This summer has been exceptionally hot. I could survive on shredded wheat and Edy's pomegranate popsicles this time of year, but that's not being a proper role model for the 4-year-old. Instead, I've done what southern women have done for years to avoid melting in their kitchens; I've found meals that require little to no cooking.
Salads and sandwiches are the usual heat-free staples. Unfortunately, I tend to get bored with both. While The Child could eat peanut butter and honey sandwiches for three meals a day, I prefer more variety.
I love no-cook pasta sauces. You can create a variety of simple sauces that are fresh and light without turning on the stove. You do have to boil water, but that one burner doesn't heat up the kitchen quite like using the whole oven. Toss your sauce with pasta and serve with a hunk of crusty bread.
Another option is summer soups. These also provide great taste without the heat, not counting chili peppers.
Slow cookers provide not only the benefit of cooking without turning your kitchen into a steaming rainforest, but you also only have one pot to clean.
On days it's too hot to even think about entering the kitchen, I use the ultimate tool—the number to the local pizza place.
Momma's No-Cook Pasta Sauce
3 or 4 large garden tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
3 to 4 tablespoon olive oil
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, cubed
1 to 2 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss all of the ingredients in a bowl and let sit for several hours. Prior to serving, cook and drain one package of pasta (8 ounces). Serve pasta on plates and top with sauce.
Shawn's Spicy Slow Cooker Spaghetti
1 pound Jimmy Dean sausage
1 large can (28 ounces) and 1 small can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 large can (14.5 ounces) tomato sauce
1 small can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced bell pepper
1 small or medium carton mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
Basil, oregano, salt and pepper to taste
Fry sausage and drain off fat. Throw everything in the slow cooker. Cook on low all day, about 8 hours.
Note: I leave out the sausage and celery but add about 1/2 to 1 cup of burgundy. It's just as rich and without the fat of the sausage.
Gazpacho with Herbed Croutons
4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 cup diced red onion (optional; this kicks up the heat)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 cups tomato juice (or 2 cups water and a tablespoon or two of tomato paste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, garlic, onion, olive oil, rice vinegar, salt and pepper in a blender until the soup is not quite pureed. It still needs to be a little bit chunky. Refrigerate for a few hours. Add tomato juice as needed to reach desired consistency. Pour into bowls and top with herbed croutons. Add more chopped veggies to soup right before serving, if desired.
Assorted herbs (I use whatever's in the garden.)
Slice bread into quarter-inch rounds. Place on baking sheet. Drizzle bread with olive oil and sprinkle on herbs. Bake at 400° until crispy (about 15 minutes).
'It's Just Too Damn Hot' Recipe
Pick up the phone and call for help:
• Pie Works (205 Highland Colony Way, Madison, 601-853-0002)
• Sal and Mookie's New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919)
• Soulshine Pizza Factory (1139 Old Fannin Road, Brandon, 601-919-2000 and Township at Colony Park, 1111 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite I, Ridgeland, 601- 856-8646)
• The Pizza Shack (1220 N. State St., 601-352-2001 and 5046 Parkway Drive, Suite 6, 601-957-1975)
Order your favorite pizza and pick it up.
Indeed it's too damn hot. In fact it's so hot I saw a fireant trying to kiss a water bug. The water bug said it has always wanted to try something different but it's just too hot for dating right now.
That spaghetti dish made me hungry just reading the recipe.