Baby, it's hot outside -- pretty much what we expect with June well upon us. Why add to the heat by cooking up the temperatures in the kitchen?
A cold dinner is the solution to keeping it cool. It should be food that requires barely turning on the oven, the stovetop, the microwave or outdoor grill to put a meal on the table.
But just because everything is chilly doesn't mean it's not without flavor -- or a little heat.
Think a green side salad with gazpacho or a spicy shrimp cocktail with avocado. Add chunks of store-bought rotisserie chicken to a big dinner salad with homemade citrusy vinaigrette, or try leftover pulled pork with Cold Peanut Noodles. Use canned salmon to make barbecue-flavored sandwich patties. Add a side dish of Green Bean & Walnut Salad to almost anything.
WATERCRESS, CHICKEN AND CITRUS SALAD
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound rotisserie chicken, sliced into bite-size pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large bunches watercress,* about 6 ounces
2 tangerines, peeled, segmented (or 1 orange)
1/2 medium jicama, peeled, cut in 1/4-inch matchsticks, about 1 cup
1/4 cup quartered green olives
2 ounces feta, crumbled, about 1/2 cup
1. For the vinaigrette, whisk the orange juice, vinegar, olive oil and salt together in a small bowl. Set aside for flavors to marry.
2. Place the watercress, tangerine segments, jicama, olives and feta in a bowl. Add chicken to the salad. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad; toss gently with your hands to lightly coat all the ingredients.
Servings: 2, each with 494 calories, 34 grams fat, 88 mg cholesterol, 21 grams carbohydrates, 30 grams protein, 1,307 mg sodium, 5 grams fiber.
*If you prefer, use another salad green, such as a combination of red leaf and Boston lettuce. Spinach would also be an excellent substitution.
1 cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
4 plum tomatoes
1 red onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
23-24 ounces tomato juice
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup good olive oil
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess.
After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Ina Garten and The Food Network
Feel free to add some pulled pork on the side or shredded rotisserie chicken to make this a meal.
Cold Peanut Noodles
6 ounces Chinese ramen noodles or 8 ounces vermicelli
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup smooth or chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 small clove garlic
1-inch piece fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
Chopped scallion, for garnish
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. When the water starts to boil, add the pasta and cook the ramen noodles according to the package, directions, or the vermicelli until al dente, about 5 minutes. (Or, do all this in the microwave to keep the kitchen cool.) Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse under cold water until cool. Shake the colander well to release as much water as possible, then add the vegetable oil to the noodles and toss gently.
2. Blend the peanut butter, soy sauce, white wine, lemon juice, honey, garlic and ginger in a blender on medium speed or in a food processor, until completely smooth. Set the mixture aside.
3. Transfer the noodles to a serving platter. Pour on the peanut sauce and toss gently. Garnish with the chopped scallion. Serve immediately.
Serves 4, each with 518 calories, 18 grams protein, 11 grams sugar, 4 grams fiber, 59 grams carbohydrates, 0 mg cholesterol, 1,017 mg sodium, 24 grams fat.
Cookstr.com and Bob Sloan, whose works include "Dad's Own Cookbook"
Shrimp Cocktail, Mexican-Style
9 ounces large shrimp
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato paste*
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, plus sprigs to garnish
1/4 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and diced
2 tablespoons fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
1. Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the last tail segment attached on 4 of the shrimp to use as a garnish.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes until they turn pink. Transfer to a bowl, and toss with the lime juice. Add the hot sauce, and toss again. Let cool.
3. Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, tomato paste and chopped cilantro together in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to blend the flavors.
4. Divide the lettuce among 4 dessert glasses. Set aside the 4 shrimp with their tails. Add the avocado and corn to the remaining shrimp and mix gently, taking care not to break up the avocado. Spoon equal amounts of the shrimp mixture into the glasses.
5. Top with mayonnaise sauce and garnish with the reserved shrimp and cilantro sprigs.
Note: Make your own sun-dried tomato paste by running a jar of sun-dried tomatoes through a blender or food processor. The remainder can be frozen later use.
Prepare ahead: Steps 1-3 can be completed several hours ahead.
Yield : Makes 4 servings, each with 303 calories, 15 grams protein, 2 grams sugar, 4 grams fiber, 9 grams carbohydrates, 105 mg cholesterol, 204 mg sodium, 24 grams fat.
Cookstr.com and "The Kitchen Bible" by Dorling Kindersley
For a crunchier salad, serve it soon after adding the dressing; for a more piquant flavor, make it the day before, to allow the green beans to soak up the rich garlic, vinegar and walnut flavors.
Green Bean and Walnut Salad
1/2 cup ground walnuts
2 medium-size cloves garlic, crushed n a garlic press
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or more to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut crosswise in half
1/2 medium-size red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. To make dressing: In a small bowl, combine ingredients and mix thoroughly. Let stand 30 minutes.
2. Bring enough lightly salted water to a boil to cover the beans when added. Add the beans and boil until the beans are tender, about 7 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold running water, and drain again. Pat dry.
3. In a salad bowl, combine the beans and the onion. Add the dressing, cilantro and more vinegar, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss well. Serve either chilled or at room temperature.
Serves 4, each with 200 calories, 4 grams protein, 5 grams sugar, 11 grams carbohydrates, 0 mg cholesterol, 300 mg sodium, 17 grams fat.
"Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook" by Anya von Bremzan and John Welchman
Who says you have to fire up the grill to enjoy the smoky taste of a barbecue? Infusing these salmon patties with barbecue sauce and topping them with a sun-dried tomato mayo gives them a mild, seasonal flavor.
BBQ SALMON SLIDERS
1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
2/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 (7.5-ounce) cans sockeye or pink salmon, drained
1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 shallot, minced
1/3 cup wheat germ or any ground nut
1/3 cup prepared barbecue sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper
For the assembly:
8 slider buns
Red onion, thinly sliced
Cucumber, thinly sliced
Baby spinach or other summer greens
1. In a small bowl, cover the tomatoes with hot water and let them soak for 10 minutes. Drain them and squeeze out the excess water. Place them and all the other ingredients for the spread in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add mayonnaise if the mixture is too thick. Set the spread aside.
2. In a large bowl, use a fork to flake the salmon. Stir in the remaining burger ingredients until well-blended. Add more ground nuts or wheat germ if the mixture is too moist.
Divide the mixture into eight equal portions and shape it into patties. Serve them on the slider buns topped with the tomato spread, onion, cucumber, and greens.
Makes 8 sliders, each with 300 calories, 19 grams protein, 13 grams fat, 27 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 8 grams sugar, 613 mg sodium.
FamilyFun magazine/ Matt Kadey, author of "The No-Cook, No-Bake Cookbook"