Cool meals for hot days


By the time you read this column, I will be home. However, I am writing in the brutal, 105-degree heat of Las Vegas in July. For lunch, I had an amazing chilled lobster gazpacho at Julian Serrano’s restaurant at the Aria. If I can cajole them into giving me the recipe, you’ll be the first to know. Meanwhile, the Vegas heat has inspired me to keep it cool in this week’s column. When the “real” summer is upon us and the rains yield to upper reaches of heat tolerance, even the most zealous home cook might decide it’s too hot to stand near the stove. Hot days demand a few cool, easy, one-dish meals that require little more than chopping a few ingredients or — at the most — boiling water. It’s the best way to get delicious food without working up a sweat. Here are a few to try:

If you like the marriage of sweet and spicy, try this refreshing salad. Recipe adapted from “The Healthy Kitchen” by Andrew Weil and Rosie Daley; makes 6 servings.

Thai shrimp and papaya salad

Shrimp:

12 large, cooked, peeled shrimp

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon prepared chili paste

Put shrimp in a medium bowl and toss with sesame oil and chili paste; set aside.

Papaya salsa:

1/2 cup or 1 bunch cilantro

1 cup cubed papaya

1/4 cup cubed red bell pepper

1/4 cup diced red onion

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice

Pinch leaves off cilantro stems; discard stems. Put leaves in a small bowl with remaining salsa ingredients; mix thoroughly with a spoon. Toss shrimp into the salsa and stir until coated.

Salad:

6 cups washed and dried baby mixed field greens

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

Toss greens with salt, lemon juice and olive oil until all leaves are thoroughly coated.

Place greens on a platter; lay shrimp/salsa mixture on top and serve.

This last-minute, no-cook, main dish salad needs just a crusty hunk of bread to satisfy your appetite. Makes 4 to 5 servings.

Tuscan tuna and white bean salad

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed

13-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed

2 plum tomatoes, chopped

1/3 cup chopped parsley

12-ounce can solid white tuna in water, drained and flaked, or 12 ounces cooked ahi, flaked

In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and rosemary. Add beans, tomatoes and parsley; toss gently. Stir in tuna and serve.

This raw tomato sauce can be served over pasta, toasted bread slices or salad greens. Feel free to add chopped cured black olives or grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese. Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated magazine; makes 2 cups.

Fresh herb tomato sauce

2 medium tomatoes, organic or heirloom if available, cut into medium dice

3 tablespoons minced fresh herbs, such as basil, parsley, cilantro, mint, oregano

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 cup virgin olive oil

Salt and ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl, including salt and pepper to taste. Set aside at room temperature for up to 2 hours. Do not refrigerate as it will lose flavor.

If you are willing to boil a pot of water and cut up some veggies, here’s a healthy combination of creamy, omega-rich, and crispy ingredients that offer great mouth appeal and very few calories; makes 4 to 5 servings.

Pasta with salmon and green beans

1 six-ounce can red salmon, drained and separated into chunks

8 ounces small pasta shells

3/4 cup fresh green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces

2/3 cup finely chopped carrots (optional)

1/2 cup nonfat cottage cheese

3 tablespoons plain nonfat yogurt

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

2 teaspoons grated onion

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Place salmon in bowl; set aside. Boil pasta according to package directions. Add green beans during last 3 minutes of boiling. Drain pasta and beans; rinse under cold water until cool. Add pasta, beans and carrots to salmon in bowl; combine.

Put remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Pour over pasta mixture; toss to coat evenly. Serve.