5 cold meals for hot weather

Dinner dishes are tasty, simple, healthy

Published Jul 22, 2014 at 12:11AM

Hot evenings are made for cool dinners.

A crisp salad is a refreshing choice, but there are plenty of other light meals that can be served cold or at room temperature that are perfect for sizzling summer nights.

We got some tips for simple summer dinners from David Trask, chef instructor at the Cascade Culinary Institute, and David Lebovitz, chef, cookbook author and blogger (www.davidlebovitz.com).

We offer you five delicious, almost lettuce-free recipes that can be made ahead and pulled out of the fridge when it’s just too hot to cook or grill:

• Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho from Elevation, the student-operated restaurant at Central Oregon Community College’s Cascade Culinary Institute.

• French Lentils With Goat Cheese and Walnuts from David Lebovitz’s new “My Paris Kitchen” cookbook (Ten Speed Press, 2014).

• Lobster Rolls.

• Cold Roast Beef, Green Beans and Potato Combo from “The Big Book of Potluck,” by Maryana Vollstedt (Chronicle Books, 2003).

• Peanut Noodles With Snap Peas and Cabbage from Real Simple (www.realsimple.com) — which we predict will become a repeat on your summer menus if you enjoy Asian-flavored dishes.

The best foods and drinks on a hot summer evening are light and flavorful.

“They’re not too heavy, really light, fresh herbaceous things — things that are in season right now,” said Trask, chef instructor at Elevation restaurant at Central Oregon Community College.

Elevation’s classic chilled vegetable soup, gazpacho, (see recipe) tastes like summer, and is available on the lunch menu for $5. It’s served with a roasted garlic baguette.

Trask said a nice garnish for a finely processed gazpacho is a brunoise (broo-NWAHZ) sprinkled on top. That’s a small dice of vegetables — in this case, cucumbers and red bell pepper.

“The brunoise gives a little texture to the soup. We do a finely processed gazpacho because if it’s too chunky, people think it’s a bowl of salsa and wonder where the chips are. We serve our soup with grilled pieces of crostini made from ciabatta bread sliced thin, drizzled with garlic olive oil and toasted on the grill. A couple of our students have suggested we serve the soup with a little grilled Gruyere cheese sandwich,” Trask said.

We think that riff on tomato soup and grilled cheese sounds like a brilliant idea for a blazing hot evening’s dinner on the deck.

In an email interview with Lebovitz, a former professional chef, cookbook author and blogger (he’s lived in Paris for the past 10 years, so email makes more sense than phoning), we found out what he likes to eat when it’s hot.

“When it’s truly hot, I’m less in the mood for lettuce and go for something more sturdy, that will hold up to the heat. Tabbouleh, grain salads (wheat berries and freekah, smoked green wheat from Lebanon), are two of my current favorites. I like them with chopped vegetables, plenty of fresh herbs and crumbled feta cheese scattered over the top,” Lebovitz told us.

He writes in his new cookbook, “My French Kitchen,” (stories and recipes about cooking in Paris today), that his French Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese (or feta) and Walnuts (see recipe) “is my No. 1, go-to salad, and I make it frequently because it’s fast, easy and keeps well for days.

Lebovitz told us that gazpacho is one of his favorite summer foods, too.

“I love gazpacho! I make it whenever I come across tomatoes that are bursting with flavor at the market. But I’m also a fan of sliced tomatoes dressed with vinaigrette and lots of fresh basil and salt and pepper. I think that’s my favorite summer salad. If there’s fresh corn, I’ll often scatter kernels over the top of it,” he said.

Finally, hydration is important on a hot summer evening.

“Nothing better on a 90-degree day than gazpacho and Crater Lake gin (from Bendistillery) and tonics,” said Trask.

“I think drinks are really important,” wrote Lebovitz.

“If you are wise enough to think ahead, it’s nice to make big ice cubes (I use plastic cream cheese containers) for pitchers of drinks, since they don’t melt so fast. I’ve become fond of Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, which are always made in pitchers — one part Pimm’s to two parts Fever Tree tonic water, with sliced cucumbers and oranges. It’s nice and not too high in alcohol, which is a good thing, because they’re so easy to drink! I also like Sangria made with rosé . It’s a lot lighter than one made with red wine, and much more refreshing,” Lebovitz said.

If you’d like to eat out on a hot evening, the students at Cascade Culinary Institute will gladly serve you their cooking Wednesdays through Fridays at Elevation.

“We’re doing a quinoa salad now with a ton of herbs: mint, basil, Italian parsley, lemon thyme, lemon zest. We serve it at room temp and we’re putting a little fried round of goat cheese and grilled vegetables on it. It’s the kind of thing that if you’re sitting on the deck, everyone can pick at it. At home, grilled flatbread on the barbecue with a little olive oil can be used as silverware. Pick up the salad or dip with it. Makes cleanup easy, too,” said Trask.

Hot weeknights deserve delicious, cool food and relaxed, cool cooks.

“Start off with a really good bottle of wine or a cocktail and you’re good to go. Even on a Tuesday,” said Trask.

— Reporter: ahighberger@mac.com

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho from Elevation, the student-operated restaurant at Central Oregon Community College’s Cascade Culinary Institute.

Submitted photo

Elevation’s Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

Makes 4-6 servings.

½ English cucumber, halved and seeded, peel on

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded

2 ripe heirloom tomatoes

½ red onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1½ C tomato juice

2 TBS red wine vinegar

2 TBS olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Garnish: pansy flower for each bowl and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Roughly dice the cucumber, pepper, tomatoes and onion. In a food processor, pulse each item separately to a fine chop. Process until smooth. After each vegetable is processed, combine in a large bowl with the additional ingredients. Adjust seasoning and chill. To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish each with a pansy flower and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

— From Elevation; Lunch at Elevation is from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., Wednesday through Friday (www.elevationbend.com). Dinner is served Wednesday through Friday from 5:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.

Lobster roll sandwich.

Ryan Brennecke / The Bulletin

Lobster Rolls

Makes 8 sandwiches.

One of the world’s most luscious sandwiches, the lobster roll is an affordable way to stretch and enjoy this premium ingredient. The humble hot dog bun is traditional here, an important component that won’t upstage the star. You can make the mayo-based lobster filling up to a day ahead and keep it refrigerated until just before serving. — Cooking Light

5 TBS canola mayonnaise

¼ C finely chopped celery

3 TBS minced onion

2 TBS whole milk Greek-style yogurt (such as Fage)

1½ tsp chopped fresh dill

1 lb cooked lobster meat, cut into bite-sized pieces (about three 1.5-lb lobsters)

½ tsp kosher salt

1⁄8 tsp ground red pepper

2 TBS butter, melted

8 (1½ oz) hot dog buns

8 bibb lettuce leaves

Combine the first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well. Add the lobster to the mayonnaise mixture; toss. Cover and chill for 1 hour.

Brush butter evenly over the cut sides of the buns. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place buns in pan, cut sides down, in pan. Cook for 2 minutes or until toasted. Line each bun with 1 lettuce leaf and top with 1⁄3 C lobster mixture.

Nutritional information per serving: calories 272; fat 12.3 g; saturated fat 3.3 g; monosaturated fat 5.1 g; polyunsaturated fat 2.9 g; protein 16.3 g; carbohydrate 22.9 g; fiber 1.2 g; cholesterol 52 mg; iron 1.9 mg; sodium 629 mg; calcium 105 mg

— Cooking Light magazine, June 2009, www.cookinglight.com

French Lentil Salad With Goat Cheese and Walnuts, from ìMy Paris Kitchenî by David Lebovitz.

Submitted photo

French Lentil Salad With Goat Cheese and Walnuts

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

This is my No. 1, go-to salad, and I make it frequently because it’s fast, easy and keeps well for days. You will get to test your knife skills when making the mirepoix, a finely diced mix of onions, carrots and celery. In an ideal world, you want the pieces the same size as the cooked lentils. — David Lebovitz

Lentils

1½ C French green lentils (preferably from Le Puy)

1 bay leaf

5 sprigs thyme

1 carrot, peeled and finely diced

1 sm. red onion, peeled and finely diced

1 rib celery, finely diced

Dressing

1 TBS red wine vinegar

1¾ tsp sea salt or kosher salt plus more as needed

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1⁄3 C olive oil or half walnut oil and half olive oil

1 sm shallot, peeled and minced

Freshly ground black pepper

½ C finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 C walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

1 C crumbled fresh or slighted aged goat cheese or feta cheese

Rinse the lentils and put them in a saucepan with plenty of lightly salted water, the bay leaf and the thyme. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes. Add the finely diced vegetables and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the lentils are tender; be careful not to overcook them.

While the lentils are cooking, make the dressing. Mix the vinegar, salt, mustard, oil and shallot in a large bowl.

Drain the lentils well and mix them into the dressing while still warm, stirring to coat the lentils. Remove the bay leaf and thyme and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Add a few grinds of pepper and mix in the parsley, nuts and goat cheese. Taste, and add additional salt, if desired. I serve the salad at room temperature or warm. If served warm, omit the goat cheese, or crumble it on top at the last minute, so it doesn’t melt, but just softens slightly. The salad can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated. Let it come to room temperature before serving; it may need to be reseasoned after having been refrigerated.

— “My Paris Kitchen: Recipe and Stories,” by David Lebovitz, Ten Speed Press, 2014

Peanut Noodles With Snap Peas and Cabbage

Makes 4 servings.

8 oz spaghetti (½ box)

½ C smooth peanut butter

¼ C soy sauce

2 TBS rice vinegar

2 TBS brown sugar

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 clove garlic, minced

½ C water

3 C thinly sliced red cabbage

1 C thinly sliced snap peas

¼ C chopped salted roasted peanuts

Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, in a blender, puree the peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and ½ cup water.

In a large bowl, toss the spaghetti with the peanut sauce, cabbage and snap peas. Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts.

Tip: For an extra hit of protein, toss in shredded, cooked chicken.

Nutritional information per serving: calories 529; fat 22 g; saturated fat 4 g; cholesterol 0 mg; sodium 1,561 mg; protein 21 g; carbohydrate 66 g; sugar 15 g; fiber 7 g; iron 4 mg; calcium 66 mg

— Real Simple, www.realsimple.com

Cold Roast Beef, Green Beans and Potato Combo

Makes 8 servings.

Perfect for a summer-evening potluck, this is also a good way to use up leftover roast beef. — Maryana Vollstedt

2 C water

¼ tsp salt plus more to taste

4 C diced potatoes, preferably russet or Yukon Gold

8 oz fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds

4 C cooked roast beef, cut into bite-sized pieces

2½ C halved cherry tomatoes, drained (see note)

½ C sliced green onions, including some tender green tops

1 C sliced radishes

1 dill pickle, chopped

Horseradish Dressing (see recipe)

Freshly ground pepper

2 TBS capers, drained

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil, add ¼ teaspoon salt, and lower heat to medium. Cook potatoes, covered, until tender, about 15 minutes. Cool under cold running water and drain.

In another medium saucepan over high heat, cook beans in boiling salted water to cover until tender-crisp, 6 to 7 minutes. Cool under cold running water and drain.

In a large bowl, combine beans, potatoes, beef, tomatoes, green onions, radishes and pickle. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate several hours. Sprinkle with capers before serving.

Note: Drain cherry tomatoes, cut-side down, on a paper towel for 5 minutes.

Horseradish Dressing

Makes about 1 cup.

1 to 2 TBS prepared horseradish sauce, to your taste

½ C mayonnaise

¼ C buttermilk

1 tsp dry mustard

½ tsp salt

1⁄8 tsp freshly ground pepper

In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

— “The Big Book of Potluck,” by Maryana Vollstedt, Chronicle Books, 2003