By Chris Watson
It is hot, sticky, and an “air you can wear” kind of day. When we are hungry and tired all we can think of is not heating up the kitchen. Unfortunately that often leaves us with option of buying something pre-made from the local mega mart or getting takeout. Neither is a healthy nor happy alternative.
Of course we can always have a sandwich…you know…again… Or just eat a salad…you know…again. Fortunately we are not stuck with just those options. There are many ways we can a cool summer supper without the expense, heat, or culinary kerfuffle of Hell’s Kitchen.
No Pizza Tonight
It is hard in the summer to come up with creative meals to feed our bodies and spirits at the end of the day. A cold selection seems best but what are our options? Sandwiches and store bought spreads? Not at all. There are quick and frankly delicious alternatives to the “it’s too hot let’s get a pizza” kind of a day. One of everybody’s favorites are “spreads” or dips.
The three we present here, pimiento and cheese, ham salad, and hummus, are great ways to feel like we are cooking but not actually heat up the kitchen. Hummus in particular is one of the most healthy things around. If we eat it on raw vegetables, particularly the cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, and summer squash that are so readily available during the summer, we are a long way to soothing our hunger, helping our bodies, and above all making use of all the season has to offer. Both ham salad and pimiento and cheese are old school favorites and easily made in quantities that will feed two to twenty.
Assisting the “Process”
The first thing you need for at least two of these cold meals is a food processor. Not a big, dramatic, Nimbus 5000 food processor; just an ordinary one. Many of us, especially if we are smoothie drinkers, already have one associated with our smoothie machine. However, there are many different brands available. What we are looking for is a food processor that will puree and chop or grind meat. It doesn’t have to have a lot of attachments, speeds, or additional buttons and whistles. These kind of basic processors come in handy for many cooking tasks and are well worth the investment. You don’t even need one with a big bowl size. You can, if making larger quantities, work in batches. Just make sure that the blades and bowls are easy to clean (i.e. dishwasher safe).
White and Creamy
Cold spreads and salads have as many variations as ways to order eggs at breakfast. In other words, infinite. That is what makes them so playful and enjoyable. The recipes presented here are basic “starter” recipes. Simple and ready for creative additions and modifications. One note about “mayonnaise”. We could spend a whole article about the difference between plus pros and cons of mayonnaise versus “salad dressing” (Miracle Whip). We won’t…at least at this writing. Suffice it to say that these salads were tested for mayonnaise. If your preference is salad dressing by all means use it. However you may have to make some changes in the seasonings, as salad dressing has a different profile.
We adjusted the recipes for serving size of 2-3. They are very easy to double if you are serving more people. You can, of course, choose to make 2 or 3 of these and serve more as well. Just remember, you might be constrained by the size of your food processor bowl. That is no problem. Just work in batches. So, without further adieu, here are three simple and fairly light salad/spreads perfect for a cool summer supper.
Pimiento and Cheese
- 8 oz grated cheese (colby, cheddar, etc)
- ⅛ tsp onion powder (more to taste)
- ⅛ tsp dry mustard (more to taste)
- 1 tsp yellow mustard
- 2 oz jar chopped or sliced pimientos, with juice
- 5-6 tbs mayo (or more to make creamy)
- Mix all ingredients.
- Refrigerate at least a couple of hours. Overnight is better.
- Add more mayo as needed if the cheese absorbs the moisture (the "dryer" the cheese the more mayo you will need to make creamy)
- 8 oz ham, chopped or chipped
- 1 tbs grated onion or shallot(or more to taste)
- 1 tbs sweet or dill relish (or more to taste)
- 4-6 tbs mayo (or more to taste)
- Blend all ingredients. Add mayo 1 tbs at a time until desired consistency is reached
- Chopped pickles (dill or bread and butter) may be substituted for the relish
- Finely chopped celery is also an optional addition
- Chill for a minimum of 2 hours in the refrigerator
- 16 oz can garbanzo beans, drained with liquid reserved
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ smoked paprika
- pepper to taste
- 2-3 tbs Tahini paste
- Juice from ½ to 1 lemon to taste
- 2-3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- Place the drained beans, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika in food processor. Pulse to completely combine and break up the beans
- Start adding the reserved liquid to form a paste. This should take about ⅓ to ½ a cup
- When a smooth consistency add the Tahini paste and pulse to combine
- Add the fresh lemon juice
- While blending add olive oil to form a smooth, rich consistency
- Serve immediately or refrigerate for 2 hours to make cold
- Seasonings can be adjusted to taste. You can use the cumin and paprika interchangeably or omit all together. You can also add roasted red peppers and something spicy like cayenne or hot sauce.