There are two tricks to cool, quick summer meals. First, use leftovers, manufacturing them if you have to, by preparing more grilled chicken, bacon or steamed shrimp than you need for one meal. Second, shop for convenience: Focaccia bread makes preparing pizza crust unnecessary; get the store to steam the seafood for you. Effective use of these tactics will result in a meal that's easy to prepare because, as Nick Sheridan of Cuisine Catering says, "It's just an assembly job."
Here is Mr. Sheridan's summer salad recipe.
Cajun shrimp and chicken pasta
1/2 pound shrimp, cooked and peeled
1/2 pound chicken breast, boned, skinned, cooked, cut in chunks (see note)
1/3 pound (raw measure) rotini pasta, cooked
1 cup broccoli, cut up
1 cup cherry tomatoes (sliced, if desired)
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup vinaigrette dressing
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon tarragon
1 tablespoon blackened redfish spice mix (see note)
Mix all the dry ingredients. Separately whisk together the vinaigrette, mayonnaise, sour cream, tarragon and blackened redfish spice. Pour over dry ingredients and mix gently. Serve.
Notes: "If you want to leave out the chicken, it'll be simpler, but more expensive," Mr. Sheridan says. "Just use 1 pound of shrimp. This is a great recipe to use up leftovers," he adds. "Experiment with different vegetables.
"Also, if cholesterol bothers you, use half a tablespoon of Cajun spice and leave out the mayonnaise and sour cream" -- or use low- or nonfat substitutes. Cajun spice mixes, the most noted of which are from famous Louisiana chef Paul Prudhomme, are available in specialty and gourmet stores, if not in your local grocery.
The next recipe, for an elegant summer salad, is from Kate Koehler Gordon and John Crane, the chefs at Morton's. It requires marinating and grilling some items beforehand, but then is largely a matter of assembly as well.
Seafood Nicoise with lemon caper vinaigrette
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1/2 pound tuna steak
1/2 pound sea scallops
1/2 pound cleaned calamari
2 medium red peppers
24 steamed mussels
6 canned artichoke hearts, cut in half
1/2 pound sugar snap peas, cleaned and blanched
1 large Vidalia onion sliced into rings
2 large carrots, julienned
1 head romaine lettuce
1 head belgian endive
1 head radicchio
lemon caper vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Combine first three ingredients for marinade. Marinate tuna, scallops and calamari for at least an hour and up to 2 hours, then grill and chill. Grill red peppers, rub off blackened skin and slice. Clean and tear greens. Prepare bed of greens on each plate; top with 1/6 portions of vegetables, and 1/6 portion of seafood (including mussels). Finish with vinaigrette to taste. (Save leftover vinaigrette for another salad.)
Lemon caper vinaigrette
Makes about 3 cups.
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups olive oil
1 tablespoon thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons whole mixed red, white, green and black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon dried basil
1 3-ounce bottle capers, drained
Combine all ingredients except capers in the bowl of a food processor and blend. Stir in capers.
The next two recipes are from Truffles' chef Stephen Sappe.
Greens and grilled chicken in Parmesan vinaigrette Serves four to six.
1/2 head radicchio lettuce, torn into pieces
1 bunch arugula or watercress
1 head hearts of romaine, broken into leaves
1/2 head red leaf lettuce, broken into leaves
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds (uncooked weight) chicken breasts, leftover or purchased, grilled
3 plum tomatoes, sliced thinly
1 yellow pepper, cut into thin strips
balsamic Parmesan vinaigrette (recipe below)
Clean all lettuce. Arrange on plates, starting with red leaf, then hearts of romaine, then the radicchio, and last the arugula or watercress. Cut chicken into strips and place on top of lettuce. Garnish with plum tomatoes and strips of yellow pepper. Drizzle with dressing and serve.
Balsamic Parmesan vinaigrette
Makes about 1/2 cup.
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly ground Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Whisk egg yolk and mustard in bowl. Slowly beat in olive oil. Add white wine, lemon juice and vinegar. Add cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serves four to six.
1 pint fresh raspberries, washed and dried
2 kiwis, peeled and diced same size as raspberries
2 ounces Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
Mix berries, kiwi, powdered sugar and Grand Marnier. Marinate for four hours. Whip heavy cream until stiff. Place berry mixture in bowls. Top with whipped cream.