By Kim Dannies
Summer is a double-edged sword for cooks who go nuts for glorious local produce even though bounty-excess holds them hostage in a hot kitchen. To prevent this trap, my mantra for warm weather meals is ”snappy casual:” the food must be super fresh, colorful and easy. Here are a few shortcuts to make your summer cooking a snap.
1. Grilled Potato Salad – Zap baby red potatoes in the microwave for 5 to 8 minutes. Lightly coat with olive oil and place in a veggie grill basket. Brown the potatoes on medium-high, gently shaking the basket until spuds blister, 5 to 8 minutes. Add to a prep bowl along with lots of local spring peas, chopped spring onion and fresh mint. Coat salad with local crème fraiche; season with sea salt.
2. Naam Bread – This delicious, Indian-style flatbread is available at supermarkets and is super for grilled pizzas. Lightly coat both sides with olive oil. On medium heat, toast each side 1 to 2 minutes, then load one side with slices of local mozzarella, lightly steamed baby spinach or kale and sliced tomatoes. Turn off grill and close the cover; set 5 minutes.
3. Asian Cole Slaw – Always keep Napa cabbage and carrots on hand. Shred desired amount of veggies and place in a prep bowl.
Dressing: In a small processor chop three quarter-sized slices of fresh ginger with 2 garlic cloves. Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 scant tablespoon of mustard seeds and 1 cup of Marie’s Cole Slaw dressing. Blend 30 seconds.
Coat veggies with desired amount of dressing. Lightly crush 1 packet of ramen noodles and fold into the mix. Top with 1/2 cup chopped peanuts and cilantro.
4. Stock up on essentials that you cannot make faster, better or cheaper. For example, Tapenade, the delicious and versatile olive paste, is great right out of a jar. Use it to flavor-jack sandwiches and pizzas and as a Crostini base for spontaneous hors d’oeuvres. For something extra-special on greens with local feta cheese, add a tablespoon of Tapenade to an olive oil/vinegar salad dressing.
Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.