Beat the Heat

The dog days of summer are here. Cool chicken salad or baked salmon certainly make perfect summer suppers. But who wants to slave over a hot stove preparing? Not I, said the Little Red Hen. So she searched for ways to cool her kitchen since she knew she’d not get any help from her barnyard friends.

IMG_0659My favorite solution has been my Breville countertop oven. It’s on the expensive side and does take up counter space, but this appliance is a marvel. It’s big enough to bake a 13 inch pizza or a 9 by 13 inch pan. It will also toast one slice of bread or one bagel. It broils, it, bakes, it toasts. It has a defrost setting, a reheat setting and a convection mode. In addition, the newer models have a slow cook setting. Best of all it doesn’t heat up the kitchen, a boon for those of us with old homes without central air conditioning. I’ve barely used my full sized oven since I got this appliance. So save your pennies and look for a sale.

I thank my daughter Melanie for introducing me to this great appliance.

reicpesjuly4Some of you have requested the Cucumber–Pineapple Soup recipe. This sweet, tart, cool soup works well with many types of food. The cucumber mellows the pineapple taste and the pale yellow color looks lovely on a summer table. Here’s a link to the recipe, printed in a previous kitchen column Cool Food for a Hot Day.

Now here are some dishes perfect for a summer meal- and there’s barely any cooking involved.

recipesjuly1Watermelon Soup (serves 3-4)
A cold soup can be very refreshing on a hot day. Many nutritionists also suggest starting a meal with a bowl of soup to reduce cravings for the more calorie heavy parts of a meal. This soup takes advantage of one of summer’s favorite fruits.

4 cups cubed seeded watermelon
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh mint
1 Tablespoon honey

1. Blend all ingredients in a bowl using an immersion blender for best results.
2. Cover and chill.

NOTES: For a spectacular presentation, cut watermelon into a basket shape. Carefully remove flesh from melon. Serve soup in melon basket. To make this soup vegan, replace the honey with agave.

recipesjuly2Mediterranean Summer Tomatoes (serves about 6)
Who can resist a fresh, juicy summer tomato? While tomatoes are available all year round, there is nothing like a summer tomato. Farmers are beginning to bring back some of the older varieties, too. Even the original “Jersey” tomato is back. Beryl Hiller is responsible for introducing this lovely make ahead dish to the Shabbat Kiddush table.

5 sliced fresh tomatoes
5 coarsely chopped shallots
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1. Core and slice the tomatoes and arrange on a serving plate.
2. Sprinkle shallots over the tomatoes.
3 .Whisk olive oil and vinegar together and pour over the sliced tomatoes.
4. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving or refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 days.

NOTES: Serve with crusty bread. Use the remaining marinade as a dip for the bread.
Try using yellow tomatoes for a different take on a tomatoes salad. Add some basil and mozzarella and you have a hearty caprese salad. Add tuna and you’ve made a meal.

recipesjuly3Farro, Cherry and Walnut Salad (serves 8)
Grain salads have become very popular. They are filling, easy to make, and endlessly variable. This one does need a little cooking but if you have a rice cooker, making the grain is as easy as pushing a button.

5 cups water
1 ½ cup uncooked farro
½ teaspoon salt, divided
¾ pounds sweet cherries, pitted and halved (about 2 cups)
2/3 cups diced celery
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
¼ cup pack fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan.
2. Add farro and ¼ teaspoon salt to boiling water; cook 15 minutes or until al dente.
3 .Drain; cool at room temperature for 15 minutes.
4. Combine farro, cherries, celery, walnuts and parsley in a large bowl.
5. Combine lemon juice, mustard, honey, pepper and remaining teaspoon salt, stirring with a whisk.
6. Gradually add oil, stirring constantly with a whisk.
7. Pour dressing over farro mixture; toss to coat.

NOTES: This could probably be made with any firm grain such as barley or wheat berries. Add some arugula and goat cheese to elevate this from a side dish to a light meal.

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