Q: It has been an unseasonably hot summer, and I can hardly bear to turn on the stove. Do you have any suggestions for cool meals?
A: This is a good time to be a person who eats a raw food diet! Raw food diet followers never warm their food over 115 to 118 degrees Fahrenheit (depending on what literature you read). But that is a tough diet to live by for most, so let's talk about something where you won't have to change your whole lifestyle.
Luckily when it is hot, our appetites wane, and we do not want all the heavy comfort food that requires the sizzling stove.
We naturally crave what is in season, not the potatoes and carrots in the cellar and the wild game we shot in the woods. (I am speaking like I am Pa in “Little House on the Prairie.”) So let's follow what nature intended for us, but with a little panache, because, after all, we are foodies, are we not?
•Caprese salad: Great tomatoes, olive oil, fresh basil (from your own little garden?)
•Big salad with strawberries, watermelon and blueberries with poppy seed dressing
•Cold soups, such as gazpacho, with hunks of bread
•Great cheeses on baguettes with basil and tomatoes, avocados and anything else you can pack in there
•While I do not like to buy rotisserie chicken, there is a place for it if you buy it from the right store that does not inject it.
I do not like deli meat, (my family loves it) because it is full of nitrates (they don't care) but I do like rotisserie chicken if, again, I buy it from the right place. The problem is, you have to check out how clean they keep their rotisserie and if they inject the chicken with flavorings.
Ask this stuff! Look at the oven. If you do not like what you see, do not buy it. It is worth an extra dollar or two to get better food. Trust me on this. So, if all meets yours and my high standards, then buy it.
•Shred the chicken breast over a crisp bed of greens, with feta cheese; olives; wonderful yellow, orange, and red peppers; and all other colorful things you can put in there. Make your own dressing. One of my favorite recipes will be at the end of this column!
•Buy salmon and add all your uncooked, healthy sides. You can warm it in your microwave. Don't like microwaves? Turn on your oven and eat an ice cube.
•Go to websites such as www.foodnetwork.com, www.marthastewart.com and www.williamssonoma.com. For those of you who want to challenge yourself (I seem to gravitate toward the hardest recipes. I don't know why, because in real life I am kind of a wimp), go to www.epicurious.com, where all the recipes come from Bon Appetit magazine and the old, desperately missed Gourmet and a few other places. However, I have never made anything from www.allrecipes.com that I have liked. Eschew it.
Easy salad dressing from my awesome Italian friend
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
Scant 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Add the first three ingredients together. Add the olive oil, pouring in a thin stream, whisking the whole time to incorporate it. Do not refrigerate, but keep at room temp for one day.
Blind baking graduate school
The video today is showing you how we blind bake a crust at Le Cordon Bleu, which is different from how I learned here in the states. The extra step only adds about 5 minutes, but gives the crust a far superior quality over my old crust. Is it worth the trouble? Yes, yes and yes.
After you roll out your perfect pie dough that you have chilled, dust off the excess flour and you have laid it in your tart or pie pan, prick the bottom of your crust a few times with a fork. Then place aluminum foil in the pan, all the way up to the sides. Now is not the time to be stingy! You can recycle it, remember?
Next, put pie weights or beans all the way to the top of the foil, pressing ever so gently so they are leaning against the sides so your dough will not shrink back. Bake that for 10 minutes for mini tart pans or 20 minutes for regular size tart or pie pans. Then take out the aluminum foil with the beans.
Now here is the step that separates the cooks from the chefs. Brush it with egg wash — a whole egg whisked with a fork. Brush all the way up the sides, too. Stick your crust back in the oven for at least 5 minutes until golden brown. This step assures a nice snap and a firmer crust. Not a tough crust — no, I am not saying that. But it will have a delightful snap that will hold the filling and not get soggy or gooey.
When you are a Food Network star, I want your autograph first, please.