Even If You Can’t Take the Heat, Stay in the KitchenJuly 7, 2010
We’re having a massive heat wave here in the Northeast, and whenever this type of weather occurs, the last thing I want to do after coming home from work is spend a lot of time cooking. The humidity just drains the energy out of me, and the thought of doing a lot of chopping, cutting and cooking is quite unappealing. So what does one do in this case? Ordering take-out is fine, but not every night. So here are a few of my suggestions for making dinner at home with minimal effort and energy, but still having a satisfying meal on these scorching days.
Pasta salad: cook the pasta and then run cold water over it until it cools to room temperature. Chop up your favorite veggies – tomatoes, scallions, corn, zucchini, etc. – and add some pine nuts or toasted pumpkin seeds for texture, and of course cheese; goat, Feta, parmesan are all great. For dressing, please don’t just pour bottled Italian dressing over it – it ruins an otherwise fresh and healthy meal. Make a quick vinaigrette with olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar and your favorite spices, or this dressing recipe works really well too.
Frozen pizza: I’m generally not a big fan of this, but when time and/or energy are a factor, it’s a nice alternative. The two brands I would recommend are California Pizza Kitchen and Newman’s Own. Both taste good (or good enough for frozen pizza) and come in a number of varieties. CPK has regular and thin-crust options, and Newman’s is of course all natural and profits go to charity. They don’t take long to cook – 12 minutes or so – which means your oven won’t be heating up your kitchen too long. And they are definitely healthier than ordering out from the local pizza parlor.
Fruit, nuts and cheese: sure it sounds like hors d’oeuvres, but this has been a long-time summer dinner for my family. It’s very healthy, takes little effort to prepare, and allows for a lot of variety. We usually go with grapes and sliced apples, but certainly any fruit would work. For nuts, pistachios are a great treat, but cashews, almonds or whatever else you like goes perfectly. As for cheese – the options are endless. We like to have a variety of flavors and textures, so we’ll go with a creamy brie, camembert or goat, then we’ll have something more bold and firm like a sharp cheddar, gruyere or Manchego, and then we’ll also get something like a blue or gorgonzola. If your supermarket has some gourmet cheeses, give some new ones a try. It’s cheese, after all – and the Mouse House Kitchen loves its cheese.