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Thursday, July 28, 2016 12:01 am

Simple suppers for steamy nights

Grilled Vegetable and Fresh Goat Cheese Sandwiches


It’s hot outside and, as much as I love to cook, these days I will do almost anything to avoid turning on my stove. Here are some of my favorite tips for eating real while keeping cool.

Stocking up your freezer with cooked grains and legumes such as brown rice, quinoa, lentils and beans as well as cooked frozen shrimp, chicken and even shredded roast pork are fabulous ways to help get dinner on the table without heating up the kitchen. Having these items on hand makes throwing together delicious quesadillas, BBQ sandwiches and tacos a snap. When freezing cooked meat, always add a little broth or gravy to it before sealing it up in a zip top freezer bag. This helps prevent freezer burn and keeps the meat from tasting leftover.  

The microwave can be your best friend during the hot summer months. Zapping corn on the cob in the microwave is actually the best way to preserve all its nutrients, as they are not leached out into the water while cooking. Simply microwave an unshucked ear of corn on high for three minutes per ear, then allow to cool briefly before pulling off the husks and silks. (It is useful to keep a pair of clean cotton gloves on hand to wear when handling the hot corn.) The husks and silks will now come off much more easily than when raw.  Only microwave three ears at a time for a total of nine minutes – any more in the microwave and they will not cook evenly.

The microwave is also excellent for steaming broccoli, greens and cauliflower. Put them in a microwave-safe bowl with about three tablespoons of water and cover. Microwave on high for three to five minutes, depending on quantity and how powerful your microwave is. Caramelized onions are an over-the-top addition to grilled burgers or brats, and are easily made in the microwave as well. Thinly slice five onions and place them in a microwave-safe dish along with ¼ teaspoon baking soda (this helps deepen their golden brown color), ½ teaspoon dried thyme, a pinch of salt and a splash of white wine. Cover and microwave on high for 10 minutes. Remove from microwave (carefully – it will be hot!), stir, then cover and microwave for 10 minutes more. Stir, and repeat until onions are golden brown and very soft.

Below are a few of my favorite no-cook recipes that can be made ahead and kept in the fridge for a couple of days. These are perfect, not only for quick suppers, but also for office lunches or packed into a cooler to take to a pool party.

White Bean Caprese Salad
Serves 4 as a light main course
Balsamic Vinaigrette:
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
• a pinch of sugar
• salt and black pepper to taste

• 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 pint assorted cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
• 4 ounces small mozzarella balls (or regular fresh mozzarella, cut into ½-inch chunks)
• 1 clove garlic, finely minced
• ¼ cup thinly sliced fresh basil
• 2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
• a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
• salt and pepper to taste
• mixed greens, to serve

Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Combine all other ingredients except the greens in a bowl and toss with vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over a bed of mixed greens. This is especially good over peppery greens such as arugula.

Grilled Vegetable and Fresh Goat Cheese Sandwiches
Serves 4-6
• 1 loaf crusty bread, such as baguette or ciabatta
• 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, softened
• 1 clove garlic, finely minced
• 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced parsley
• pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
• approximately 2 cups sliced grilled vegetables such as zucchini, bell peppers, portobello mushrooms, fennel, beets, chilled or at room temperature

Slice the bread in half horizontally. Pull out some of the excess bread to make room for the fillings. In a small bowl, combine the softened goat’s cheese, minced garlic, Parmesan cheese, minced parsley, black pepper and red pepper flakes (if using). Season with salt if necessary.

Spread the cheese mixture over both halves of the bread, then layer the vegetables and basil leaves on top of one half. Top with the other half of bread and wrap the sandwich tightly with plastic wrap. Set a weight, such as a brick or large cast-iron skillet, on top for about 30 minutes. Slice into sections and serve.

White Bean Caprese Salad

Spicy Chicken and Lettuce Wraps
Serves 4-6
• 2 medium carrots, grated
• 1 cucumber, seeds removed and thinly sliced
• 3 cups shredded cooked chicken
• ½ cup torn herbs such as cilantro, mint and thai basil
• 2 teaspoons sugar or honey
• 2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
• 1 tablespoon fish sauce
• zest and juice from 1 lime
• Sriracha sauce to taste
• 1 head Boston lettuce, leaves pulled apart
• ½ cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped

Combine carrots, cucumber, chicken, herbs, sugar or honey, rice vinegar, fish sauce, lime zest and juice, and Sriracha. Mix to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in lettuce cups and top with chopped peanuts.   

Mediterranean Tuna Salad
Serves 6
• 2 cans good quality oil-packed tuna
• ½ cup pitted Kalamata olives, sliced
• 2 tablespoons capers
• 3 eggs, hard-boiled and sliced
• 4-5 steamed small red potatoes, sliced
• 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
• ¼ cup roughly chopped parsley
• ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
• ¼ cup chopped celery
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• ½ teaspoon lemon zest
• juice from ½ lemon
• 2 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
• 3 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
• Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over a bed of greens. Also excellent on crusty rolls or in a wrap (omit the potatoes).

Ashley Meyer is the executive chef for genHkids, where she teaches families and kids the joys of preparing food at home with fresh, seasonal ingredients. She looks forward to going to the Old State Capitol Farmers Market each week to shop for groceries and support the local farming community.•


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