Despite my best efforts, many of my patients turned into hot messes this week. I’ve seen dehydration requiring hospitalization, kidney stones, preterm labor and urinary tract infections. All the wonderful summer activities have started and it has been over 90 degrees in the daytime. People are going and out and doing things and simply not keeping cool and hydrated. A couple days ago on Wednesday, I did a post about hydration. Today, I am going to highlight the cool summer foods.
Main dishes do not have to be hot. They just have to be tasty and nutritious. Why heat up the kitchen ? Having said that, there are some foods like chicken which require cooking in bulk, and then refrigerating after. Today we will be thinking of food that can be served cold.
Smoothies can be a meal if you are on the run. What make this successful are a couple things: the presence of protein, and a good large portable cup for your smoothy so you can take it with you. The fruit part of a smoothy is easy to make since you can use almost any fruit combination that you like. The challenge is adding enough protein that will not detract from the taste. Some non pregnant folks add raw egg, but this is not recommended. Egg whites powder can be obtained at a health food the store, as can whey and vegan protein powders. These classic protein powders are a good choice in moderation. To add more protein, kefir, a cultured milk, or plain yogurt is a good choice, conferring a pleasant tanginess to the smoothy. You can also add zing by lemon or lime juice, or even a teaspoon or so of frozen concentrated orange juice. Speaking of sweeteners, restrain yourself. Your sense of sweet will become more sensitive as you use less and less sweetener. Trust me. Half a banana per smoothly would be plenty. Do a tiny bit of agave if you must.
Salads are an obvious choice in the summer. But let’s not restrict our thinking to leafy green salads. Salads can be made entirely without lettuce or fresh greens. In some ways in the summer, this is safer, since other vegetables spoil less readily. I call these hard salads. This is because they are made with harder vegetables. Some people call these chopped salads. For example, we commonly make a salad of diced cucumber, tomatoes, olives, and various colors of peppers. It is tossed in a vinaigrette and keeps forever. This is akin to the classic bruschetta.
You can also make a shredded hard salad from grated carrots and two colors of cabbage. Dress this in a creamy vinaigrette and you have a version of cole slaw, which might as well be called cold slaw since it is served cold. Do you add raisins ? Take a walk on the wild side.
Hard salads are not limited to vegetables. They can also be made from roots, such as diced carrots, beets, turnips, and even squash. Steam or roast these in advance, then toss in a boldly flavored vinaigrette. Throw in some peas for color and protein. Those who tolerate legumes can add canned beans. There is even a three bean salad in most picnic cookbooks. Get corn involved and one gets tantalizingly close to salsa when the tomatoes and peppers end up in the same salad.
Notice I have have not strayed into the wheat, rice potato or pasta based salads. Those can be healthy for some with high energy requirements, (adolescents or athletes), but most people do not need starchy storage foods such as these.
Do add fish, chicken eggs and meat into your salads. These make them a meal. One caveat: Spice these complete proteins more than usual since the salad will dilute the flavor. Fresh sweet flavors like tomato paired with savory spiced meats are perfect for summer. An easy source of fish is canned salmon. Of course leftover meats and poultry from a large dinners can be used to round out a cold summer salad meal. Grilled foods also go well in salads, adding smoky flavor.
Finally, fruit salads make an ideal summer dessert. Fruits are in season and taste their best. Pair your fruit with a foil, a contrast, such as balsamic vinegar, or the more traditional cream.
Stay cool in the kitchen this week as you celebrate.