July 18, 2002
<bt>In the South, architects used to plan for dealing with the intense summer heat when building homes. Many Southern plantations had detached summer kitchens. Cooking could continue as normal throughout the summer months, without the rest of the house heating up as a result. With the advent of modern technology, such as central air, detached kitchens fell out of use. Yet the kitchen still heats up and can be an uncomfortable place to prepare a summer meal. So how can we cool down and prepare dinner at the same time? Locals have some suggestions, favorite summer foods and cooking tips.
DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS, Carol Stone of Centreville chooses to make more cold dishes. "I enjoy tomato basil pasta with brie, a pasta dish served at room temperature," Stone said. Carlton Hickock of Centreville allows weather to come into play when determining what to cook. "If it's too hot, I like to stay inside and make bean and rice burritos and fruit salad. If it's not too hot, I like to grill boneless, skinless chicken breasts with Vidalia onion vinaigrette marinade," Hickock explained. Karen Hicks of Alexandria suggests cooking chicken during the summertime, as well. "My favorites are things like apricot chicken because it's light and fruity," Hicks said.
Caroline Burnett of Clifton enjoys grilling during the summer months. "In the summer I tend to grill more and accompany it with sautéed vegetables and salad." Burnett prefers grilling because it makes cleanup easier and allows her family to spend time outdoors. "Plus, if we grill, my husband does the cooking," Burnett laughed. Sam Simmons of Alexandria often grills at family barbecues during the summer. "The secret to grilling is a hot fire," Simmons explained.
WHEN COOKING DURING the summer, it is important to remember to cook things that are nutritious, as well as your favorites. Here are some summer nutrition tips from George Mason University nutritionist Lisa McGary. McGary says the most important thing to remember about summer is to stay hydrated. McGary recommends eating juicy fruits, such as watermelons, peaches, melons and blueberries. Not only do these fruits provide water, but they also supply essential vitamins. During the summer it is important to remember vitamin C and beta-carotene, which may help protect your skin and eyes from increased sun exposure. McGary recommends shopping at your local farmers market for produce. "Since farmers market produce is so fresh, it is higher in the macro nutrients that help fight against disease," McGary said. Some fruits and vegetables to look for during the summer are those classified as cooling, or yin, foods in Asian nutrition. Yin foods range from those boiled, poached and steamed to fresh produce such as carrots, cucumber, watermelon and tomato. Safeway employee Sharif Elzein of Vienna sees a lot of fresh produce go in and out during summer months. "My favorite summertime food is watermelon," Elzein said. Watermelon is a good way to keep hydrated and gives you something a little more exciting than a glass of water.
DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS, as McGary points out, it is still important to remember your calcium. However, drinking a big glass of milk does not always sound appealing, especially in the stifling heat. Yogurt-based dressings are a cool way to get your daily intake of calcium when milk just doesn't appeal. Another summer calcium tip is to enjoy yogurt-based fruit smoothies. These not only hydrate but also provide essential vitamins and nutrients.
For summer cooking recipes, McGary recommends "Heart Healthy Cooking for All Seasons" by Marvin Moser. This book serves as a cookbook full of recipes and a season-by-season guide of weather-appropriate foods. The following recipe, courtesy of "Recipes for an Arabian Night," by David Scott, consists solely of yin foods. Yogurt, cucumber and mint come together for a refreshing snack. Mint is known to activate cold nerve receptors, while cucumber hydrates and refreshes.
Cucumber with Yogurt
<lst>1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced (seeding optional)
2 cups yogurt
2 or more cloves garlic, put through a garlic press
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint, or 2 teaspoons crushed dried mint
Salt and pepper to taste
A few sprigs of fresh mint, or crushed dried mint, for garnish
Put the cucumber in a serving bowl. Beat the yogurt and garlic together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the mint. Pour the mixture over the cucumber. Garnish with mint and serve with pita bread. Serves six.
<bt>The next recipe is a for grilled chicken breasts with Vidalia onion dressing. The vinaigrette is best for a marinade after it has had a couple of days to sit and gain flavor. So make the vinaigrette in advance, and then pull it out when you are ready to marinade your chicken and fire up the grill.
Grilled Chicken Breasts with Vidalia Onion Dressing
<lst>Vidalia Onion Dressing
Courtesy of Webcipes,
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup vinegar
Vegetable salad oil
Fill quart jar full of finely chopped sweet onions. Add salt, pepper, dry mustard and paprika. Stir well. Let stand about 10 minutes, then shake or stir to mix very well. Add sugar and vinegar. Finish filling jar with vegetable oil. Mix thoroughly. Keep the dressing refrigerated for several days before using. It keeps in the fridge for several weeks.
6 whole, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Marinate the chicken breasts in prepared Vidalia onion dressing for at least 20 minutes up to overnight. Prepare the grill to a medium heat. When ready to grill, put a little oil on the grill grate. Quickly add the chicken pieces and cook 8-10 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook 8-10 minutes more or until done. Baste frequently. Place chicken on serving platter and drizzle with extra dressing. Garnish with diced Vidalia onions if desired.