Hot days end better with cold food

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 5, 2016

You finally make it home after a long day. It’s so hot, everything looks wavy, and you’ve got to come up with something to eat.

You could through some burger on the grill, but that means standng outside, where it’s even hotter next to the grill.

There’s cereal in the cabinet, but …

With a little planning, you can have dinner ready in the refrigerator and save yourself from hot stoves or sizzling grills.

This is the time of year when it’s OK to pick up the rotisserie chicken or some cooked shrimp. Arm yourself with fresh vegetables from your favorite farmer’s market or produce stand and do a little chopping.

This salad can be dressed or added to to make a different meal every night. Make a big bowl full and start experimenting

You can do more or less of any ingredient.

Chopped Vegetable Salad

3 stalks celery

3 carrots

4 radishes

1 medium head broccoli, florets and stems

1 head cauliflower

1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper

1 medium cucumber

1 large tomato or a container of cherry tomatoes

Slice the celery crosswise and cut the carrot the same way, to make coins. Thinly slice the radishes. Cut the florets from the broccoli and peel and slice the stems. Break cauliflower into florets. Seed pepper and remove ribs, then dice. Score cucumber with a fork and slice. Toss and mix the vegetables together. Add tomato just before serving. Uncut cherry tomatoes can be added at any point.

Additions: 1 small hamsteak, cut in cubes, 1/2 cup cubed monterey jack or swiss cheese, 1/2 cup cheddar, mild to sharp, your choice. Serve over romaine lettuce with dressing of your choice.

Chicken and egg: Add 1 to 1/2 cups torn rotisserie chicken and 1/2 cup parsley. Or add 2 or more sliced, hardboiled eggs, sprinkled with paprika.

Seafood: Add one can tuna, drained. Dress with lemon vinaigrette: 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice; 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard; 3/4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped (optional); 1 clove garlic, minced; salt and ground pepper. Whisk all ingredients together or shake vigorously in a tightly sealed jar. You must use fresh lemon juice. For added flavor, grate some of the zest into the dressing.

Add 1-1 1/2 cups cooked, cold shrimp with lime vinaigrette: 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, 1 tsp. honey, 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, 1/2 tsp. ground cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Mix all ingredients well.

Beef: Top salad with thin slices of deli roast beef and sliced, fresh mushrooms.

Cheese: The options are endless, from a simple cup of Colby, pepperjack, etc. Try dollops of goat cheese and a sprinkle of flat-leaf parsley. Fading D Farms’ fresh mozzarella would be a great add in, with 1/2 cup of chopped basil. Also try their firm cheeses, Sapore, Bel Bufala or Roco. Feta makes a nice, salty accent.

Mexican: Add a can of drained, rinsed black beans and some crumbled tortilla chips and use your favorite salsa mixed with a little olive oil as your dressing.

Asian: Using the breast meat from a rotisserie chicken, add some fresh orange slices and water chestnuts. Use this Asian dressing:  1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar, 2 tsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil, 1 tsp. honey. Mix all ingredients. Add sliced green onion. If you like it hot, add a few red chili flakes.

If you want something soupy, this cold summer classic and its variations are prepared in many countries. The name is Spanish, and the original was thickened with soaked slices of bread and had more onion and bell pepper. It is a fantastic way to use ripe tomatoes, and it’s a very cooling soup


3 pounds tomatoes, cored and chopped

1 cucumber, peeled and chopped, seedless if you can find one

2 red bell peppers, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup sherry or red wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup fresh basil

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate overnight before serving. Use a glass bowl to store.

Or, add all ingredients to a food processor to break into smaller pieces, but do not puree.

Additions/variations: Add 1/4 cup chopped red onion. To take some of the sting out of the onion, soak it for an hour in ice water.

Add two stalks chopped celery.

Add chopped green onion to individual servings.

For more liquid, add 1 cup tomato juice.

For a spicy kick, add one chopped jalapeno. Remove ribs and seeds for milder flavor.

Add 1 to 3 minced garlic cloves.

Add a handful of chopped fresh parsley.

Add a few drops of Tabasco sauce or your favorite hot sauce.

If you want to reduce the acidity, add a little sugar.

Garnish with more of the vegetables, a little sour cream or yogurt, avocado slices. Serve with crusty bread and you have a great meal.

This can be a cool side dish, served as a breakfast or light lunch or dinner.

Southern Melon and Ham

1 cantaloupe

1 thin slice country ham

Cut cantaloupe into bite-size chunks or use a melon baller. Chill in refrigerator or set in a larger bowl of ice water to chill.

Lightly cook ham, so it is warm through, then slice in the thinnest strips possible, and slice across the strips to make 1-inch pieces. Toss warm ham with cold cantaloupe and serve as an appetizer, side dish or light lunch.

On a less hot evening, throw some chicken on the grill, and cook enough so it will last for two meals. Or cook tenders on something like a George Foreman grill, that doesn’t produce a lot of heat. This would also be good with thin pork chops. Serve with fresh corn and this salsa:

Watermelon Salsa

2 cups diced watermelon

1 Tbsp. diced onion (purple or green)

1/2 cup diced bell pepper, any color

3 Tbsp chopped cilantro

4 Tbsp. lime juice (2 limes)

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

This recipe from sounds a little crazy, but it could be crazy good, too.

Chilled Buttermilk Soup

3 cups chilled buttermilk, well-shaken

1 small garlic clove, minced or pureed with a microplane

1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes

1 green onion, thinly sliced

3 or 4 basil leaves, slivered

Place buttermilk in a bowl, add garlic and stir. Add tomatoes and onion and stir gently. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with basil leaves.

If you’d rather use jarred pesto, simply mix the buttermilk, tomatoes and onion and drop in spoonfuls of pesto once the soup is ladled into bowls. The tangy buttermilk tastes sort of like sour cream.

You want dessert, too? Easy. Ice cream. Scoop, serve. Or for something a little fancier, how about a good, old fashioned icebox cake?

Here’s one we found on, which combines the flavor of lemon and blueberries.

Lemon Blueberry Icebox Cake

8 ounces whole milk ricotta

1/3 cup lemon curd

3 cups heavy cream

24 graham crackers

1 pound blueberries

Zest of 1 lemon

Combine the lemon curd (store-bought or homemade) and ricotta in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Whip the cream until stiff — the beaters should leave tracts in the cream. Combine gently with lemon-ricotta mixture

In a 10 by 14 baking dish, dollop in some of the cream. Arrange 8 graham crackers in a layer. Top with more cream and blueberries.

Add two more layers of graham crackers, cream and blueberries. Finish with a top layer of blueberries. Sprinkle lemon zest over the top.

Chill to soften in the refrigerator at least 4 hours.