Monday, June 9, 2008

Cooking to Beat the Summer Heat!

An early heat wave has me shifted right into summer cooking mode (40-degrees-Celsius-with-the-Humidex will do that!)

We cook and eat much differently in the hot summer months than we do the rest of the year, for a few reasons:
-we plan our meals based on locally available produce like our CSA share
-we generally prefer to eat much "lighter" meals in warm weather
-we're too busy enjoying the great weather to come inside and cook
-we desperately want to avoid heating up the kitchen!

The result of all of the above is that we don't eat as many cooked/hot foods as we do the rest of the year. Obviously, barbecuing is a favourite summer cooking method, but tossing steaks (or even burgers) on the BBQ a few nights a week can increase your food bill in a hurry!

My basic strategy is to keep a variety of different salads on hand in the refrigerator, which when served together with a small portion of meat from the BBQ and some homemade bread, will make a satisfying summer meal.

I try to keep the fridge stocked with at least one of each of the following:

-starchy salad (potato, pasta, or rice based)
-green salad (self explanatory I hope!)
-high protein salad (bean, tuna, tofu, egg - although no one likes egg salad around here!)

Many salads fall into more than one category - pasta salad with a peanut sauce dressing or bean and rice salad are both high protein and starchy. There are no hard and fast rules (of course - you know I have no rules, right?) but thinking in these terms helps keep a balanced variety of salads on hand so that it's easy to create a quick meal with a variety of textures and flavours.

Since most of these foods are served cold, it also allows me to do the food preparation during the cooler parts of the day (early morning or late evening) and avoid cooking during the intense afternoon heat.

This basic strategy has worked very well for our family for several years. I will be sharing all my favourite summer salad recipes over the next few weeks!

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