Cool Summer Cooking With Joy

Spring is finally upon us, bringing with it both fresh produce and lots of very warm weather. With temperatures rising it’s time to think about planning foods that don’t heat up your kitchen and raise your air conditioning bill. My grill and smoker are always an excellent choice in summer. Along with steaks, burgers, and dogs, try some new ideas to keep appetites satisfied! Finally, it will be time to remove myself from my house and get outside with some friends and familes and give me the opportunity to break out my propane smoker for the second time. I’m looking forward to cooking for some of my close friends and enjoying the nice summer weather.

The weather lately has been crazy that’s for sure. With record high temperatures all over the US and record amounts of rain all of the world. I’m hoping things will calm down but by the looks of it things are only going to get crazier and crazier. In the meantime I still hope to do some cooking and I thought I would share with you guys some of my favorite things to cook in the spring and summer outdoors, when the weather is nice.

My New Propane Smoker

My friend Jennifer introduced me to her propane smoker last summer and I was just blown away by the flavors of the food. Never have I tasted anything like this before and it was my first time seeing a propane smoker in action. Basically, it’s similar to a grill but instead of throwing the food on the grill, you allow smoke to fill the chamber of the smoker and it gives you some outrageous flavors!

For those of you unfamilar with cooking on a smoker, it’s pretty simple. What I like to do is measure out foot long pieces of extra-heavy aluminum foil. Cut up your favorite veggies, toss in some beans, tempeh, or tofu for protein, and fold the foil to make a packet. Leave one side of the packet open, and pour in several tablespoons of your favorite sauce.( My current favorite, Orange Miso, is a slight variation on the sauce a friend introduced me to.) Seal packet, and toss on the grill until the veggies are done (about 10-15 minutes). Serve alone, or over rice or noodles.

You can use packets for desserts, too. Sliced fruit and berries stewed in a packet with port and cinnamon makes a delightful shortcake or ice cream topping. Packet cook some pears and hazelnuts with maple syrup, cinnamon, and a bit of butter, then spoon over Brie.

Smoked Fruit!

There’s nothing sweeter in the summer than smoked fruits of all kinds. Smoking caramelizes the natural sugars in fruit perfectly. Smoked pineapple spears are everyone’s favorite; but, I also love smoking peaches and nectarines. Slice the stone fruits in half and remove stones. If desired, marinade in a dry or sweet white wine. Brush with butter (or leave plain), and put on the grill sliced-side down.

Allow to cook until the sugars are caramelized on the cut surface, and the fruit has softened a bit. Serve on their own, or put in a glass tumbler with marscapone cheese and top with a bit of chilled dry white wine for a truly elegant dessert.

Another wonderful way to keep the heat out of the kitchen this summer is to use your slow cooker. Most people save their slow cookers for winter, but we use ours even more in the summer. There are so many things you can do with a slow cooker besides soups, many of which are perfect summer foods.

Homemade BBQ Sloppy Joes

Slow cooked pork or chicken barbecue is easy in the slow cooker. Just toss in all your normal ingredients, and let it simmer all day. Side with some baked beans, slaw, and grilled sweet corn for a traditional summer meal without raising your thermostat. You can do the same thing with sloppy joes.

Indian Cuisine

Ever get tired of driving an hour to eat good Indian? Make it in your slow cooker at home. Most Indian dishes are best when they’ve had a chance to stew a while, making them perfect for slow cooking. There are many places to find recipes online, but my favorite is Maunika Gowardhan.

Look for her Indian chicken recipe, which is the base for my own recipe (I add more spices, as well as onions and veggies). My partner has perfected Saag, another interesting Indian dish made with greens. Put the chicken or Saag over brown basmati rice made in the rice cooker, serve with naan and a thick mango-yogurt drink called “lassi” for a complete Indian meal without the drive, or the hot kitchen!