Tag Archives: summercooking

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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Easy Tabouli Salad

This is a great salad that can be served warm or cold. If you make it the night before, make sure to drain it again before serving it.

  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cups boiling water
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced (peeled and seeds removed)
  • 1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 red onion, diced (small)
  • 1 scallion, greens thinly sliced and whites removed
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf (Italian) parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 sprigs mint (about2 tbsp), leaves removed and chopped
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 large radishes (optional)
  • 1/2 cup diced olives (try Kalamata, green, and black for a tasty mix)

Place the bulgur wheat and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into a large, heat-resistant bowl, and mix to coat everything with oil. Cover the bulgur with the boiling water, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to steam for 15-20 minutes.

Strain the soaked bulgur in a fine-mesh sieve and discard the water. Spread the bulgur onto a sheet tray to cool. Place back in the bowl when cool.

Add the garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and remaining olive oil into a separate large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the cucumber, tomato, red onion, radishes, scallions, parsley, mint, and olives to the bowl with the bulgur. Stir the dressing into the salad mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper.

**other options: add cooked rice or quinoa in place of part of the bulgur before mixing

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