Dog Days of Summer vs. Cooking

Summer in the Central Valley is generally made up of 100+ degree temperatures, so it can be a challenge to feel up to cooking or baking during the day. Other than travelling to the coast for a break in the weather, there are a few ways to minimize your kitchen heat stress besides ordering takeout. Take a look at the list and let me know in the comments if I forgot anything, or if you have a favorite method or trick for beating the heat. If you plan ahead, you can cook larger batches to reheat or use in other meals later.

  • Barbeque – Pros: this keeps the cooking heat out of the house. Cons: might take several batches; need charcoal or gas to cook (make sure you have enough before hand).
  • Toaster Oven – Pros: doesn’t heat up the entire kitchen, just the area around the appliance. Many of the newer models also have convection in addition to bake/broil/toast. Cons: smaller than a regular oven, so you can’t cook as large a dish. Depending on the size of the toaster oven, you might need to purchase baking dishes that will fit.
  • Air Fryer – Pros: crispy food; less oil needed to cook; generally preheats faster than an oven or toaster oven. Cons: take up a lot of counter and storage real estate; not necessarily “healthy” cooking if you use breading and oil when cooking; the unit gets very hot, so it can’t be used under cabinets or against a counter wall; limited cooking volume. We have a small one, and just use it to reheat/crisp leftovers. In the time it takes to pre-heat and actually cook enough for a meal, it would have been faster to use another method.
  • Sous Vide – Pros: convenient and hands-free; cooks to desired temperature or consistency without overcooking; you can cook ingredients to a set stage and finish (i.e. sear, wrap and bake, etc.) at another time; more flavorful food. Cons: not an “exciting” method of cooking; requires planning; long cooking times; needs a little more specialized items (silicone or heavy plastic bags that seal well, weights or racks to keep the bags in place or under the water).
  • Range/Oven – Pros: heats up fairly quickly; can cook or bake larger quantities than other methods. Cons: heats up entire kitchen; uses more energy.

We have been smoking meat on our Pit Boss smoker and grill combo on the weekends to cook larger batches of meat and vegetables to make dinner prep easier during the week. I also like using the Anova Sous Vide for the same reason. It does take a little more planning when you cook via sous vide, and sometimes a longer cooking time, but it is a great way to cook proteins or vegetables to a set doneness and sear or caramelize the exterior later. It will only cook the ingredients to whatever temperature that the water is heated to, so it is difficult to overcook something. There are a lot of cookbooks, applications, and websites available to get recipes or techniques from for all the cooking methods. Don’t be afraid to experiment or try new methods, or even combine them for different dishes.

What is your favorite cooking method to use to stay cool in the kitchen during the summer? Drop a comment in the section below and let me know!

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Photo by Lukas on

Grilled peaches and bananas

4 peach halves
2 bananas, peeled and sliced lengthwise
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 toasted almond slices
1/4 cup torn mint leaves

Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.

Drizzle peach halves and bananas with the olive oil and season with a pinch of salt.

Grill, cut side down, for 3 minutes until nicely marked. Flip over, and add the bananas to the grill. After 2-3 minutes, sprinkle the fruit with brown sugar and flip over.

Add a little more olive oil if it starts to stick. Cook 2 minutes, making sure that the brown sugar caramelizes on the fruit. Remove from the heat, and top with a dollop of yogurt, almond slices, and mint.

Options: use vanilla ice cream or whipped cream instead of the yogurt.

Soy Glazed Grilled Chicken with Honeydew Relish

2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
4 (6oz) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves or thighs
2 cups honeydew melon, diced small
2 tsp. minced red onion
3 tbsp. chopped fresh mint leaves
3 tbsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce and mustard. Add the chicken to the marinade, gently toss to coat. Put the chicken on the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes, occasionally basting with leftover marinade. Flip, close (or cover if using a grill pan), and continue grilling until cooked through, about 4 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the honeydew, mint, red onion, and lime juice. Season with the salt and toss to combine.

To serve, put the chicken on plates and top with the honeydew relish.

Tempura Green Beans

Vegetable oil for frying
3/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg yolk
1 cup chilled seltzer
1 lb. green beans, ends trimmed
1 lemon, halved

Put a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Put 3 inches of oil into the pot and heat the oil to 350F, checking the temperature with an instant read thermometer.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whist together the rice flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. In a second bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and seltzer. Add this mixture to the first bowl, whisking to make a smooth batter.

When the oil is hot, add the beans to the batter a few at a time. Remove the beans from the batter, allowing excess batter to drip back into the bowl. Carefully add the beans to the oil and fry until lightly golden brown, about 30 seconds. With a slotted spoon, remove the beans to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat this process until all the beans have been fried.

Season with salt and lemon; serve hot.

Baked Parmesan Zucchini Fries

2 eggs
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp chopped rosemary leaves
salt and pepper
3 small zucchini, ends trimmed, halved lengthwise and then into 6 spears
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 450F.

Put the eggs in a shallow bowl and beat them lightly. In a separate bowl, stir together the panko, cheese, and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper.

Working with one zucchini spear at a time, dip the spear into the beaten eggs, allowing the excess to drop off. Lay the spear in the panko, turning and pressing to coat all sides.

Arrange the spears in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle the spears with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake until the zucchini is golden and crisp, and the interior is soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Serve hot.

Optional: (you can also use 1/4 cup panko and 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs)

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