As summer heats up, add some cool ideas for family meals

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Summer has arrived – that whimsical season when we live more simply and throw out the routine. That’s true for the kitchen, too.

To keep the heat (and stress) at bay, add a little chill to your suppers with cool ingredients such as crispy lettuces, colorful summer veggies, grilled local seafood and simple, flavorful sandwich fillings.

We begin with “C.”

“C” is for cool ingredients. Think bright green, chilled lettuce filled with spicy chicken, crunchy bamboo shoots, red pepper slices and chopped peanuts. What about a salad of tasty romaine leaves topped with sweet cherry tomatoes (more yummy tomatoes will come in later this summer), boiled shrimp or grilled chicken? The combination of chopped, fresh mozzarella, brilliant red tomatoes and salty green olives is another option.

Which brings us to “O.”

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“O” is for the options that abound – options for sandwiches, such as thick focaccia slices stuffed with shaved turkey, provolone cheese, fresh basil, chopped cucumber. Get creative. Develop your own combinations. Everything’s fresh this time of year, which makes a sandwich all the more enticing. Don’t forget the adored tomato variety. You need only a great tomato, your favorite mayo, two slices of white bread and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Doesn’t get any simpler than that.

Now we’re at “L.”

“L” is for luscious shrimp and other treasures of the sea. Kabob them, grill them or saute them. A shrimp burger will do the trick. Fill a toasted hamburger bun with sauteed, jumbo, South Carolina shrimp. Add a side of pickled okra and an ear of sweet corn dredged in butter, and everyone will be happy.

Now, let’s wrap it up with “D.”

“D” is for delightful desserts. Popsicles and ice cream please every age. Make up your own combinations. Add fresh fruit. Top a bowl of just-churned vanilla with sweet peaches that will be so treasured this summer because of an Easter freeze. Or slice up a chilled South Carolina watermelon and invite the neighbors.

‘Tis the season for spontaneity. That’s summer’s gift.

Shrimpburger

Ingredients:

1 pound shell-on jumbo shrimp (16-count)

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup clarified butter (see below)

1 Vidalia onion, thinly sliced

Salt and freshly ground pepper

3 hamburger buns

Lemon wedges, optional

For clarified butter:

1 stick unsalted butter

Method:

To clarify butter, melt stick of butter in a saucepan over very low heat. A white foam will form. Skim this off with a spoon. Remove pan from heat and let cool for three minutes. Strain butter through cheesecloth or a fine sieve into a bowl. The liquid in the bowl will be the clarified butter, enough for about three sandwiches. May refrigerate for up to three weeks.

Butterfly shrimp by slicing them lengthwise almost all the way through, but leave the shells on.

Heat olive oil and clarified butter in large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until onion softens and turns golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or fork to transfer the onion to a large bowl.

Turn heat under skillet to high. Add shrimp and cook for two minutes on each side. Remove shrimp from the pan. Let shrimp cool slightly and then remove shells, adding peeled shrimp to bowl with cooked onion.

Mix together. Put about 5 shrimp on each bun with an equal amount of caramelized onion, and serve hot, with a squeeze of lemon, if desired. Makes 3 servings.

From Edisto Beach Cafe, Edisto Island, as described in “Roadfood Sandwiches” by Jane & Michael Stern ( Houghton Mifflin, 2007)

Italian tomato salad

Ingredients:

3 tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1-inch wedges

1 cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

2 green onions, green ends removed with remaining stem of onion cut into thin slices

8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

¼ cup sliced green olives

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

In a bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumber, green onions, mozzarella and green olives.

Place basil and lemon juice in a small bowl and slowly add the olive oil, mixing briskly with a whisk or fork. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour over salad and toss until combined. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

From “College Cooking: Feed Yourself and Your Friends” by Megan and Jill Carle (10 Speed Press, 2007)

Spicy lettuce wraps

Ingredients for the sauce:

½ cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/8 cup lime juice

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon chili paste

Ingredients for the wraps:

½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 3- or 4-inch pieces

1 onion, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 small zucchini, about 1 pound, diced into 1/4-inch pieces

1 pound fresh mushrooms, diced into 1/4-inch pieces

1 8-ounce can bamboo shoots, drained and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 head iceberg or butter lettuce, leaves separated from the head, washed and dried

1 cucumber, peeled and cut into matchstick-size pieces

½ red pepper, cut into thin slices

½ cup chopped peanuts

Method:

Saute chicken and set aside. Saute onions, garlic, zucchini and mushrooms.

Add chicken back in with bamboo shoots, ginger and half of the sauce. Cook, uncovered, for 2 to 3 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Place filling in a bowl and serve with lettuce leaves, cucumber, red pepper, peanuts and remaining sauce on the side.

To assemble, place some of filling inside a lettuce leaf. Add some cucumber and red pepper. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts, drizzle with sauce and wrap like a burrito. Makes 4 servings.

Note: Chili paste can be very hot. Start with 1/2 tablespoon until you determine the heat level you like.

From “College Cooking: Feed Yourself and Your Friends” by Megan and Jill Carle (10 Speed Press, 2007)

Turkey focaccia sandwich with basil salsa

Ingredients:

2 packages (8.81-ounce each) focaccia bread, sliced horizontally (you can substitute premade pizza crust such as Boboli or Mama Mary’s, cut into wedges)

2 to 3 leaves leaf lettuce, washed and dried

3/4 pound smoked turkey, shaved

4 ounces provolone cheese, shaved

For the basil salsa:

2 large plum tomatoes, seeded and diced

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

2 tablespoons chopped purple onion

½ cup fresh basil, chopped

1 lemon, zested

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Method:

To prepare basil salsa, in medium bowl combine tomato, cucumber, green onion, basil, zest, lemon juice, oil, garlic and pepper. Cover and allow to stand 1 hour.

On large plate, place one focaccia loaf upside down. Arrange lettuce over focaccia and top with turkey, basil salsa and cheese.

Place remaining focaccia loaf over top. To serve, slice into 6 wedges. Makes 6 servings.

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