajita strips so the chicken picked up the flavor of the onion and bell pepper, too.
1 24-ounce package precooked chicken fajita strips
1 Vidalia onion, sliced in rings
1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin or 1/2 cup fresh, chopped cilantro
1 package Southwest salad mix with dressing packet (in produce section)
Shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Salsa, if desired
Guacamole, if desired
Flour tortillas, heated on griddle or in microwave
Saute onion and pepper in olive oil. Add about 3/4 bag of pre-cooked chicken fajita strips. Add cumin or fresh cilantro. I personally prefer fresh cilantro to the cumin. Cook until heated through. Put mixture on a heat resistant platter. To same skillet, add Southwest salad mix and stir fry until vegetables are a little wilted. Add salad dressing to salad mix. Mix thoroughly.
Heat tortillas. For each fajita, use 1 flour tortilla and top with chicken-onion mix and add salad mix. Top with shredded cheese. Can add fresh chopped tomatoes, salsa or guacamole if you like. Serves 4-6, depending on how hungry guests are.
When I come across a great recipe, I like to share my find, such as this versatile salad from Good Housekeeping magazine. This is one of the magazine's current email recipes. This cold salad fits our summer days.
I especially like this salad because you can use salmon, chicken or shrimp. My husband and friends of ours love salmon, but not me. I have had it smoked, cedar planked and creamed in appetizers. Salmon is just too fishy for me. Yes, I know it is a healthy fish; I still don't care for it. I will take shrimp any time.
CITRUSY SPINACH AND SALMON SALAD
1/3 cup Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon honey
12 ounces baby spinach
4 clementines or tangerines, peeled and separated into segments, seeded if necessary
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Micro-poached salmon (recipe follows)
1/4 cup salted cashews, toasted
In large bowl, with wire whisk, blend Lemon Vinaigrette and honey. To dressing, add spinach, clementines or tangerines and cranberries. Toss to coat. Divide among 4 plates. Top spinach mixture with Micro-Poached Salmon, flaked with fork into 1-inch chunks, and cashews.
Citrusy Spinach and Chicken: Prepare as directed but substitute Grilled Thyme Chicken Breasts for the salmon. Each serving: about 380 calories.
Citrusy Spinach and Shrimp: Prepare as directed but substitute Spicy Grilled Shrimp for the salmon. Each serving about 365 calories.
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In medium bowl, with wire whisk, stir together lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Continue whisking and add extra-virgin olive oil in slow, steady stream. Whisk until well blended and emulsified. Cover and refrigerate up to 3 days.
1 lemon thinly sliced
4 (6 ounces each) skinless center-cut salmon fillets
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
In a 8-inch-by-8-inch glass baking dish, arrange thin slices of lemon in single layer. Place salmon fillets on top of lemon slices. Sprinkle with salt. Add water to dish.
Cover with vented plastic wrap and microwave on high for 8 minutes or until fish just turns opaque throughout. With slotted spatula, transfer salmon to paper towels to drain. Let cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
GRILLED THYME CHICKEN BREASTS
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Prepare grill for covered direct grilling on medium. In large bowl, toss chicken breast halves with vegetable oil, thyme, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Place chicken on hot grill; cover.
Cook 11 to 13 minutes or until juices run clear when thickest part of chicken is pierced with knife, turning once. Transfer chicken to cutting board; let rest 10 minutes.
SPICY GRILLED SHRIMP
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
Prepare grill for direct grilling on medium-high. In a large bowl, toss shrimp with vegetable oil, cayenne, and salt to coat. Place shrimp on hot grill. Cook 3 to 5 minutes or until shrimp are opaque throughout, turning once. Transfer shrimp to plate and let cool 5 minutes.
-- Recipe from Good Housekeeping
More cool foods
Don't forget to send in your cool foods or recipes that help you survive kitchen heat for our reader Sheila.
Andrea Yeager, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and takes contributions or requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.