Okay, when you hear it’s going to be 92 degrees in May in Portland, you know that the wheels are starting to come off the climate change bus big time.
You’d also be well-served now to get some solid cooking strategies in place so that you’re not solely reliant on take-out or feeble freezer options.
I know that we’re not alone in the unseasonably hot weather; I talked to my sister outside of Boston a couple weeks ago and the weather soared from the mid 6o’s to 89 within a day. The scorching heat nearly reached triple digits before dropping thirty degrees once again, leaving mudrooms in a state of constant disarray (sunscreen and hats alongside rainboots and heavier jackets) and everyone scratching their heads in climate confusion.
And in light of the fact that many hotter days are ahead, and I get asked all the time on hot days what I’m doing for dinner, here are my go-to solutions when the mercury’s rising and I want something easy — or fast.
And so, in no particular, here are:
My Five Favorite Hot Weather Dinners.
I know salads are an obvious choice for hot weather, but I don’t think people push them to the center stage often enough.
With the addition of a a protein and a few extra ingredients, that side dish is ready to go from extra to one-woman show.
Just this weekend I took butter lettuces and radicchio and tossed them with tomatoes, canned white beans and avocado. I drizzled over it a Cassis-Mama Lil’s Peppers vinaigrette (both slightly fruity and spicy) and it was both delicious and filling as a dinner option.
Here’s another salad I made this week: Wheat Berry with Shaved Asparagus and Israeli Feta.
The wheatberries cooked in a pot for about 45 minutes and I tossed them while still warm with a lemon dressing, and all that was left to do was to cut raw asparagus into thin disks alongside some carrots and yellow peppers and give it a toss.
Here’s one last one to consider.
With corn starting to show up in the markets, consider it as a primary salad ingredient.
Want to make it substantial enough to be considered dinner-worthy?
Toss your corn salad (raw or blanched for one minute) with quinoa, orzo, or brown rice — and whatever vegs you have on hand or look good in the market (I particularly like it with cucumbers, tomatoes and/or avocado). Should the mood strike you, a pan grilled sausage would be wonderful atop this, too.
There’s a reason why every great Mexican place is packed when the weather heats up; something about the combination of grilled meats and salsas and all those bright flavors have a universal appeal (not to mention those tasty cocktails and icy brews).
No need to reach for your car keys.
With a little advance notice, you can be eating this at home for dinner.
Simply put a pork shoulder (rubbed with cumin, oregano, garlic and olive oil and sprinkled heavily with salt and pepper throughout) in the oven at 250 and then let the magic happen on its own.
Sometimes I also add some herbs on top and orange and lime juice below, giving it a bit of a Cuban flavor.
If you get the pork into the oven after breakfast, you do nothing until dinner time, at which time all that it requires is a little for shredding. I sometimes spread the shredded meat on a cookie sheet and crisp it up a bit under the broiler, but that’s totally optional.
Serve with a little cooked rice or warmed corn tortillas and your favorite salsa, your dinner is done.
The temperature is so low it won’t heat up your kitchen but if you’d like, you could also make this in a crockpot (although it won’t get crispy like it will in the oven).
Best of all, you’ll probably get enough protein for a couple meals, and that’s golden news for the harried/overheated cook.
Last summer I took carnitas leftovers and turned them into nacho appetizers for a party.
Leftover burrito ingredients are also good in a bowl and I guarantee you if you serve it with Juanitas Chips, no one’s going to be complaining.
I know soup on a hot day may sound weird to some, but I love a hot spicy soup on toasty days.
If you read my last post you know how easy it is to make a quick chicken soup starting with a rotisserie chicken, and some of my best hot weather meals have come out of this last-minute move.
Now if you just don’t want to cook at all (and haven’t got a freezer full of homemade soups to pull out), there are still some very good ones out there that you can buy and just tart up a little.
I love this soup
and if I need this particular soup to stretch to dinner-worthy form, I serve a little goat cheese croutons or crostini alongside and that’s it.
My kids and hubby love this option, and what’s easier to make than a sandwich?
The secret is to using really good (and somewhat more special) ingredients, the right bread for that particular combination — and don’t skimp on these.
Some of my favorite combinations are Roast Beef + Blue Cheese + Arugula or Salmon BLT’s.
It’s hard to go wrong with a really good grilled cheese (think Sharp Cheddar + Bacon or Smoked Mozzarella + Pesto), either.
I also love shrimp scampi rolls — all you need do is a quick five minute saute (about as long as it takes to toast the rolls) and they’re ready for sandwich inclusion.
Trust me — shrimp scampi sandwiches are THE BOMB.
Five. Egg Sandwiches.
Laugh if you must, but I’ve made really ornate, involved expensive dinners for people and I’ve also just whipped egg sandwiches for a crowd and I’d be hardpressed to tell you which meal gave people more pleasure.
And right now an egg sandwich can be a hot weather cook’s best friend; it’s filling, inexpensive, doesn’t require a trip to the market, and can be made in under five minutes.
Not just that, they can be flat out scrumptious.
Is your crew on Team Scrambled?
Don’t forget to add a layer of melted cheese to one side of the bread (try Gruyere or Sharp Cheddar) and it wouldn’t kill you to add a little sausage or bacon, either.
Or is your crew Team Fried?
You can go open face or closed here, but so many variations await.
With spicy marinated peppers and feta straight from the olive bar at your market
or atop luscious avocado.
Whatever you do, save the last one for yourself.
Here’s one of my favorite combinations: Fried Egg on Grand Central Como with avocado, arugula, and tarragon.
What’re your favorite hot weather cooking strategies?
Luckily for me I’ve avoiding the whole cooking thing altogether for the next couple nights, and the first treat involves being an invitee to a special dinner tonight at Plaza Del Toro featuring lentils made by local cooks Mike Kessler and John Gorham. (Stay tuned for delicious details.)
Lentils, cocktails, and someone else cooking for a change?
Welcome to my Happy.