Warm weather jumped into gear barely a week after our last blizzard. That's just what happens, sometimes. As warmer weather begins, and AC becomes imperative, we look for foods that require less time over a hot stove. Whether foods that are eaten cool or cold, or whether foods are grilled, keeping the heat outdoors, we look for convenience and relief from bringing sweltering temps indoors.
Being outdoors and spending time in the yard seems to automatically open the way for friends to gather. Informal gatherings, spur of the moment, can be lots of fun, and in keeping with leaving the heat outdoors, I am highlighting delicious recipes that can be put together with minimal fuss (and heat), all summer long.
Any one of these featured dip recipes can be made easily, with things on hand in many cases. Keep a bag (or two) of tortilla chips, or pretzel chips, or fresh veggie sticks or pita or other flatbreads on hand, and you are all set to entertain.
Some Favorite Dips, Clockwise from top left:
Hummus. I know it is possible these days to run to most any grocery store and pick up an acceptable container of hummus. Still, it takes very little time to whip up a batch, with just a few ingredients, ones that I, at least, always have on hand. It is a rare day that I do not have a can of garbanzo beans in my pantry, tahini and limes in the fridge and olive oil and garlic on hand. Give it a try!
Green Pea, Feta & Mint Dip. This dip is really delicious. Don't let the mint fool you into thinking you won't like it. The mint is not truly perceptible, yet makes the flavor of the peas seem fresher and lighter. Fantastic on crusty bread, also!
Southwestern Style Bean Dip. While I made this dip initially for a New Year's Eve celebration, the fact that it also is made quickly with a can of beans makes this a real summer contender. Whiz up the mixture in a food processor for a smooth and creamy feast of flavor.
Tomato Salsa (Salsa Fresca). Who doesn't like fresh salsa? Once the summer's fresh tomatoes start to show up, with bright fresh flavors so unlike the sad, tasteless winter fare, it is time to make salsa. Some quick chopping in a food processor can make this ready in a handful of minutes.
Below is a button to connect with a really great Bonus Recipe for this month.
When it comes to cooking to beat the heat, simple side dishes such as these can be perfect as an accompaniment to something grilled. They are great at room temperature, most of them even if served cold. But another great thing is that any of these can have a meat mixed in and be served as a one-dish meal. Using a rotisserie chicken from the store makes it super fast.
Barley Salad with Corn & Mango. This "salad" is so flavorful on its own, I am often content to eat it as my meal, with no meat added, making it really nice for a vegetarian dish or for a "Meatless Monday." Add some chicken and your meal is set. If you would prefer beef to pair with this salad, try Kalbi Flank Steak for a real treat.
Japanese Curly Noodle Salad. These curly noodles add visual interest, while the condiment flavors make them irresistible. Alongside any grilled meat, they are perfect, or just cut the meat and add to the salad. Lemon Zah'tar Chicken would make a wonderful pairing to this noodle dish. Grilled fresh tuna or mahi-mahi would also be a perfect combination.
Pineapple Macadamia Rice. I went the extra bit to grill the pineapple for this rice dish, and originally made it to pair with Huli Huli Chicken. This pairing was perfect, with all its tropical flavors, but it would be great next to barbecued ribs, grilled pork chops, Grilled Pork with Indian Spices or grilled chicken of any kind. Grilled salmon or tuna with some sort of tropical marinade for flavor or other white fish would also make a great pairing with this rice.
Pasta with Lentils & Blue Cheese. This pasta dish also requires cooking lentils separately, but they can be cooked at the same time, using up minimal time spent in the kitchen. The rest comes together easily, to make a most wonderful pasta salad to eat on its own, as a side dish to any meat or grilled meat, (try Grilled Lamb Chops with Herbed Marinade & Sauce) or with a green salad alone for a meatless option.
Be inventive in trying out some new applications for an old spice.
Try something different
This Green Masala sauce is of Indian origin. Rather than a dry mixture (masala) of spices, this one is a wet, sauce-like mixture (masala). It has so many wonderful flavors, as most Indian dishes and sauces do, that it is truly versatile. Thinking outside of that Indian "box," this marinade can be used in so many ways it only requires a little imagination to think of new ways it can be used. Some things I have used this for have been Green Masala Grilled Chicken, and Grilled Cauliflower (with Green Masala). But this sauce is so good all on its own that it can be used just as is, mixed with any cooked vegetables to add flavor, or mixed into white rice for a new flavor sensation, or even as a sandwich spread. Try this recipe out and see how many applications it can have.
Ice Cream for Dessert!
Granted, you will need an ice cream churn of some kind for this recipe, but what is better on a hot summer day than ice cream. My experiments with the concept started off extremely rich, and by far the better both in flavor and mouth feel. I proceeded to try sugar free, which was not good at all, and then another stab at making a less high-calorie ice cream, but still with less satisfactory results. Ultimately, this Peach Cheesecake Ice Cream is well worth making - just not too often!
Blackening Spices have gone somewhat out of mode, but that doesn't make them any less tasty. This mixture was originally created to make fish more palatable to my husband while we were dieting strictly, many long years back. I used pieces of Chilean Sea Bass, liberally coated in these spices, then dry "fried" in a good nonstick skillet. No fat at all, and minimal calories. Of course, any nice white fish can be blackened and then fried in oil, but so can steaks, slices of prime rib or any other thing you can think of. The best part? While fish takes a more delicate handling, the other meats can be blackened once the meat is mostly cooked through, then finished on the grill, with amazing results.
Happy beginning of Summer to all my readers. I hope you will visit all my sites and try some new (or old) recipes, learn something new about an herb or spice or other subject, or maybe just daydream. However it is accomplished, I endeavor to provide articles of interest. Not everyone cooks these days, due to time constraints, though I did cook meals for my family back when I had 4 youngsters and worked 2 jobs, so I know it can be done. It does requires advanced planning. Many of my newer, more complex recipes have been created now that I am retired and have extra time on my hands, yet many are easy and quick.