Stay cool!

Where we live in Saint Paul, it can already be warm pretty early in the morning.  I’m a 
morning person; the earlier the better.  I’m also the daughter of both my father and father-in-law, because after I push the button on the coffee (pot filled night before), I check the temperature on my back porch.  In the summer if it’s above 70, I sigh heavily, drink my coffee, and get out for my morning hike.  Why?  Because it will soon be 80, then 90, and today, my friends, the little weather gizmo on my iphone says it will be 99.  If you’re a regular reader, you know what my house is like:

 

                                   Above:  Ah, our house in winter….

In other words, I have a nearly 100-year-old  house on three levels  with radiator heat and no capability for central air conditioning.  A couple of window units make life possible and there’s a cool basement that occasionally serves as our “cabin.”   Naturally, such climate also produces things like the best tomatoes on earth or my south garden roses:

Exercise and real cooking or baking must be done very early indeed on 100-degree days and I have invested in a combination microwave-convection oven where I can bake without getting the house too terribly hot.   I’ll be honest and say the convection oven is not all it’s cracked up to be, but it’s a real improvement over no oven for three months in summer.  A basement kitchen is what I want and there are many in the Twin Cities.

Most of the time, I do summer meals like everyone else: grilling, salads, ice cream for dessert.  Each year, the salads change depending on what’s good to eat or what I have at any given time.  If your frig or garden is full of kale (CSAs are notorious for delivering ton of kale!), this salad is for you.  I call it a shop and chop; you buy a few ingredients (here, feta and olives) and just chop up whatever else you’ve got.   Try this for the 4th; the kalamata olives serve as the “blue.”  It’s a great accompaniment for barbequed pork chops, Italian sausages, salmon, or marinated chicken breasts.

red, white, and blue salad for the 4th of July**
serves 8 as a side, 4 as a main dish

  • 10 cups finely chopped kale or baby kale
  • Juice of 1 lemon, divided
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup each:   chopped feta cheese and whole, pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 cups chopped English cucumbers (no need to peel)
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 t dried Turkish oregano
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
  • 2T good quality red wine vinegar
  • 4 T extra virgin olive oil

 Place kale in a large bowl.   Drizzle about half the lemon juice over the greens and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Toss well.  On top of the seasoned kale layer the feta, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onion.  Sprinkle salad evenly with oregano, dill, and a bit more salt and pepper.  Drizzle on the rest of the lemon juice and the red wine vinegar.  Toss well.  Drizzle on oil and toss again. Taste and re-season if necessary.  Serve immediately with wedges of lemon.   (Can be made several hours ahead:  make as described above, but do not add any lemon juice, vinegar, or oil until you’re ready to serve.  Cover and chill; dress right before serving.)

**If you have leftover grilled vegetables or sautéed eggplant from another day, these things make tasty additions to  this salad and are a great way to use up leftover vegetables.   If you’ve leftover grilled chicken, shrimp, or pork tenderloin, you could add them for a more robust main-dish salad.

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 Stay cool…especially all our loved Colorado folks….and sing a new song,
Alyce