When the heat ratchets up, who wants to be in the kitchen? Let alone turn on the stove to cook.
And yet, heat storm or not, we still have to eat.
When I'm trying to figure out what to cook during a heat wave, I first take a mental inventory of what's in the fridge. Then I brainstorm combinations of ingredients I could whip up in less than a half-hour without heating up the kitchen or exerting much effort beyond a little chopping and stirring.
If the fridge is empty or I need to pick up a few ingredients from the market, I aim for what's in season and steer towards appealing flavors and textures that offset the heat.
What I like about these recipes is that they work well as side dishes and they can also be doubled for a light meal. They combine fresh, crunchy, cool ingredients and flavor profiles you can easily tweak for children and adults. The ingredient lists are more like blueprints to adapt any way you like.
So set the fan on high, listen to some tunes, fix yourself a cold drink and dive in.
COLD SOBA NOODLE SALAD
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen
Noodles and vegetables:
8 ounces buckwheat noodles
A mixture of raw vegetables of your choice (such as carrots, cucumbers, radishes or green beans)
2 - 3 tablespoons miso (red or white)
1 2-inch piece ginger, finely grated
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne, or to taste
2 tablespoons mirin (Japanese rice wine)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime), plus lime wedges for serving
Make the dressing by whisking the smaller amount of miso plus the remaining sauce ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust to make sweeter (with more sugar) or more intense and salty (with the last tablespoon of miso) if desired.
Cook the noodles in well-salted water until tender but firm for the time recommended on your package of noodles. Most are cooked between 5 and 8 minutes, so test at 5 and add more minutes if needed.
Meanwhile, grate, julienne or thinly slice vegetables of your choice.
Drain noodles and run cold water over them to cool. Drain again, shaking out excess water.
Divide noodles among four bowls; toss each with a tablespoon of the sauce, plus more to taste. Top with vegetables and extra droplets of sauce. Serve with lime wedges.
*Make an omelet, cut it into strips and serve atop noodles.
*Serve with shreds of roast chicken
*Add 7 ounces smoked salmon, cut into strips
Cucumber Tomato Salad
Adapted from The Saffron Tales by Yasmin Khan
3 small Middle Eastern cucumbers (or 1 large cucumber)
1 pint cherry tomatoes or 3 medium-sized tomatoes
1/2 red onion
4-5 radishes, trimmed of leaves
6 ounces Kalamata olives
1 teaspoons dried mint
3 tablespoons extra-virgin oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
If using small cucumbers, halve lengthways. If you have a regular cucumber, peel, halve, and scoop out the seeds inside, using a teaspoon.
Finely dice the cucumbers into 1/8-inch cubes. Dice the radishes and red onion roughly the same way. Halve the cherry tomatoes (or dice larger tomatoes). Combine these ingredients in a large bowl.
Mix dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Add to salad ingredients and toss so the dressing coats everything. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.
*Instead of dried mint substitute dried oregano or tear fresh herbs (mint, basil, marjoram) into the salad after it’s been dressed and mixed.
*Toast 3 rounds of pita bread until crisp and then cut or tear the bread into uneven squares and toss them into salad several minutes before serving so they can soak up the flavors.
*Add 3-4 ounces small cubes or crumbles of feta to the salad before serving.
*Halve several pita bread rounds. Spread with hummus, Shiraz salad and plain yogurt.
KALE MANGO-CITRUS SALAD WITH PEPITAS
From the Mitric-Romo kitchen
1 head Dino kale (a.k.a. Tuscan kale, bumpy dark leaves)
1 1/2 cups frozen mango (fresh works well)
1 cup pepitas (toasted)
juice of 1-2 lemons (or limes)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1 minced chili (optional kick)
Rinse kale under cool water and shake dry. Trim the central rib from each kale stem. Tear the leaves into bite-size pieces.
Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and white wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Pour the dressing over the torn kale and massage the leaves for several minutes, working the citrus in. Let the kale marinate in the fridge for 20 minutes or as long as you wish.
Just before serving, chop the mango into bite-size chunks. Toss the pepitas and mango into the salad. Add chili if using. Mix well. Taste once more, adding more citrus, salt and pepper as desired.