Fresh Ideas for Cool Dinners

Healthnotes Newswire (July 23, 2009)—Who wants to cook when it’s 90 degrees outside? With a bit of planning, you really can feed the family without getting behind the range. Salads and sandwiches have grown up into fabulous meals and, coupled with chilled soups, you can leave your stove idle this summer.

Salads—not just a side

These days, salads are much more than a wedge of iceberg lettuce, two slices of cucumber, and a tomato. Warm summer evenings are a great time to experiment with composed entrée salads. And remember: there is brilliance in simplicity.

• Select a base of field greens, spinach, arugula, or watercress.

• Throw the greens of choice in a large mixing bowl, add your favorite chopped vegetables such as cucumber, tomato, green onions, and peppers.

• Add a protein such as cooked chicken, shrimp, salmon, or tofu. Experiment with options like chick peas, croutons, edamame, or cheese.

• Drizzle with olive, sesame, or sunflower oil and your favorite vinegar.

• Season with salt and pepper, and toss before serving.

• If desired, break out your favorite bread, rolls, or crackers.

Enjoy savory sandwiches

Next, entrée sandwiches are a wonderful but undervalued meal in warm months—and a cool breeze to make.

• Start with a great bread and the rest falls into place.

• How to choose? There are so many delicious condiments and spreads available for sandwich fillings. Ready-made fillings like salsa, hummus, tapenade, bruschetta, and chutney are great over roast turkey, beef, smoked ham, or roast chicken.

• Leftover grilled food such as chicken, vegetables, or seafood, make incredible sandwiches when coupled with the right sauce, roast peppers from a jar, or any of the fillings mentioned above.

Chill out with a summer soup

Last, but not least, chilled soups are very popular in other countries and now catching on here. During summer months they are refreshing and filling, and last all week in your refrigerator. Although some chilled soups need to be cooked first, like the classic vichyssoise (potato and leek) soup, many chilled soups can be made in the blender within minutes.

• Take two peeled cucumbers, 2 cups (490 g) of plain yogurt, fresh dill, a few scallions, and a pinch of sugar.

• Purée in a food processor until smooth, then chill.

• Top with a sprig of fresh dill and serve for a great dinner starter.

Voilà! Dinner is done and your stove is cool (and so are you).

Best bets for the season

• Berries of all kinds

• Plums

• Peaches

• Nectarines

• Zucchini

• Melons

• Corn

• Tomatoes

• Green beans

• Eggplant

• Broccoli

• Summer squash

• Cucumber

A pioneer in the marriage of good taste and sound nutrition, Steven Petusevsky, or "Chef Steve" is a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, where he was awarded a fellowship and served as Chef Instructor. He has also been the National Director of Creative Food Development for Whole Foods Market, the largest natural food retail chain in the country. A widely published columnist in magazines and newspapers such as Natural Health, Fine Cooking, the Los Angeles Times, and Food & Wine, and a nationally syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune, he is also the author of the The Whole Foods Market Cookbook: The Ultimate Guide to Natural Foods (2002, Random House).

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