Healthy foods that beat the heat
Forget heating up the kitchen this summer with heavy cooking. Summer is the season of passion and joy, but we can tend to overdo things at this time with the extra daylight hours encouraging more activity and less sleep. We also put cooking on the back burner as the hot days can suppress appetite and desire to cook.
Foods that are important for summer include corn, greens, fruit, salads and tofu. These foods nourish and regulate the heart and small intestine, helping absorption and circulation in the body. The seasonal shift from spring to summer means a change in cooking method, too. Go lighter and shorter and make your main cooking methods stirfrying, steaming and light boiling. Sometimes serve food cool or just warm, eat lighter-textured and more upward-growing foods as opposed to winter root vegetables. Choose soft, leafy greens; theyre lighter on the palate and on digestion. Use less salt and fewer seasonings in general during summer, favouring lemon juice, vinegars, lemongrass, turmeric and herbs.
All year round our bodies need water. Fruit and vegetables are at the top of the list for high water content, but cooked grains also contain a good amount of water. Watermelon is named so for a reason, so have some every day in summer to help replenish fluids as well as give a good dose of lycopene (a potent antioxidant). Other types of melons do much the same for water replenishment try rockmelon and honeydew. Eat tomatoes, cucumbers, bean shoots, iceberg lettuce, zucchini and other squashes, capsicum and carrots for their high levels of water. Theyre all available now. Isnt nature clever?
People of South America, India and Southeast Asia know well that spicy foods can be an effective way of lowering body temperature. They use spices, chillies and curries all year round to combat the constant heat. Capsaicin is the compound that gives chillies their heat and it helps to activate the heat receptors in our mouths. This improves circulation and stimulates sweating which cools us down.
Stone fruits, berries and tropicals are now at their peak. Summer fruits offer all sorts of tasty possibilities and theyre loaded with vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemicals.
Corn is most certainly at its best right now. It has just been harvested and is young and sweet. Peel away the husks and any stray stringy bits. Boil in purified water with a teaspoon of sea salt to bring out the natural sugars. Scrape the kernels off ears of corn into a large bowl and mix with egg, flour, chopped spring onions and cayenne pepper. Lightly panfry spoonfuls for crisp corncakes. Barbecue whole the way they were meant to be steamed in their very own jackets. Boasting antiviral and anticancer properties, sweetcorn in small amounts may help neutralise stomach acid.
Salad greens are full of folate and rich in vitamins A (from beta-carotene) and C. Theyre also good sources of calcium, iron, folate and magnesium. Green salad leaves also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are believed to help protect against cataract and macular degeneration. Combine a mix of leaves in a simple salad to accompany almost any meal and dress with the best organic olive oil you can get your hands on and some aged balsamic vinegar.
Tomatoes are synonymous with summer. Theyre at their sweetest and most flavoursome at this time of year, almost pulling off their technical classification of a fruit. Unlike winter tomatoes, summer tomatoes are full of flavour, juice and colour. Use them in almost any dish. Slice them and arrange on a platter with a good smothering of olive oil and a sprinkling of torn basil. Dice with onion and combine in a dressing of vinegar, sugar and lemon juice to accompany curries.
The red colour in tomatoes is called lycopene. This compound acts as an antioxidant, neutralising free radicals that cause damage to cells in the body. Recent studies reveal lycopene may have twice the effectiveness of the antioxidant beta-carotene. Harvard researchers found that men who had 10 servings of tomatoes a week cut the risk of developing prostate cancer by a huge 45 per cent. Tomatoes can also lower your risk of colon, stomach, breast, endometrial and even lung cancer, Israeli researchers recently discovered.
Always remember that cooking tomatoes in olive oil is even better than eating them raw it intensifies the lycopene by releasing it from the cell wall of the tomato.
My favourite vegetable is at its peak this season. Unlike its winter brothers, summer zucchini (and squashes) are smaller and greener, lending them a more obvious flavour. Zucchini are the trusty standbys of the vegetable world, giving a comforting velvety texture rather than an intense shot of flavour. Grill lengths or rounds and toss through a warm salad or have them with grilled fish. Saute rounds in olive oil, removing some and blending them with chicken stock and freshly ground pepper, and then add to the pan again to warm through with the leftover rounds. Serve under a grilled chicken breast or panfried fish. Add zucchini to stirfries and curries. Along with grilled yellow capsicum, add grilled yellow zucchini to fork-fluffed couscous and cooked organic chickpeas.
6 large tomatoes, diced
1 English cucumber, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp chopped parsley
2 cups tomato juice
400g tomato soup
400g purified water
1 tsp paprika
2-3 tsp sea salt
1 tsp pepper (fine ground)
2Â½ teaspoons sugar
2 tbsp white vinegar
3 tbsp sunflower oil
Mix all ingredients in a blender, tasting and adjusting seasoning as you go.
12 ripe medium roma tomatoes
3 large red capsicums, washed
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
balsamic vinegar (preferably aged)
6 garlic cloves, peeled
Slices of sourdough bread
Preheat the oven to 200Â°C. Cut the capsicums into halves and remove any seeds and fibres. Cut each half into thirds. Place in a baking dish and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast the capsicums for 15 minutes initially. Then drizzle some olive oil and balsamic vinegar over each piece and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes. In a separate smaller baking dish, place the halved tomatoes and 5 of the garlic cloves. Pour over these some olive oil and 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar. Roast for 10 minutes. Turn the tomatoes and garlic in their own juices and then add them to the capsicums and their juices. Gently mix everything together with a further tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, bake the bread slices on an oven tray until crisp. Rub each slice on one side with the last garlic clove and drizzle with olive oil. Arrange on a large platter and spoon over the tomato and capsicum mixture.
Orecchiette pasta with zucchini
400g orecchiette pasta
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large zucchini or 4 smaller size
Grate the zucchini. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a medium-size pan. Add chilli flakes according to heat preferences, remembering that just a little generates a fair amount of heat because the seeds are not removed. Add the grated zucchini and saute until they start to reduce slightly (about 4 minutes). Set aside while you cook the pasta in rapidly boiling water. Towards the end of its cooking, heat the zucchini mixture again and add a good amount of olive oil to create more of a sauce effect. Now pull it all together and work quickly to keep the temperature hot: drain the pasta briefly and then pour it back into its cooking pot. Add the zucchini mixture and mix together with vigour to coat each piece of pasta and emulsify the mixture through the pasta. Serve on heated plates with a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan over the top. The parmesan is essential and dont even think about using the ready-grated stuff. Serve with an interesting salad.
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 cup plain yoghurt
Bake 2 eggplants whole in the oven on highest heat for 25 minutes or until the skins have shrivelled. Peel away skins and dice flesh. Fry a large diced onion in a heavy-based pot or deep pan and add cumin seeds, chilli powder and turmeric. Add eggplant dice and fry until well melded. Add a cup yoghurt and cook through. To serve, add some fresh diced tomato and serve with rice and dhal.
Sweet chilli salmon salad
Serves 6 as a main course
500g fresh salmon, cut into 3 pieces
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp finely minced ginger
2 cos lettuces, broken into pieces
1 red pepper, chopped
125g baby corn, blanched and cut, or 1 tin baby corn
250g pine nuts
croutons (made from sourdough
bread and fried in a pan with olive oil)
175ml grated Parmesan
salt and pepper
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp sauce
1 tbsp mayonnaise
Â½ cup olive oil (extra virgin)
1 tsp sweet chilli sauce
Â½ tsp salt
Â½ tsp minced garlic
Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, chilli sauce and ginger. Add fish and allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes. Toast pine nuts under grill. Blend ingredients for dressing until smooth. Refrigerate. Place lettuce, red pepper, corn, nuts and avocado on a platter. Heat wok or frying pan. When very hot add 2 tablespoons olive oil and allow to smoke. Add fish and sear on both sides until almost cooked through. Slice fish. Scatter fish on top of salad greens. Drizzle salad dressing over. Sprinkle with Parmesan, salt and pepper.
4 summer peaches
2 cups raw sugar
A sliver of peel from an organic lemon
vanilla extract (not essence)
organic cream or vanilla icecream to serve
In a wide and deep pan or pot, place the peaches in one layer. Add enough purified water to cover. Then add the raw sugar, lemon peel and a few drops of vanilla extract. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove peaches and set aside to cool. Pour out some liquid to leave 1cm in the pan. Add a further Â½ cup of raw sugar and bring the liquid to a rapid boil. Once the liquid is reduced substantially and coats the back of a spoon, its a syrup. Remove the skin from the cooled peaches very carefully with your fingers. Serve each peach on a dessert plate with organic cream or icecream and the peach syrup.