“It’s hot, Africa hot, Tarzan couldn’t take this kind of hot.”
Its really too hot to cook, or move, or really to do anything other than drink iced tea and give thanks to the Lord for the inventor of air conditioning. I would personally skip all food other than yogurt, melon and popsicles when the mercury tops 90 degrees, but I am still responsible for feeding the rest of the family. They are not quite as delicate as I am. For days when I can’t stand the idea of even a little, tiny bit of boiling, frying, sauteeing, broiling or even just “warming over,” as any of these activities would lead to the necessity of consuming hot food. Gack.
Over the years, I’ve developed several dinners for nights like this that are cold and “assembled,” contain good quality ingredients, and involve enough food that my guys will not be ransacking the kitchen at 8:00 looking for “some real food.” There’s great flexibility here; i hope that at least a couple of these ideas appeal to you and yours:
1. Middle Eastern: On a platter, arrange hummus, Pita, Feta cheese, good olives, sliced tomatoes, and any other chilled Middle Eastern delicacies you like.
2. Big Bowl of Tuna: I often make a HUGE bowl of tuna salad, and set it out with good, crusty rolls and sliced melon. Everyone is free to assemble whatever they like, sandwiches or not, and there’s plenty to eat. Someday we’ll graduate to a nice Salade Nicoise….
3. Roll-Up Sandwiches: set out sandwich wraps or flour tortillas (I prefer the wraps), assorted thin-sliced deli meats and cheeses, lettuce and interesting spreads like wasabi mayonnaise, chutney and guacamole. Everyone can make a sandwich using what appeals to them, and roll it up. Serve with chips and fresh fruit.
4. Ploughman’s Lunch: set out a loaf or two of crusty, substantial bread (I usually get one white-ish and one wheat), a substantial about of sharp cheddar, and a jar on Branston Pickle if you can find it. I like mine with a good tomato, although its not traditional. Good with cold beer.
5. A Really Hearty Salad: For salad to constitute dinner for my husband, it has to have a lot of “stuff” in it. That’s fine with me, except that I don’t want to cook the “stuff” when its really hot, and I can’t always anticipate when its going to be too hot to cook in order to whip up, say a roast chicken to eat cold the following day. Here’s a vaguely Cobb-ish concoction that’s worked on Forest Street:
Hearty Hot-Day Salad
- 2 bags salad greens or 2-3 bunches lettuces of your choice, washed and dried
- 1 purchased, rotisserie chicken, cooled (or leftover cooked chicken)
- Pre-cooked bacon, crumbled
- 1-2 ripe avocados, peeled and diced
- 1-2 tomatoes, diced
- 1 small red onion, halved and finely sliced
- Sliced button mushrooms, washed and sliced
- 4 oz crumbled blue cheese
First, remove skin from chicken, and shred white meat. If you are less fastidious than I am, you may also include the dark meat in your salad. I usually just use the white meat in the salad and offer the legs and wings on a separate plate as a “bonus” for the scavengers.
You can change this to your heart’s content, adding, omitting and nationalizing. I think this would be good with cubed salami, buffalo mozarella, roasted peppers, tomatoes, chunky croutons and fresh basil with oil and vinegar, or with chicken, pecans, fresh sliced strawberries and crumbled goat cheese.
If you’re feeling kinder than I am when its hot out, you may artfully arrange this like a Cobb Salad, by filling a large bowl with lettuce, and laying strips of each ingredient across the top of the greens to make sort of a rainbow. If you are actually me, you dump all of the ingredients into the bowl, toss, and let each diner add the dressing of their dreams. I like a vinaigrette with this. Serve with rolls or a good loaf of bread.