Being a creature of comfort, I was not a happy person when our air conditioner was on the fritz and we spent two days with fans only.
Believe me, there was no cooking in our house. Our gas range can heat the dining and living rooms fairly quickly. We ate sandwiches, no-cook salads and takeout. To make things worse, I was ill with bronchitis, which doesn't like heat, either.
Since the spring/summer heat has definitely arrived and so have fresh vegetables and fruits, I will share some foods that will not heat the kitchen too much, including quick fresh fixes and grilled dishes.
Since Long Beach was once known as the radish capital, this recipe is appropriate. Radishes make for cool, crunchy salads, and this one has a little kick.
SOUTHWEST RADISH SALAD
1 cup prepared salsa
1/2 cup orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
6 cups lettuce, cut into 1-inch strips
1- 1/2 cups sliced radishes
3 hard-boiled eggs, cut into wedges
1- 1/2 cups cooked red kidney beans, or 1 (16-ounce) can, rinsed and drained
1 (7-ounce) can corn kernels, drained
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon or bacon bits
1/4 cup sliced green onions
Thoroughly combine all of the dressing ingredients.
Combine all of the salad ingredients, toss with the dressing, and serve immediately.
-- From "Bounty from the Box: The CSA Farm Cookbook"
Pretty easy, huh?
Take this next recipe to the grill for an awesome BLT salad.
CHARRED BLT SALAD
1 pint grape tomatoes
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling on lettuce
3 romaine lettuce hearts, halved lengthwise
1 (2.8-ounce) jar real bacon bits
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pesto
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
To make vinaigrette, stir together all ingredients until combined.
Heat grill to medium-high heat.
Make an aluminum foil packet large enough for tomatoes, place tomatoes
on foil and sprinkle them with salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Wrap tomatoes in foil. Grill 10 to 15 minutes or until tomatoes shrink and are soft to the touch.
Drizzle cut sides of lettuce with olive oil and place lettuce, cut side down, on grill rack coated with cooking spray.
Cook lettuce 5 minutes or until the leaves begin to wilt and are marked with grill marks; remove to platter.
Top romaine with tomatoes, bacon, cheese and pesto vinaigrette.
-- From Hormel
This recipe is one Myra Jones of Bradenton, Fla., shared several years ago. It is one of my go-to, easy veggie recipes. The broiler need not be on long for this quick recipe.
Slice some raw rather large zucchini, pretty thick.
Lay slices on a baking sheet.
Spread with mayonnaise (can be low fat).
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Sprinkle with paprika and/or seasoned salt, if desired.
Put under the broiler until mayo is bubbling and a bit browned. Serve. Accept graciously the compliments.
-- Submitted by Myra Jones
Stir-fry is another method to keep the kitchen cool when it's 90 degrees outside. This recipe was my mom's. Please make an effort to buy fresh sugar snap peas for this. It does make a difference.
SUGAR SNAP PEAS WITH PEARL ONIONS
1 pound fresh sugar snap peas
1 package (10-ounces) frozen pearl onions, thawed and drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Trim stem and ends from peas. Be sure to remove strings from both seams.
In large skillet over medium heat, cook onions in olive oil stirring occasionally until caramelized and golden brown about 6 minutes. Add garlic and brown sugar. Cook stirring constantly until fragrant or about 30 seconds.
Add peas. Stir-fry for 3 minutes. Stir in thyme, salt and pepper. Stir-fry until veggies are crisp tender. Makes 6 servings.
-- Recipe from Billy Leslie Wheaton
Some novice cooks may not know how to work with fresh vegetables. One of the easiest vegetables to work with is green beans. Here are some tips:
After purchasing, wash fresh green beans well in clear, cool water. Lift beans from the water. Empty and rinse bowl. Put beans back in bowl and rinse again.
Break off the ends as you wash them. Leave whole or cut into desired lengths. Beans can be cooked whole, cut crosswise, diagonally or French-cut. For sweet tasting, crisp fresh beans, cut them as little as possible.
12 ounces trimmed green beans
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Place green beans in a large skillet; pour in1/4 cup water.
Bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as water comes to a boil, cover pan and cook 3 minutes.
Uncover pan, and stir in butter. Cook 1 minute or until water evaporates and beans are crisp-tender.
Sprinkle beans with salt and pepper.
More ideas: Try this technique with cut asparagus, broccoli or cauliflower florets, thinly sliced zucchini or yellow squash, or quartered radishes. You can also try with carrot chunks, butternut squash cubes, or halved Brussels sprouts; just double the cook time and add more water if the pan dries out. Cook tender leafy greens (spinach, baby kale, Swiss chard, or mustard greens) this way; just use a Dutch oven or other large pot with a lid.
-- From Cooking Light
See, we can keep our cool and still cook or grill fresh foods.
More on veggies
Lynne Tuite of Ocean Springs wanted the recipe for the vegetable side served at Phoenicia in Ocean Springs.
A frequent column reader said she believes the vegetables might be blanched first, plunged into an ice water bath and then quickly sautéed for a slightly richer flavor.
"Do you know where I can buy jicama locally?" Kathryn Premeaux asked. "I tried Rouses, Wal-Mart, Winn Dixie and the Mexican market in Biloxi near Gate 7. So far, no luck. Please help if you can."
Readers, do you have any suggestions?
Calling all farmers that let folks pick their own vegetables and fruits. If you send me the information, I will do an updated listing in this column.
Andrea Yeager can be reached at email@example.com or Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535-4567.