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TCP Kitchen

Chill Out on a Hot Day

Who doesn’t love a cool treat on a hot summer day?

When the sun blazes outside, one of the best ways to keep your cool is to enjoy delicious food served cold. Not only does eating a chilled supper make you personally feel not as hot, but keeping the stove and oven turned off will help your home stay more comfortable, too.

I’m sure you have noticed how warm the kitchen gets when you use the oven to bake a meal. That warm air does not just stay in the kitchen. It heats up the air in the rest of your house and makes it that much harder for your air system to keep up.

If you are like me, you take every opportunity to save on your energy bills. In the summer, I try not to use the stove or oven if I can. One good alternative is using a microwave, which cooks food using about a third of the energy, but that still releases some heat into the room. Not cooking at all is an even better alternative.

So, which foods don’t need to be cooked? Salads come naturally to mind. And in the summer, there’s such a variety of fresh produce that you could make a different salad every day, if you were so inclined. And having a salad doesn’t have to mean adhering to a vegetarian regime.

Here are some easy ideas:

  • The next time you have a cookout, grill some extra chicken or steak. Then, top a Caesar salad with the leftover grilled meat and a handful of sliced almonds.
  • Make a chef’s salad by topping lettuce, tomatoes, shredded carrots and cucumbers with cold cuts, chunks of cheese and a creamy dressing.
  • Add crunch to premade cold seafood salad by combining it with coleslaw mix in a rolled-up tortilla.
  • Stuff a pita pocket with hummus, black olives, sunflower seeds and cherry tomatoes for a Mediterranean-inspired treat.

Here is an Italian-style salad from a new cookbook by Tom Valenti called You Don’t Have to be Diabetic to Love This Cookbook (Workman Publishing Company, 2009). It is full of recipes that, as the title suggests, are geared toward people with diabetes who must watch their intake of carbohydrates, fats and salt.

Antipasto Salad With a Cherry Pepper Vinaigrette

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons seeded, chopped hotcherry peppers (2-3 peppers) from jar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
8 cups crisp salad greens, such as escarole, romaine lettuce or frisée lettuce
1/4 pound fresh mozzarella (salt-free or low-salt aged, if fresh not available), cut into half-inch cubes
2 ounces sweet or hot soppressata (a type of Italian salami) or substitute hard salami, cut into thin strips
4-6 black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 jars roasted red bell peppers (about 1 cup), sliced in thin strips
1/4 cup chopped red onion

To make vinaigrette, combine olive oil, chopped cherry peppers with some liquid from jar, vinegar, parsley, Parmesan and black pepper in bowl and whisk. In salad bowl, combine greens, mozzarella, salami, olives, red bell pepper and onion. Drizzle vinaigrette on top and toss to coat well. Divide salad among four plates, making sure each serving has equal amount of the different ingredients, and serve.

Servings: 4. Serving size: about 2 1/2 cups. Per serving: 325 calories, 12.6 g protein, 25.8 g fat, 9.9 g carbohydrates, 630 mg sodium, 35 mg cholesterol.

Lemon Granita

Valenti’s cookbook also has an easy-to-make, low-sugar, low-calorie dessert that’s sure to bring your temperature down. The final consistency of these icy creations is somewhat like a fluffy snow cone. The lemon version is on the tart side; watermelon is a little sweeter. You could add a quarter cup of lime juice to give that one a more sweet-tart flavor.

1/3 cup sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4 large lemons)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

Put sugar and 2 cups water in clean jar with tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously until sugar dissolves. (Alternately, put sugar and water in saucepan and bring to boil, whisking to dissolve sugar. Let sugar water cool completely.)

Stir lemon juice and zest into sugar water. Pour into 13-by-9-inch baking dish and freeze at least four hours. Scrape mixture every 45 minutes or so with a fork, breaking up any chunks of ice forming at the edges of the pan, until liquid forms crystals. Spoon into small glasses or bowls, garnish with lemon or lime peel, fresh mint or berries and serve.

Servings: 8. Serving size: about 1/2 cup. Per serving: 39 calories, 0.1 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, trace mg sodium.

Watermelon Granita: Cut sugar to 3 tablespoons and use 2 cups pureed seedless watermelon instead of lemon juice. Add 1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice with zest if desired. Follow directions as above.


Tahini, a sesame paste, is an essential part of the flavor of this spread, which is great as a snack on crackers, pita chips or as part of a sandwich. You can buy it already prepared, but by making it yourself, you can flavor it to your tastes.

1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans, reserve liquid
2 tablespoons tahini
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
Juice of 1 large lemon (2-3 tablespoons)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine garbanzos plus about a quarter cup of liquid from can with tahini, garlic, lemon juice and about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, then taste and add salt and pepper. Continue blending and add more lemon juice or olive oil (depending on your taste) until medium-thick paste forms.

Servings: 8. Serving size: slightly less than 1/2 cup. Per serving: 156 calories, 3.7 g protein, 9 g fat, 15.2 g carbohydrates, 183 mg sodium, trace cholesterol.

June 2010 Recipe Contest