Counting ways to keep cool

Summer: Recipes with only four ingredients don't require working up a lot of sweat.

July 14, 1999|By Los Angeles Times

When it's summer, nobody feels like cooking. Let's face it: It's just too hot to be creative. You don't really want to turn on the stove; you don't even want to be inside. For a couple of weeks, anyway, it's so hot you don't even want to eat (well, that may be going too far).

What you want is to be able to dig out a few ingredients and, with a minimum of fuss and muss, pull something together. The complication is that that something also has to taste good. We're not going to lower our standards just because of rising temperatures.

The key? Simplify. Here are four recipes from the Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen that consist of only four ingredients each and come together in a snap. They can be made by anyone with the most basic cooking skills, yet they taste good enough to satisfy even the most demanding palate.

A caveat is in order: When we say four ingredients, we're talking about primary ingredients. Basic seasonings such as salt and pepper, garlic, olive oil and sugar are not included. Also, we've counted a sub-recipe such as vinaigrette as one ingredient. A sub-recipe also has fewer than four ingredients.

The idea of restricting yourself to four ingredients may seem a bit like voluntarily slipping into a straitjacket, but when you stop to think about it, it's not that hard.

A lot of the best summer food could be titled one-ingredient cooking: boiled corn, steak on the barbecue, grilled eggplant. It's all a matter of starting with something good and then preparing it in the simplest way.

Drunken Cherries on Ice Cream

Serves 6

1 1/2 cups red wine

3/4 cup sugar

2 cloves

1 1/2 pounds cherries, unpitted

1 pint vanilla ice cream

Bring wine, sugar and cloves to boil over medium-high heat and cook until reduced to about 1 cup, about 20 minutes from start. Add cherries and cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Chill.

When ready to serve, scoop vanilla ice cream into bowls and ladle cherries and juice over top.

Per serving: 282 calories, 47 milligrams sodium, 20 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams fat, 50 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 0.23 gram fiber.

Active work time: 10 minutes; total preparation time: 25 minutes plus 1 hour chilling.

Tuna and Garbanzo Salad

Serves 4

1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans

1 (9-ounce) can solid white tuna in water

1 bunch radishes, sliced

vinaigrette (see recipe)

salt, pepper

Rinse beans in strainer under running water to remove excess liquid and salt. Combine in large mixing bowl with tuna and radishes. Add half of vinaigrette and stir to mix well. Slowly add enough remaining vinaigrette to lightly coat salad. Taste and correct seasonings.

Per serving: 338 calories, 801 milligrams sodium, 11 milligrams cholesterol, 15 grams fat, 26 grams carbohydrates, 24 grams protein, 1.78 gram fiber.

Active work and total preparation time: 15 minutes.

Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

Combine vinegar, salt and garlic in small jar and shake until combined. Add olive oil and shake again until thoroughly mixed.

Barbecued Chicken Sticks

Serves 6

1 pound chicken tenderloins

2 tablespoons garlic oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

freshly ground pepper

Soak 6 bamboo skewers in water 30 minutes.

In shallow dish, combine chicken tenderloins, garlic oil, salt and pepper. Turn chicken to coat evenly. Cover and let stand 30 minutes. Remove skewers from water and thread with chicken.

Grill chicken on hot cast-iron grill pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray or cook on outdoor grill, rotating until chicken is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.

(These are delicious when served wrapped in a flour tortilla along with mint and Thai basil and Thai chili sauce. Top with a squeeze of lime.)

Per serving: 102 calories, 233 milligrams sodium, 33 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams fat, 0 carbohydrates, 13 grams protein, 0 fiber.

Active work time: 10 minutes; total preparation time: 40 minutes.

Goat Cheese-Stuffed Chilies

Serves 6

6 small poblano chilies

1 ear corn

freshly ground pepper

1/2 pound goat cheese

chopped tomato

Roast chilies and corn on rack over gas burner placed on stove top or under broiler until peppers are charred and corn is lightly charred, about 10 minutes. Put chilies in ppaper bag and close. Let chilies cool, about 15 to 20 minutes, then remove from bag and peel. Make a slit on one side of each chili and remove seeds. Pat dry. When corn is cool enough to handle, cut kernels from cob to make about 1 cup.

Crumble goat cheese into bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup of grilled corn and season to taste with pepper. Spoon cheese mixture into peppers. Place peppers in shallow glass baking dish seam side up and bake at 350 degrees until cheese is heated through, 10 to 15 minutes.

Place chilies on serving plates and sprinkle with tomatoes and remaining corn.

Per serving: 164 calories, 196 milligrams sodium, 17 milligrams cholesterol, 10 grams fat, 13 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 3.95 grams fiber.

Active work time: 10 minutes; total preparation time: 50 minutes.

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