Sometimes you need a little help to make it through a heat wave. We all know the rules: stay hydrated, stay out of the sun, wear light clothing, stay out of closed cars, and don’t fire up your oven, four burners, and that old Fry-Daddy all at the same time.
In other words, you probably can’t stand the heat, so stay out of the kitchen.
We all have to eat, so how do you keep from going hungry without turning your kitchen into a blast furnace? A lot of people turn to the grill, which is a great option. Nothing says summertime like a couple of burgers or fillets of salmon cooked to a turn over searingly hot coals. I love a great grilled dinner as much as the next guy but when it’s 92 degrees in the shade, just lighting a grill seems like too much hassle.
What about salads? You can fill yourself up on salads. They’re healthy, they’re cooling, and they can be really delicious. Really. By day three of the all-salad diet, you’re wondering if the heat wave is ever going to break. On day four you’re thinking, “Chew, chew, chew. I’m going to have jaw muscles the size of Dwayne Johnson’s biceps when this is all over. By the time day five rolls around, the only place you want to toss a salad is out the window.
Maybe salads weren’t the answer.
Well, why not just go out to eat? There are a bunch of new restaurants to try and it’s been quite a while since you’ve been to your old favorite eateries. Two days later when you check your bank balance, you’re left scratching your head, wondering where all your money went. I guess that’s the reason you don’t just go out to eat all the time.
Enter option four: leftovers. I know, leftovers don’t sound very appealing. You’re reminded of when you were a kid and how the only meal less appetizing than liver and onions was ... leftovers.
Of course, there were always leftover liver and onions so I guess that would technically be the absolute worst, but I digress. I’m not trying to bring back sad memories of leftovers past but to convince you that properly executed leftovers can help you bring a crippling heat wave to its knees.
I work in a school kitchen. During the school year, we have a fairly regular schedule punctuated by a few special events and holiday meals that require some extra time for planning and execution. On the whole, it’s a fairly regular schedule. Summertime is an animal of a different stripe. Many different stripes.
We host summer sports camps and conferences and family reunions. There are wellness retreats and family camps and an alumni weekend. Some weeks are a little more slowly paced and some weeks can be incredibly hectic. During the hectic weeks, there can be little time to stop and prepare yourself a meal so we rely on, you guessed it, leftovers. Whether its grabbing some cold chicken adobo from the cooler shelf or adding a little soy, garlic and sesame oil to roasted shishito peppers for a quick snack, we always make sure that when we eat leftovers, we do it with delicious style.
Here are a few leftover tips to help you prepare for the next heat wave:
- Make a little extra food the week before a heat wave is predicted to hit. Leftovers are technically good for a week after preparation under proper refrigeration. They generally taste best if eaten within three-four days after they are prepared.
- Clean out the freezer. Be a rebel and combine flavors that you normally wouldn’t eat together. Extreme heat asks for extreme measures.
- Use the microwave. I know things usually taste better when cooked on the stove or in the oven but the whole idea is to keep it cool.
- If you think of it, prep your leftovers before the heat wave strikes. I knew that the oven-roasted whitefish I prepared wouldn’t taste it’s best reheated in the microwave so I flaked it and turned into fish cakes. I seared them and put them in the refrigerator for future use.
There you go; leftover management in a nutshell. The next time a heat wave is on the horizon you know what to do. It’s leftovers all week, and that’s not bad at all.
LEFTOVER ROASTED SHISHITO PEPPERS
2 c. roasted shishito peppers (or other roasted vegetable)
1 T. soy sauce
2 t. sesame oil
1 t. minced fresh garlic
Splash of rice wine vinegar (or acidic liquid of your choice)
Toss all ingredients together. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
ASIAN-STYLE FISH CAKES
2 c. flaked, cooked whitefish
2 T. minced red bell pepper
2 T. minced green onion
1 t. fish sauce
1 t. soy sauce
2 t. lime juice
¼ c. mayonnaise (use prepared wasabi mayo for an extra kick)
2 t. corn starch
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients gently but thoroughly, making sure that fish doesn’t get too broken up. Form into disks, 2 inches in diameter and ½-inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes.
Heat a thick bottomed skillet or saute pan to medium and oil well. Place fish cakes in the hot pan and fry until golden brown. Using a thin spatula, gently flip and cook until golden brown and cooked through. Serve immediately with wasabi mayo or chill and reserve to be reheated in the microwave in the event of a heat wave.
1 c. coconut milk
½ c. tamari
1½ c. white vinegar
½ c. minced garlic
3 whole bird’s-eye chilies
6 bay leaves
1 T. freshly ground black pepper
4 lb. chicken thighs
Combine all marinade ingredients with chicken thighs and marinate overnight.
Simmer thighs in marinade for 30 minutes.
Remove and place thighs on a rack on a sheet pan and roast at 450 degrees until skin crisps and darkens, about 15-20 minutes.
Cool and pull meat for later use. Makes great chicken salad or just use it to top some greens tossed with a simple vinaigrette.