Summer is the season of abundance. Greens are plentiful, while peppers and tomatoes of all colours are in their full glory. It is also the season when these light, vibrant foods are best either cooked quickly or eaten raw. Grilling and stir-frying are quick cooking methods synonymous with summer, minimising nutrient loss and allowing the vegetables to retain more flavours.
Options for grilling
During the summer months these are endless: thin cuts of meat, salmon, tuna and vegetables are all ideal. The radiant heat under the grill seals the surface of the food, retaining nutrients, moisture and flavour. It is important that a few rules are applied:
- Allow the grill to preheat fully before placing any food onto the grates.
- Use thin pieces of meat and fish, such as salmon cutlets, to ensure food is cooked thoroughly.
- Do not puncture the meat during the grilling process, as this will cause it to lose flavour and moisture.
Some foods such as meat and fish can be marinated in advance to add flavour. Onions, pineapple, peppers and tomatoes are ideal fruits and vegetables for grilling because their flavour intensifies during the process.
This is another favoured method of summer cooking; it involves tossing food in a little oil and cooking quickly in a wok or a large, hot pan. The hot oil seals the outer surface of the food, creating a crisp finish. Thin cuts like chicken fillets, sirloin and striploin steak are best for stir-frying. To ensure success when stir-frying, the following principles should be applied:
- Give your wok or pan a chance to get hot before ingredients are added.
- Meat should be cooked in batches to seal it and keep it tender. If cooked in large amounts, the temperature of the wok will be reduced and the meat will become tough.
- Add harder vegetables like carrots and broccoli first, as these will take longer to cook. Softer vegetables such as spinach and mushrooms can be added a few minutes later.
- The key to stir-frying is to keep stirring and tossing the food continuously.
- Noodles, couscous and rice are ideal carbohydrates to be served with a stir-fry to ensure a balanced meal.
Options for ‘not’ cooking
Summer is also an ideal time for enjoying raw vegetables, and salads are a great way of doing this. They can be a satisfying, complete meal with the inclusion of greens, lean protein, healthy fats and plenty of vegetables. Making a good salad is very much dependent on the quality of ingredients used, so using seasonal produce is key. Vegetables in season at this time of year include beetroot, carrots, potatoes, spinach, cucumber, lettuce, peppers, spring onions, tomatoes and radishes. Salads can also be perfect accompaniments for main dishes.
Dressing salad up to the nines!
A good salad dressing is the key to a great salad. The finest quality oil, good quality vinegar, sea salt and freshly ground pepper are the components of a basic dressing. Whisk three parts extra-virgin olive oil with one part wine vinegar, then add a little sea salt and black pepper. The addition of wholegrain mustard, garlic, chopped herbs or honey can really bring the dressing to life. Be careful not to overdress a salad; add the dressing at the last moment, and use just enough to make the leaves shimmer.
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