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Seasonal Pantry: A few cool ideas for heat-wave hunger

When we know a heat wave is on its way, we can and many of us do prepare in advance by stocking the refrigerator and the pantry with foods that need little if any cooking.

It’s a good time to rely on salads, cool pasta dishes and refreshing fruits like cucumbers, watermelon and strawberries, as we stretch our heads towards the coast, searching hopefully for any possible wisp of fog.

Even if you never eat iceberg lettuce, it can be a lifesaver, at least emotionally, when the temperatures hover near three digits.

It’s also a good idea to keep yourself hydrated not with sweetened beverages but with water, including the flavored waters that are so easy to make at home. If you drink sodas, it can be very easy to drink too many when it is hot, as you simply up the amount instead of switching to something else.

We’ll leave the issue of sodas in general alone for now but sugar is not your friend in hot weather. Nor is alcohol, which means if you’re going to drink during a heat wave you should probably drink an equal amount of water or even a little more, as alcohol is dehydrating.

Keep freshly brewed ice tea and iced coffee in the refrigerator, have plenty of ice on hand, and do not forget about all the critters that live with or near you. Extra water for your cats and dogs is obvious, but it’s a good thing to set out water for birds, raccoons and our other wild friends (always using good judgment when it comes to placement, of course; these are not pets and we should never try to tame them, just help them now and then in extreme circumstances).

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Iceberg lettuce has a large percentage of water, which is what makes it so refreshing.

Iceberg Wedges with Blue Cheese Dressing and Oregon Bay Shrimp

Serves 4 to 6

1 pound fresh (not previously frozen) Oregon bay shrimp, rinsed

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon, cut in wedges

1 ounce blue cheese of choice

2 tablespoons creme fraiche

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

— Kosher salt

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste

— Black pepper in a mill

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

1 small red onion, cut into very thin rounds, rings separated

1 medium firm head of iceberg lettuce, trimmed, cut into wedges and cored

— Black pepper in a mill

— Chives, whole, for garnish, optional

Put the shrimp in a medium bowl, add the olive oil and the juice of 1 of the lemon wedges. Toss and set aside, along with the remaining lemon wedges.

Put the blue cheese in a medium bowl and break it into small pieces. Add the creme fraiche and mix together with a fork; you can mix until it’s smooth or leave it chunky, whatever you prefer. Add the lemon juice and sprinkle several pinches of salt into it; agitate the bowl gently to dissolve the salt. Mix with a fork.

Mix in the olive oil, season with black pepper, taste, and correct for salt as needed. Stir in the chives and set aside.

To serve, divide the onions between individual plates, spreading them out over the surface of each plate. Set a wedge on top of the onions and spoon dressing over the wedges, using all the dressing. Divide the shrimp among each serving, scattering them over the dressing and letting them tumble onto the plate.

Garnish with a whole chives, if using, and lemon wedges and enjoy right away.

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Think of this as “desperation salad,” as it is perfect when you’re enduring a heat wave. If you don’t eat shrimp, you can simply omit them and either enjoy the salad as it is or add shredded chicken, sautéed squid, grilled tofu, leftover pork or something similar.

Glass Noodle and Zucchini Salad with Baby Shrimp, Basil, Cilantro and Mint

Serves 4

4 ounces glass (bean thread) noodles

2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 serrano, seeded and minced

¼ cup fish sauce

6 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 4 limes)

1 tablespoon sugar, plus more to taste

3 cups thinly shredded cabbage

2 small zucchini, trimmed and cut into long, thin ribbons on a mandoline

1 pound cooked baby shrimp, drained of any liquid

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh mint leaves

3 scallions, white and green parts, very thinly sliced

Put the noodles in a large bowl, cover them with hot water and let soak for 15 minutes. Fill a large pot half full with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Drain the noodles and cook them in the boiling water until they are plump and translucent, about 5 minutes. Drain, rinse in cool water and drain again. Put the noodles in a large bowl and set the bowl in the refrigerator.

Next, make the dressing. Put the garlic, ginger and serrano into a small bowl and add the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. Taste, correct for sugar if needed and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes.

To finish the salad, divide the cabbage among large individual bowls.

Remove the noodles from the refrigerator, add the zucchini and half the dressing and toss gently but thoroughly. Add to the bowls, on top of the cabbage.

Put the shrimp, cilantro and mint into the bowl that contained the noodles, add the remaining dressing, toss, and spoon over the noodles and cabbage.

Garnish with scallions and enjoy right away.

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Think of flavored water as you might a pot of tea. The ingredients in the water, just like tea leaves, can go through several infusions before they are exhausted. You’ll know when you’re particular mix is ready for the compost pile simply by smelling or tasting it; most of the flavor will be gone.

Basic Flavored Water

Makes 1 quart

— Ingredients of choice (see suggestions below)

1 quart glass jar

— Tap water or spring water

After you assemble and prepare the ingredients for your flavored water, wash the jar in very hot water and rinse it thoroughly.

Put the ingredients into the jar, fill with water, secure the lid and refrigerate for from 12 hours to 2 days.

To enjoy, pour into a glass and sip; add ice if you like.

Top off with fresh water as you drink. Most combinations will last through 5 to 6 infusions.

Suggested flavor combinations:

½ cup fresh blueberries, halved, 1 bay leaf, 1 sage leaf, 2 cardamom pods, cracked.

1 lemon cucumber, thinly sliced, 3 to 4 radishes, thinly sliced, 2 lemon slices, sprig of lemon verbena.

1 cup strawberries, sliced lengthwise; 2 teaspoons black peppercorns

1 jalapeno, split lengthwise; 3 or 4 cilantro sprigs; 3 or 4 lime slices

3 cups mixed berries; handful of edible flowers

¾ cup chopped fresh pineapple, 2 lemon slices, 2 slices of ginger, 2 cilantro sprigs

1 small cucumber, thinly sliced; 2 lemon slices; several chive sprigs

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to day. Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com.