Stay cool.

From M., 10 January 2010, Staying out of the hot kitchen in the summer?

Q: I’m in the midst of an appalling Adelaide heatwave. However, there are only so many times that you can eat salad or tinned fish for dinner. Do you have any ideas for simple meals that can be prepared in 15 minutes or less, in a kitchen of 30+ degrees Celsius with no cooling available?

A: Thanks for your question For the American readers, we’re talking
Fahrenheit kitchen temps in the upper 80s and more. I can see why you want to get out of that kitchen as fast as you can!

Here’s a question – do you have a grill? When it’s really hot in the
kitchen, you want to avoid running your oven or boiling anything on the
stovetop if possible. You can grill your proteins and even your vegetables outside after a quick marinade or spice rub.

If you don’t have a grill, your goal is to get in and out as quickly as
possible. Butterfly chicken or pork cutlets so they are thin and even, and then cook them in a matter of minutes. This is a perfect time to prepare fish and shrimp, which demand short cooking times.

One last word. If you have a microwave oven, it can become one of your best friends in the summer. Microwaves cook by agitating water molecules, effectively prompting the water content in food to boil. So if you want steamed vegetables, you can prepare them without setting a pot to the stove. Potatoes, sweet corn, green beans, peas, and numerous other vegetables steam up perfectly in the microwave. You need to prick with a fork any hard vegetables like potatoes, so they don’t explode, and account for another minute of carryover cooking once you remove the vegetables from the microwave. It’s good to turn the vegetables about halfway through cooking.

* Potatoes and sweet potatoes- 4-10 minutes, depending on size and microwave strength
* Sweet corn – 2-3 minutes, turning once
* Green beans – 2-5 minutes, depending on quantity and microwave
strength, stirring once
* Shelled peas – 2-3 minutes, depending on quantity and microwave
strength, stirring once

Try these hot-weather meals, which won’t cause you to collapse from heat exhaustion.

Vietnamese grilled pork with fresh herb salad

Characteristically you would serve this with rice vermicelli, and eat the
grilled meat atop the rice vermicelli, with a generous quantity of fresh
herbs and pickled carrot. To keep things light, simple, and refreshing, try wrapping a chunk of the grilled meat and a generous quantity of fresh herbs in a lettuce leaf, and omit the vermicelli. Don’t worry about the long list – it comes together quickly. And if you don’t have or don’t like all the listed herbs, feel free to pick and choose.

You may substitute chicken or beef for the pork, or even marinate and grill shrimp in this manner.

Nuoc cham

4 tbsp fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar
1-2 small hot red chile, sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp hot water (out of the tap is fine, no need to boil specially for
this dish)
1 tsp sugar

Combine the hot water and sugar to dissolve; then combine with all the
other ingredients. Let stand at room temperature for a short time or under refrigeration if you prepare this in advance or your kitchen is very hot.

Grilled pork

1/4 kilo (1/2 lb) pork shoulder, sliced into thin strips less than 1/4″
thick – if you have access to a market catering to East and Southeast
Asians, you can look for pre-sliced pork or satay cuts
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk lemongrass, bulb only, chopped coarsely
1/4 c fish sauce (nuoc mam)
1 tbsp sugar
about 1 tsp ground white pepper

Fire your coals outside if using a grill.

Combine all the ingredients except the pork and mix well. Add the pork and coat all the strips well in the marinade. Allow to marinate about 5-10 minutes. A longer marinade will not necessarily benefit the meat.

When the coals are ready, oil the grill well and lay the strips of marinated meat across the grill, shaking off any excess marinade and any solid bits. Do not crowd the grill. Depending on the thickness of the meat, grill 1-2 minutes and then turn to cook on the other side. Remove to a clean plate and repeat as necessary. If you do not have a grill, place a large skillet on high heat and, when hot, add enough oil to film the bottom of the pan. Shake off any excess marinade from the meat and any solid bits, and cook it, for 1-2 minutes per side depending on thickness.

To serve

lettuce leaves, washed and dried – choose a relatively sturdy lettuce, like a butterhead lettuce or even iceberg
fresh mint
fresh coriander (cilantro)
fresh rau ram (Vietnamese coriander, if you can find it)
fresh Thai basil
crushed peanuts
lime wedges

Place all the lettuce leaves on a platter with the lime wedges and herbs
arranged in mounds beside the lettuce. Scatter the crushed peanuts over the grilled meat and serve the meat with the lettuce and herbs. Drizzle nuoc cham over the meat for additional seasoning.

Dijon mustard chicken with grilled vegetables

Normally, I don’t like to buy chicken parts, and I don’t like to buy
chicken off the bone. In hot weather, though, buying skinless and boneless breasts ensures a quick exit from the kitchen. Butterfly the breast so it cooks in about 6 minutes and will be evenly cooked throughout.

Don’t know how to butterfly the breast? Place the chicken on your cutting board so the thickest side is on the right (if you’re right handed) or left (if you’re left handed). Holding the knife parallel to the cutting board, place the blade against the thickest part of the chicken breast and slice through the middle, as if you were going to open the chicken like a book. Stop slicing about 2/3 of the way through to the other side and open the chicken, flattening it out. If the resulting butterflied chicken is too large for your taste, slice it in half
or otherwise trim it to size.

2 chicken breasts, butterflied
4 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp dry white wine
1 clove garlic, crushed
leaves from 2-3 sprigs thyme
about 1 tbsp snipped chives
a small handful flat-leaf parsley, snipped
olive oil
salt and pepper
arugula or watercress, washed and spun dry

Season the chicken with salt on both sides. Combine the mustard, white wine, garlic, and thyme; add the chicken to the marinade. You may refrigerate for up to 4 hours or use after a brief marinade of 15 minutes or so.

Fire your coals, if grilling. When the coals are ready, oil the grill well, shake off the excess marinade from the chicken and grill for 3-5 minutes per side (depending on the heat of the grill and the thickness of the chicken), until well marked and cooked through. Chicken is safe to eat when it reaches 75C (a little more than 165F). If you do not have a grill, place a large skillet on medium-high heat and, when hot, add enough oil to film the bottom of the pan. Shake off any excess marinade from the meat and any solid bits, and cook it, for 3-4 or so minutes per side depending on thickness. Finish with salt and pepper to taste, as well as the chives and parsley.

Serve topped with a handful of bitter greens, with the grilled vegetables.

Grilled vegetables

Courgettes/zucchini, sliced into rounds or lengthwise,about 1/2″ thick
Aubergines/eggplant, sliced into rounds or lengthwise, about 1/2″ thick
Asparagus, trimmed and peeled if necessary
juice of 1 lemon
about 1/4 c olive oil, more or less
salt and pepper

Whisk together lemon juice and olive oil in a 1:2 ratio and season with a
big pinch of salt. When ready to grill, either dip the vegetables quickly in the marinade and shake off the excess, or brush the marinade on the surface to be grilled, just before grilling (better for courgettes and aubergines, as these will be less greasy if you brush with the marinade). Grill 1-2 minutes per side on both sides. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

One thought on “Stay cool.

  1. Pingback: Summer in the Southern Hemisphere. « The Upstart Kitchen

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