Cool recipes and cooler kitchens for summer
Ways to beat the heat as you continue to eat at home more often
For BC Hydro
In the heat of a late May afternoon, I got a message from the oven: roasting a medley of potatoes, onions and brussels sprouts was exactly the wrong thing to do on a hot day.
For the next three days, I leaned on the Instant Pot and an array of fresh salads. Dinner-time temperatures dropped, and my son marvelled at how Instant Pot lemon chicken rivalled his favourite dish, my wife's stellar coq au vin blanc.
As the coronavirus pandemic pushes many of us to cook more at home, and to rely on takeout more than ever, we're learning new tricks as we go. Now that summer is almost here, we're also facing the challenge of keeping our homes cool. So, in concert with the communications staff at BC Hydro, I've put together a few ideas to help keep everyone fed and happy in the coming weeks.
Instant Pot gems
If you own an Instant Pot, you'll be well aware of how fast and convenient it is. It's also the perfect device for cooking without cooking the temperature in your home. It's a one-pot solution that's an easy cleanup, cooks rice perfectly, and can turn meat into miraculous.
One of the favourite recipes among Instant Potheads at BC Hydro is orange chicken, which Chelsea Watt introduced to Connected newsletter readers in 2017 alongside a popular story that covered the basics of the Instant Pot. I love the recipe, and have since discovered a lemon chicken recipe that's not just mouth-watering, but is also a low-carb stunner for those on a keto diet.
Blender pesto and other small appliance recipes
Popular at powersmart.ca is a recent roundup of small appliance recipes featuring blenders, toaster ovens, Instant Pots and slow cookers. It includes the following recipes:
Sushi and salad bowls
The revised Canada Food guide showcases a sample plate half covered by fruit and vegetables. It's not just healthier to move more towards produce, but in the heat of the summer, it's going to keep your kitchen cooler.
Sushi bowls are all the rage, and this dynamite plant power sushi bowl recipe subs in tofu for fish for a vegetarian wonder in which avocado, carrots and cucumbers share the spotlight. Get your hands on some sushi-grade ahi tuna to make this tuna poke bowl, or head in a different direction with falafel in this Mediterranean-inspired bowl.
A winner at home and at potluck parties – can't wait to do that again! – is my go-to warm kale salad courtesy of Earls Restaurant chef Ryan Stone. The magic here is in the dressing and the inclusion of brussels sprouts and potatoes, which make it filling enough to function as a one-dish meal.
And if you love Greek salad but want something new, try this Greek chicken chopped salad, which ups the ante with marinated lemon chicken and a lemon tahini vinaigrette.
On a cool day, let there be bread
While this article is about ways to eat yummy food while keeping the kitchen cool, we can't resist recommending a few favourites that require the use of the oven or cooktop.
Start by tapping into your inner Vikram Vij by whipping up a stovetop herbed garlic butter naan as a superstar accompaniment to Indian takeout or your own butter chicken. It involves only about 10 minutes of actual cooking in a hot cast iron pan.
If you're going to bake, do it in the cool of the early morning. BC Hydro's Jacqueline Lambert is a big fan of this 5-ingredient beer bread recipe, a perfect marriage of beer and baking. It's a no-yeast recipe she suggests gets even better by adding a bit of rosemary.
Help local restaurants by ordering takeout
A lot of restaurants are fighting for their lives. We may be able to visit some, likely in outdoor seating, as they reopen. As takeout is becoming the new normal, it helps to know how to keep those restaurant-prepped meals as fresh as possible.
Food delivery may be your go-to for takeout, but you may want to consider if the place you're ordering from is within walking distance. In addition to getting some exercise, you're likely to get hot food home more quickly. And if it takes awhile, see the tip below...
For takeout or leftovers, reheat it right
Here are a few tips on the best ways to reheat food – either takeout or for your own leftovers:
- Pizza: Got a whole pizza? Stick it in the oven, on a preheated pizza stone, or keep the kitchen cool by putting it on a preheated barbecue grill that's reduced to a low temperature, preferably by only using a burner on the opposite side of the grill. For pizza slices, try the barbecue, or a hot skillet with the lid on to keep it crisp.
- Rice or mashed potatoes: Rice does well in the microwave, and it's a good idea to add a teaspoon of water to ensure it doesn't dry out. You can reheat mashed potatoes there too – but consider first adding a bit of cream or milk, use medium heat, and after two or three minutes, check and stir the potatoes.
- Seafood: Be careful here. Overcooking seafood is a sin. If you must, reheat in a low temperature oven, toaster oven, or barbecue grill.
- Fries: Crisp them up by reheating on a well-oiled skillet, or use the oven or toaster oven – preheating to 400°F and placing the fries on foil.
- Fried foods: Dry heat generally works best, so an oven or toaster oven preheated to 400°F is the go-to.
- Chinese food and Asian noodle dishes: In a pinch, the microwave will do. But it will taste better reheated in a pot or on low heat in the oven or toaster oven.
- Steak: Beware the microwave, but if you must, first pour gravy or meat juices over the steak to keep it moist and – only on medium heat – cook it for 30-second bursts. The best method is to preheat an oven to 250°F, place the steak on a rack sitting in a pan, and be patient. It could take half an hour.
Food and grocery delivery goes big in B.C.
In Kamloops, a couple guys have launched their own takeout delivery service called Mitchies Delivery as a rival to heavyweights such as SkipTheDishes and Doordash, in part by trying to better serve customers as far as 25 km away from restaurants. But the big trend in food delivery during the pandemic is in groceries.
Fresh produce services such as spud.ca have been around for years, and it's now a crowded space with the likes of Instacart delivering groceries and more in Vancouver, Victoria and other B.C. cities from stores including Loblaws, Shoppers Drug Mart, and T & T. Costco, Save On Foods, Walmart and Thrifty Foods are also in the delivery game, as are others such as Red Barn Market in Victoria.
For those who like a helping hand with a combination of grocery delivery, recipes and in some cases pre-cut portions, there are plenty of great options. The big movers here are HelloFresh and Chef's Plate, but there's a growing list of more localized competitors including Meatme.ca, truLOCAL, and Fresh City Farms.