Friday, May 29, 2009

Summer's Heat is Here and you need COOL Food!

The heat is with us and with it is the need to have fresh and appetizing food choices available which not only help during these hot summer days but at the same time save money, are low calorie and have high nutritional values..... that's a winning combination in any book!

Light fresh ingredients, crispy lettuce, fruity dressings, lean fish and wonderful vegetables all come together to bring ideal lunch or light dinner choices for everyone.... plus, they make it possible to prepare in advance so you just have to bring it all together in a moment's time.... leaving you plenty of time to get active during the warm summer nights! Or for those of you like to munch during the day and keep temptations away.... how about having these all ready in the fridge so when you get hungry there are healthy and flavorful alternatives to choose from.....

So let's take a lot at the different options and maybe I can give you some ideas of your own.... these aren't your "regular" oil and vinegar green salads!

"Crab" (Surimi) Stick Salad with Orange Vinaigrette.-An economical alternative full of flavor and very easy to do, plus you can have the vinaigrette made ahead of time and use it in a variety of ways too....

Surimi Sticks (can be frozen but thawed), cut in rounds
Mixed greens (can be a "bag" salad or create your own mix)
Red Onion, cut very fine
Carrot, 1 tbl shredded in grater
Red Cabbage, also shredded or cut in fine slices
Orange Vinaigrette:
6 tbl Extra virgin olive oil
1 tbl sugar
1 lemon, juiced- colored rind cut in very thin slices and boiled slightly
1 orange, juiced- colored ring cut in very thin slices and boiled slightly
1 tbl Dijon (or other) mustard
1 tsp parsley, chopped fine
salt to taste and fresh ground pepper

Put the juice and rind of the orange in a pan along with the boiled rinds and sugar on low heat and reduce by one third, then remove from heat and reserve. In a bowl, whisk the mustard, lemon juice, salt& pepper and slowly add the olive oil while whisking constantly and incorporating the reserve orange mix. When serving, add the boiled lemon rind and parsley.

Tuna and Potato Salad.- A satisfying and quick summer entree:

4 tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 dozen green olives, cut in rounds
1 tuna can, in oil - drained
2 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and cut in quarters
1 head of lettuce, sliced
4 potatoes, large - cooked, peeled and cut in rounds
2 tbl red wine vinegar
lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste

Add the lemon juice to the drained tuna. Prepare the salad dressing by mixing the vinegar with a pinch of salt and then adding the oil while whisking with a fork. Pour half the dressing on the potatoes. Mix the tuna with the potatoes in a bowl, add the lettuce and olives and pour the rest of the dressing on this and decorate with the hard boiled eggs.

Note: When cooking the eggs, stir with a wooden spoon so that when the yolks set, they'll remain in the center and the presentation will be better. For medium sized eggs, the usual cooking time is 12 minutes.

Lentil Salad with Mixed Vegetables.- A wonderfully nutritious salad, cool and light....

2 tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil + 2 tbl for dressing
1 cup lentils, cooked
1 cilantro bunch, chopped but keep some whole for decoration
1 leek, cut in julienne slices
1 tomato, cut in small cubes
1 eggplant, cut in fine rounds
1 zuchinni, cut in fine rounds
1/2 red pepper (pimento), cut in large cubes
1/2 green pepper (sweet), cut in large cubes
1/2 yellow pepper, cut in large cubes
2 green onions, in fine slices, green part also
1/2 cup Sherry wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

In large pan, put some olive oil and sear the eggplant, zuchinni and the three peppers until almost tender. Add salt and pepper. In a bowl, put the lentils, add the cilantro, tomato, green onion and add some olive oil and the red wine vinegar. Mix with care and reserve. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Put the vegetables in a plate and top with the lentil mix and add the julienned leek on top. Use some cilantro leaves for decoration and serve.

Octopus and Garbanzo Salad.- High in protein and very satisfying but also cool and quick:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 green onions
2 cans, cooked garbanzos, drained (chick peas)
6 small potatoes, cooked, peeled and sliced (you can use canned in brine)
3 gerkins, drained (or small pickles) and sliced
1 small bunch of parsley, chopped
1/2 red pimento (sweet), cut in small cubes
1/2 green pimento, cut in small cubes
2 cups, octopus, cooked and cut in pieces (can be frozen)
2 tomatoes, cut in squares
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup vinegar (your choice)

Drain any canned items and reserve. Place cut vegetables in bowl, add salt and pepper and 1 tbl of the chosen vinegar (you use 1 part vinegar per 4 of oil; this is the standard rule) and 4 tbl of oil. You can add as much as you like. Make sure to taste and adjust seasonings. Mix well and add potatoes, garbanzos (chick peas) and cooked octopus, mixing well and taking care too not tear ingredients. To serve: Arrange on plate, top with parsley.

Rice Stir Fry with Shrimp and Vegetables.- Ideal to use up "leftovers" or to create and eclectic mix to give you a fast and nutritious dish:
1-2 cups cooked white rice
12 small or med shrimp, cleaned and deveined (can also use frozen or canned)
1 leek, cut in julienne strips
1 cup green beans, cut diagonaly
2 carrots, cut in thin diagonal slices
1 green onion, cut in slices with green part
2 tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil
salt and pepper to taste

If you don't have leftover rice, cook long grain rice in plenty of salted water. Once cooked, drain and reserve. Put some oil in a pan and stir fry all vegetables, except green onion, until tender, add shrimp almost at the end of the cooking for 1 or 2 minutes only, don't overcook. Once this is done, add the reserved rice and mix well. Salt and pepper and taste to adjust seasonings. You can add 1 tsp soy sauce if desired or instead, add 1 tbl sherry vinegar for a different flavor. Top with the green onion and serve. Can be cooled and served cold or hot, your choice.

Whatever your choice during the summer months, there are plenty of options available. For those of you living in Mexico, we have so many of these ingredients already cooked and ready to use they will make it even easier to prepare great dishes in even less time. I'll also try to include some of the more traditional summer offerings like ceviche next time so stay tuned!

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