When we’re in the middle of a heat wave such as we are currently experiencing, the last thing I want to do is cook. Adding the heat of the stove top or oven to a house that is already in the upper 80s WITH the air condition running just isn’t really a good plan. What makes it worse is that right now it’s not even cooling off at night as it usually does in my neck of the woods. The final wrinkle in the stew pot is that hubby is not real fond of salads every night, and after years of packing a sandwich to work, he gets a little grumpy when I want to resort to meat and cheese between two slabs of bread. So, here are some of the strategies I use.
Under more normal circumstances, it’s cool enough in the mornings to cook a roast or steak. I put the frozen roast in when I get up (which is usually about 4:30 or 5 AM) and undercooked it slightly. With steaks, I defrost overnight and pan fry. Cook one side of a three-quarter inch steak for about seven minutes, then turn it over, give it one minute on the second side, turn the heat off and let it sit for 30 minutes. This usually produces a fairly rare steak (which is how I like mine, anyway) that can be sliced and reheated for a minute or so in the microwave once dinner time rolls around.
For bread, I soak the flour overnight, make the loaves first thing and get them in the oven. Or I double the amount of yeast and let them rise overnight in the refrigerator. Potatoes, beans and rice can be cooked in a slow cooker, either overnight or outdoors (my preference). For pasta, bring the salted water to a boil the way you usually would. Put your pasta in and let the water come back to a good hard boil (stir a couple of times to prevent clumping). Boil for two minutes, then turn off the heat, cover the pot and let it sit in the water for 10 to 15 minutes. You’ll have to experiment, as the brand and type of pasta makes a difference in cooking time. I use a gluten-free rice pasta – penne takes 12 minutes and spaghetti takes about 10.
If I have to cook something, I try to do a big batch, from which we eat for several days. Many of these dishes actually improve with a little keeping. Three Bean Salad, for example, is better the second or third day. Cold soups (cucumber, watermelon, gazpacho with really ripe garden tomatoes) are easy ways to get veggies and fruits into a meat and potatoes guy without having to cook them. Dishes that are assembled also work well – think seven layer bean dip, for example, or tacos on chips instead of actual tortillas, in which only the meat need be cooked (which can be done in the crock pot and outside). You can cook a surprising number of things in the crock pot, again cooking outside to keep it cool in the house.
What are your summer kitchen strategies? I’m always looking for good ideas!