Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer food

If you're anything like me, you want your summer meals to be fast and easy. I also prefer to keep the cooking aspect of the meal to a minimum. Here are a few of my summer go-to meals.

Eggs and Rice and Beans
We get up very early for work and usually do not have time to cook breakfast so I've found that "breakfast for dinner" is a great option.
2 eggs per person (prepared in whatever style you prefer)
1 can of black beans
Rice (we like wild rice blends)

The main part of this meal is preparing the rice. I use a rice with a moderate cooking time but quick-cook rice is great, too. Once the rice is simmering, I get the black beans simmering in a pan. Sometimes I add mild green chiles if we have them on hand.
Cook the eggs to your preference (I usually cook them over easy)
Pile everything on a plate and add toppings. My usual choices are avocado and salsa, sometimes I have tortillas with them as well.

Swordfish Tacos
This one is so quick you can literally have dinner ready in less than 20 minutes.
1lb of swordfish (for two people)
Sour cream

I use swordfish because it's a "meaty" fish, and because our local seafood shop sells swordfish chunks for $7.99/lb. Get a pan nice and hot, add a little oil then add the swordfish. Season with a little salt and pepper and cook 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on thickness. Remove from heat and let fish rest on a plate. It will continue to cook through after removing from the heat so don't overcook it. Then just prepare your favorite toppings, build your tacos and you have a delicious, super-fast meal!

Two Easy Pasta Dishes
Pasta with fresh basil, tomato and mozzarella
1 box of pasta
Fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
Fresh tomato, chopped
Mini fresh mozzarella balls
Garlic, finely chopped
Olive Oil

Cook the pasta as directed. I use half a box for two of us.
Heat the olive oil and garlic in a pan, add the chopped tomatoes and let them warm through.
When the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta and toss with the tomato, basil and mozzarella. That's it!

Pasta with peas, parmesan and sausage
1 box of pasta
Italian sausage
Frozen peas
Grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta as directed.
At the same time, cook the sausages in a pan until cooked through and nicely browned. Remove from pan and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Heat the peas in the microwave as directed.
When pasta is cooked, drain and toss with butter and peas (olive oil can be used in place of butter).
Add the sausage and top with parmesan cheese.

Sausage and Peppers
This one requires more cooking but is still very easy.
Italian sausage
1 onion (I use white or Vidalia)
2 red peppers
2 cubanelle peppers (or green bell peppers)

Slice the peppers and onions into strips. Heat a little oil in a pan and start adding peppers and onions. I add them a little at a time so that the pan does not cool down too much as they release some of their moisture.
While the peppers and onions are cooking, heat another pan and add the sausage with a couple of tablespoons of water. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, turning often.
When the vegetables have started to cook down and the water in the sausage pan has evaporated, add the sausages to the veggie pan. Pile the peppers and onions on top of the sausages so that the sausages can brown.
Once the sausages are brown and the peppers and onions are soft and carmelized, dinner is ready.

Serve with crusty Italian bread or make into sausage and pepper sandwiches.

Easy Summer Salad
This is a great meal if you have leftover steak or chicken, especially from the grill. We like to add shaved fennel to our salad greens. It has great flavor and gives an added crunch to the salad.
1lb of steak or chicken, cut into strips
1 red onion, sliced thin
Salad greens
1 Fennel bulb, sliced ultra-thin (optional)
Feta cheese
Salad dressing

Heat a pan and add a little olive oil. Add the red onion and allow to cook a for about a minute or two, until fragrant.
Add the meat, again a little at a time so the moisture released from the meat doesn't cool the pain too much. If it is leftover meat that has already been cooked, let the onion cook down before adding the meat and just cook the meat until heated through.
While the meat is cooking, toss the salad greens with fennel, chopped tomato, cucumber and crumbled feta cheese (or whatever salad toppings you prefer).
Dress the salad, place on dinner plates and top with meat and red onion.

My Salad Dressing
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
Dijon mustard
Fresh herbs

Always use the 3 to 1 ratio when mixing oil and vinegar for dressing. I usually use 6 Tbsp of olive oil and 2 Tbsp of vinegar (sometimes I use 1 Tbsp each of the balsamic and white wine). Add a dollop of Dijon mustard. Season with a little salt and add fresh chopped herbs if you have them on hand. Shake well in a tightly closed container.

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