Cooking Without Fire

All of Colorado is burning.  As I write this, I smell smoke, which could be coming from Green Mountain fire in Boulder to the west, the High Park Fire to the north or the Waldo Canyon Fire to the south.  I’ve lost one home to fire.  My truck is packed, just in case.

What to cook on these hot days when it’s too hot for an oven and even that old summer standby—the gas grill—seems dangerous?  I’ve been eating a lot of salad, which is both cooling and requires little to no heat.  A few recipes follow along with my, here, my summer beverage recommendation:  Buy strawberries while they’re on sale, cut the tops off and throw them in the freezer.  I put a couple in a glass of white wine at night to keep it chilled.  And, at the end of the night, pleasantly buzzed, you get to eat the strawberries!

Cucumber and Tomato Salad
This recipe is great if you make it ahead of time and let it chill.  It takes the bite out of a hot day and goes with anything.

1 English Cucumber
3 medium vine ripe tomatoes
1 small red onion, sliced thin (optional)
1/8 cup rice vinegar + 2 TBSP
1/2 cup olive oil
honey or agave and kosher salt and pepper  to taste

Slice cucs and toms and layer them in a lipped container with a lid.  Make enough vinaigrette to fill the container about half full.  Salt and Pepper the layers as you go. Standard ratio of oil to acid is 3 to 1, but I like a little more vinegar in my dressing.  Then I balance the acid with a little agave to taste.  Seal tightly and let this salad chill for at least 4 hours.  It’s great to have on hand all summer long and the acid taste cuts heavier things like potato salad or bbq, so it goes great with them.

Variation with Feta and Mint
Use cherry tomatoes, cut in half and cube the cucumber.  Add the onion and then the vinagrette with 1/8 cup chopped mint.  Let marinate for at least 6 hours.  Then add 1/2 cup crumbled feta.  So cool and delicious!

Taco Salad
I grew up eating Taco Salad from a box.  Here’s my healthier version.  Serves 2.

1 chicken breast, cut up and cubed
1 pack taco seasoning
1-2 limes

½ head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut in strips
2 tomatoes, cut I wedges
½ red or sweet yellow onion, cut in strips

¼ cup olive oil

1 cup shredded white cheddar (optional)
2 cups tortillas

Sauté the chicken until browned and add  half the seasoning pack with about ½ cup of water.  Let simmer until thickened, add the juice of ½-1 whole lime.  Then let cool.   Assemble the greens, peppers, toms, and onion on two large plates.  Drizzle with olive oil and lime wedges.  Divide the chicken and “juice” between the plates.  Top with cheddar, if desired, and tortillas.

For a Vegetarian Version:
Substitute 1/3 cup fresh cut corn and ¼ cup black beans for chicken.  Add sliced jicama or carrots, if you like.  And dress with cilantro vinaigrette (see below).

Honey-Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Juice of two limes, plus tsp zest
½ head fresh cilantro, stemmed
1 clove garlic
Agave or honey to taste
Fresh ground pepper

Place oil, vin, cilantro, garlic and lime in blender.  Mix well.  Add pepper and honey to taste.  I Iike this vinagrette a bit sweet to balance the heat of the garlic and the acid from the lime.  Make 1 cup.  Refrigerate after making. 

Grilled London Broil Salad
Here’s the recipe that requires a grill.  You do want open flame to cook a london broil, so suck it up, but be safe.  This salad is makes you feel healthy eating red meat!  Serve alone or with grilled caramelized onion pizzas for a nice dinner party.  Serves 4.

For the marinade
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 – 1/2 cup Worcester
2-4 TBSP strong mustard
1/3 cup catsup

1 small red onion
2 -3 bay leaves

1 2-pound London broil  (choose the thickest cut possible)

Mix first 5 ingredients in a blender, add onion and bay leaves.  Pour over London Broil and cover.  Let marinate for at least 8 hours.

NOTE:  I add more acid to this recipe on the theory that the acid will tenderize the meat.   I prefer to tenderize meat this way instead pounding or poking holes in it, which would let the juices out.

For the Salad
8 cups mixed greens
4 med tomatoes or 1 ½ cups cherry toms
½ English cucumber, sliced
1 large red bell pepper, sliced
2 cups red grapes
1 medium red onion, sliced thin

One hour before grilling:  Remove the steak from the marinade and sprinkle Kosher salt and fresh pepper.  Let come to room temperature.  Heat the grill to very hot.  The trick with London Broil on the grill is hot and fast.  A 1 inch cut should take about 8 minutes for rare meat.  Do not overcook, as this cut gets tough as it goes from medium rare to well done.  A meat thermometer should read 120-5 for rare.  Let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting.  Slice thinly on a bias.

Divide salad ingredients over 4 plates.  Add slices of beef.  Drizzle with vinaigrette.  

Balsamic Vinaigrette
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp stone ground mustard
1/8 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic
Agave and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Put the first 5 ingredients in the blender.  Mix well.  Add sweetener and pepper to taste.
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