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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Hot Weather Foods

I love the summer. I love the trips to the beach, the outdoor concerts, the walks along the river after dinner. But I have to admit, I find preparing healthy, tasty meals a little more challenging in the hot weather. Somehow, my crockpot doesn't seem all that enticing in this kind of weather. Gone are the days when a steamy pot of risotto or a corn pudding drew me into the kitchen and drew my family straight to the table.
In this weather we are drawn more to cold foods, salads, soups, and sandwiches, it seems. And without some caution, those can quickly turn into mayonaise-laden, sloppy diet bombs. I've been working hard on making nutritious, cool meals that don't make me look like a greasy, drippy mess and don't pack on the pounds. A few of my current favorites:
--- cucumber and celery salad with feta and mint. I'll confess. I had this earlier this summer at a party and I could not get over how wonderful it was. I've tinkered with the recipie ever so slightly and I love it. I just chop up the ingredients and add a wee bit of vingear (really!! a WEE bit) and its ready to go.
--- Watermelon and mint salad. I'm really appreciating my mint patch this summer. I add something crunchy to this, like water chestnuts or hearts of palm and its ready to go. Just a tiny splash of basalmic vinegar on it. Yum
--- shrimp and tomato salad -- That's it. Just cooked, cold shrimp and cool, ripe tomatoes.
--- Gazpacho -- I'm trying all different recipies right now. I have couple that are quite good, but I'm still looking for the perfect gazpacho. I had it once in southern Spain, on the beach. It remains the icon of gazpacho for me.
---Cold cucumber soup --- this is my food processor favorite. Everything goes into the food processor -- and soup comes out.
--- Strawberry and Yogurt soup. I'll admit it, I purchase this one from a market nearby. It comes in a quart container and is absolutely yummy. We love it with toast for dinner.
--- Seviche -- this is a real treat at our house. We don't have it often because it is a bit expensive. Seviche is essentially seafood bits marinated in lime juice to "cook" them and then served cold.
--- Torellini salad with pesto and peas. I got this idea from one of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. Hers is a little more complicated than this (and I don't find her recipies complicated at all) I just cook the torellini ahead of time. Stir in about a half a cup of prepared pesto (Don't use the jarred stuff, its very vinegary. Look for fresh pesto in the produce section. My local market makes a really good version of this. Later, it my basil ever matures in this wet weather, I'll make my own) Add one can of drained LeSeur baby peas. Stir it all together and chill for a few hours. Add shaved parmesan cheese when you serve it. Mmmmmm.
None of these have mayonaise or are dripping with oil. None of these are sloppy and drip down your chin as you eat them. None of these makes you look like a cow (either while you're eating or after!). Summer IS good.