Help your kitchen keep its cool

July 8, 2014 

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 old 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 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 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.

Lettuce or spring mix

Sliced strawberries

Blueberries

Fresh or canned pineapple

Mandarin oranges

Dried cranberries

Part of a banana

Cooked and cooled shrimp

Sliced baked almonds (choice of flavor or other nuts)

Feta cheese

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 ten

derloin 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)

Caesar dressing

Place romaine in large salad bowl and add remaining ingredients. Toss with Caesar dressing. Beef tenderloin should be placed 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, preseasoned 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.

CHICKEN FAJITAS

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 or other condiments you may like. Serves 4 to 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.

LEMON VINAIGRETTE

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.

MICRO-POACHED SALMON

1 lemon thinly sliced

4 (6 ounces each) skinless center-cut salmon fillets

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup water

In a 8--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

'Bone-A-Fied Delicious'

Author Carolyn Haines, who has published a cookbook based on her Sarah Booth Delaney series of mysteries, is conducting a monthly recipe contest.

"The cookbook, 'Bone-A-Fied Delicious, Recipes from Zinnia's Finest Chefs,' has been such a hit, we thought we'd have a monthly contest featuring a snapshot of a recipe that you make from it," said Haines in her newsletter. "One winner will be given the prize, which is a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble.

"For July, the category is Best Summer Drink. So thumb through the 'Bone-A-Fied Cookbook,' find a drink recipe (containing alcohol or not), whip up the concoction, find that perfect glass/jelly jar/mug to pour it in and then take a photograph of it! Also, write a little piece about why this recipe appealed to you, or what happened when you made it, or whatever you want to tell us," said Haines.

Recipes can be posted to facebook.com/Bone.A.Fied.Delicious.Cookbook.Contest. If not on Facebook, email photo and blurb to Haines at carolynhaines512@gmail.com. Deadline is July 26.

The contest winner will be announced each month as well as a new recipe category.

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 ayeager51@cableone.net and takes contributions or requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

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