Who wants to cook in this heat? Not many of us. Dinner at a restaurant every night is not an option for most of us, and the less expensive carry out choices are not especially healthy ones. Processed and prepared foods are full of the cheapest ingredients, fillers, and additives. How to beat the heat? Opt for quick, cooling salads that are easy to pull together without turning on the stove.
Start with the purchase of a variety of lettuce greens that will keep in the crisper drawer, and wash them as soon as you get home from the market or the store so they are ready to go when you are. A combination of crisp romaine and butter lettuce, spicy arugula and watercress, some of the red leafed varieties, mild and crunchy Belgian endive all contribute color, flavor and texture to a pleasing base for any salad. Be sure to have some tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, canned black and garbanzo beans on hand to add heft to the salad. Add corn kernels cut off the cob, grated cheese, slices of green or red onion. Fresh herbs brighten the flavor of any salad: use them liberally to add clean, bright flavor. Basil, dill, parsley, chives, and mint are all good choices, along with cilantro if you like it.
Cook hard-boiled eggs in the cool of the morning: place eggs in cold water to cover, bring to a boil, cook for a minute, and let stand for 12 minutes off the heat. Drain, cool and refrigerate. Make croutons with day old bread: cut into cubes and set aside. Heat olive oil gently over medium heat with pinches of dried basil, dried oregano, some paprika and garlic powder, a little salt and pepper, a pinch or two of dried red pepper flakes. Stir in the bread cubes, tossing until they absorb all the flavored oil. Turn the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally until the croutons are completely dried and crisp, about 10 minutes. Cool and refrigerate.
When it’s time to make the salad, preheat the grill and cook seasoned chicken, beef or pork, or Alaskan salmon, even sausages to slice as a final addition. For a Mexican salad, use grilled chorizo sausages, black beans, corn kernels, tomatoes and peppers, and add some chili powder and cumin to your favorite dressing. For Italian, use croutons with garbanzo beans, and Italian sausage, chicken or beef with olives and grated Parmesan with fresh basil and chopped parsley. An Asian salad might include skewered shrimp, fresh pineapple or mango, chopped mint and basil, sliced green onion, and a dressing made with sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar. Top with crispy shallots.
6 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
2-3 tbsp. sunflower or grapeseed oil
Spread the sliced shallots on paper towels to dry out for 30 minutes or longer. Heat the oil in a large skillet, and stir in the shallots. Cook over medium to medium low heat, turning often, until browned and crisp. Drain and store at room temperature.