Food

Stay Cool When the Kitchen is Hot

Delicious tips to keep you from sweating over the stove.

No one can blame you for not wanting to crank up the stove or turn on the oven in the summer heat. Here are some quick tips and ideas to keep you cool in the swelter — and to keep you on track with your healthy choices.

First off, think salads. (“Oh, please,” you say. “Who wants a plate of leaves and shoots?”) But we're talking composed salads — not tossed, but assembled on the plate. Your supermarket is full of stuff that can top a salad right out of the grocery bag: berries, canned beans, carrots, jarred roasted red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, hard-boiled eggs at the salad bar and cooked shrimp at the fish counter.

Build a keep-it-cool, composed salad:

1. Start with your favorite greens on the plate. Check out the choices among those bag mixes, or doctor a bagged mix with shredded Belgian endive (good with a mesclun mix) or some peppery sprouts.

2. Sprinkle on some minced cilantro, basil, or oregano, all awesome with summer greens.

3. Now dot the salad with veggies: cauliflower, carrots, sliced radishes, corn kernels or mushrooms. Don’t need a whole bag of carrots? Buy just a couple of them or anything else at the salad bar.

4. Add berries, sun-dried tomatoes, sliced peaches or plums. A little sweet makes the salad even more satisfying.

5. To add protein and some chew, toss on cooked shrimp, pasteurized lump crab meat (found at the seafood counter), smoked salmon or smoked trout. And check out the deli case — roast beef, roast turkey, ham or cooked chicken breasts are sensible additions to your plate.

6. Finally, drizzle the salad with your favorite low-fat or fat-free dressing. Or skip a dressing altogether. Just whisk a little jerk-seasoning powder or lemon-pepper seasoning with some lemon or lime juice and pour over the top.

Not into the salad suggestion? No sweat (literally). Try these quick, chilled-out kitchen concoctions instead:

Get in the mix: Toss some chopped zucchini, shallots, celery, and tomatoes into your blender. Add some salt-free tomato juice, a little Worcestershire sauce, and a little lemon juice. Give it a spin and you've got instant gazpacho. Refrigerate until chilled, then top with a scoop of chicken or shrimp salad from your local deli.

Side action: Blend some thawed frozen vegetables, canned broth, a little yogurt, a few splashes of Tabasco, and a pinch of salt. Give it a couple hours in the refrigerator and you’ve got a great side to any deli sandwich.

No-sweat Mexican: Make tacos with drained canned beans or even precooked textured soy protein, often flavored like ground beef. Add some shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, low-fat cheese, and your favorite salad. Crack open a light beer and watch the sunset.

Cool antipasto: Feed yourself and friends with some thin-sliced prosciutto, melon cubes, marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and jarred roasted red bell peppers. If you're feeling it, add some premade caponata (eggplant salad) or blend some drained canned beans with a little broth and a handful of fresh herbs for a quick spread on toasted whole-wheat pita pockets.

Breezy mornings: Put some berries or pitted fruits, yogurt, a little unsweetened apple juice, and a few ice cubes in your blender and you have a smoothie. Too much heavy lifting? Use bagged frozen berries or sliced peaches. For more protein, add a little silken tofu before blending.