Saturday, June 14, 2008

too hot to cook?

So that insane heat wave finally broke, and it is now a balmy 88 degrees in our apartment instead of 108. Perfect for entertaining, right?

Not having a patio or porch or yard (or, um, central A/C), has led me to think about recipes that don't involve cooking with much heat. Or any heat at all. What is dinner party-worthy, other than gazpacho, or salads, or sandwiches? I'm not rolling out sushi, people.

Here's an easy menu, recently made for a weeknight meal with Dan and easily adaptable for a group.

Hot weather dinner:
Summer rolls
Watermelon mojitos

Watermelon, feta, and mint salad
Vietnamese-ish noodle salad with grilled shrimp
Store-bought gelato and sorbet
(I recently discovered Ciao Bella's key lime with graham cracker swirl gelato, and I have to say it's my new favorite flavor. And it's perfect with this menu.)

Watermelon, feta, and mint salad
(Serves about six people)
This is a thrown-together dish, you don't even really need a recipe for it. The bodacious Nigella Lawson serves her version with olives, sliced red onions, and parsley, but I think this is simpler and has more of a salty-sweet balance. The salad can easily be adjusted depending on how many people are eating and whether you're serving this as a side dish with lots of other things, or as the main component of a menu. It's a great thing to bring to a BBQ.

6 cups sliced or cubed watermelon
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Handful of fresh mint, julienned
1-2 limes

Arrange the watermelon on a platter or place it in a bowl. Cut the limes and squeeze their juice over the fruit. Sprinkle the feta over the watermelon and top with mint leaves. Serve immediately.

Vietnamese-ish noodle salad with grilled shrimp
I used to order this all the time until I realized how easy it is to make at home. Rice noodles are cooked and chilled, then tossed with fresh herbs and vegetables in a tangy vinagrette.
(Serves 4 to 6 people)

For the salad:
8 oz. dried rice vermicelli noodles
2 cups diced, seeded cucumber
4 cups thinly sliced nappa cabbage
2 cups thinly sliced fresh snow peas
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup chopped basil
3 scallions, minced
1 cup salted peanuts

2 lbs. shrimp, cleaned and de-shelled
1 lime
2 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
Salt to taste

For the dressing:
1/3 cup Asian fish sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 to 1/2 minced jalapeno (to taste)

In a large bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Add all of the salad ingredients, minus the noodles and peanuts and set aside. Cook the noodles according to package directions, then drain. Run cold water over the noodles until they are cold. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, add the lime juice, oil, and salt to the uncooked shrimp and mix until the shrimp are evenly coated. Cook on a hot grill or grill pan until pink, about five to six minutes.

Add the cooked, cooled noodles to the vegetables and dressing and toss until combined. Divide into bowls or serve in one large bowl, topped with the grilled shrimp and peanuts.


Vanessa said...

The Ciao Bella key lime gelato is my new favorite, too! They have it at the video store near my house.

Mmmm, your watermelon salad looks delicious!

Daniel said...

At the video store?

I want Netflix to send me an envelope full of key lime gelato!

Colin P. Delaney said...

I have to say, the shrimp salad looks wonderful, but appears to have several "moving parts," as it were -- how long does it take to prep and make everything?

Lisa said...

Yes, it does look like a lot of steps, but I've made this dish in under an hour. As your noodles boil and cool, you can do the vegetable prep and dressing. And the shrimp take no time at all to cook. Don't be scared, Colin!

Anonymous said...

Watermelon salad will be perfect for the July 4th barbecue.

lil miss dubin said...

The watermelon salad looks amazing. And so easy! If only I could eat all the gelato you eat and still have your figure. Well then, I'd be eating a lot more gelato.


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