YOU Magazine - August 2008 - Cooking Without Fire, Part 3 A summertime tradition takes a bit of a twist By Kirk Leins
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Cooking Without Fire, Part 3
A summertime tradition takes a bit of a twist
By Kirk Leins


Cooking Without Fire, Part 3 - A summertime tradition takes a bit of a twist - By Kirk Leins

If you've been reading YOU Magazine for the last several years, you are most likely familiar with my annual series, Cooking Without Fire. For newcomers, the series is intended as my homage to the summertime heat. Better yet, it's my homage to the meal preparer in your home.

Summertime is a culinary paradox. On one hand we're provided an abundance of wonderful, fresh ingredients. Produce such as tomatoes, peaches, fresh corn, and watermelon adorn the produce bins of supermarkets throughout the country. We're also provided with extra daylight, something that makes it a bit easier to fit dinner-making into our daily schedules. But here's the bad news: It's hot as Hades outside.

The parameters of Cooking Without Fire have always been the same - recipes for a complete 3-course meal, none of which require the use of any heat source. There's probably no need to explain the usefulness of this concept during the sweltering heat of summer. So, why then have I decided to bend the rules a bit?

While the first two recipes I'll be putting forth will require no heat source for their preparation, the third recipe will. Before you get hot under the collar (pun intended), let me say that what I'm proposing is not that big of a deal. Besides, the recipe in question is a watermelon and mint sorbet, so it's going to be worth it.

Let's get to the recipes...

Ceviche
Ceviche is one of those dishes that you either love, or are hesitant to try. I say this because I don't know too may people who've eaten it only to give it a bad review. For those of you who are already on the ceviche bandwagon, I ask you to be patient as I try to convert a few of the doubters.

To begin with, it is important to note that while a finished ceviche can consist of any number of types of uncooked seafood, it is not a raw dish. I know this can be a tough concept to wrap your mind around, but bear with me a second.

When we "cook" a raw ingredient we normally do so by applying heat. What's important is to understand, however, is what role the heat actually plays. In terms of fish, or any meat for that matter, the protein molecules contained within become denatured, or untangled from other types of molecules. Since protein molecules are attracted to each other, they then begin to pair up. As more heat is applied, these protein bundles start to shrink or coagulate. This process is what we normally refer to as "cooking".

In terms of ceviche, the raw fish sits for a designated period of time in a solution of citrus juice, a.k.a. citric acid. The acid, like heat, also causes the proteins to denature and coagulate. So, while no heat gets applied to the ceviche, the fish has technically become cooked.

Since that's out of the way, I want to mention that ceviche is one of those dishes that requires the use of only the freshest and highest quality fish. If this type of seafood is not available you should consider making something else for dinner.

SCALLOP CEVICHE (serves 4 to 6)

For the ceviche:

  • 1.5 to 2 lbs large sea scallops, adductor muscle removed and cut into ½ inch dice
    (Unsure about how to remove the muscle? Simply ask your fishmonger to show you.)
  • 1 C lime juice
  • 1 C lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

For the dressing:

  • 4 to 5 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 C red onion, cut into thin and small slices
  • 1 large bunch cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño chili, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 C lime juice
  • 3/4 C fresh orange juice
  • 3/4 C extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a glass bowl, combine scallop meat with lime juice, lemon juice and garlic. Mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to the scallops to sit in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours, stirring occasionally.

When ready to serve, drain scallops completely and discard the chopped garlic. Add all the dressing ingredients to the scallops and toss well.

Ceviche can be served as an appetizer, along with quality tortilla chips; as part of a salad, mounded atop a bed of fresh greens; or as a filling for tacos and tostadas.

Wrapped Sandwiches
Before I go any further, I want to make it known that when I say "wrapped sandwiches", I am not referring to "sandwich wraps", the ubiquitous low-carb way to enjoy sandwich fillings inside a piece of rolled flat bread. It's not that there's anything wrong with a sandwich wrap. We're just talking about two different things.

Wrapped sandwiches embody the heartiness and ease of a sandwich, as well as the tastiness that is added to it by either a panini press or a frying pan loaded with butter, without the added calories or any source of heat. These sandwiches are prepared an hour or so prior to eating. Rolled tightly in plastic wrap and allowed to sit at room temperature, the bread softens and the flavors within become one. While they can house a multitude of different ingredients, the following is a simple recipe for one of my favorites.

WRAPPED CAPRESE SANDWICH WITH PROSCIUTTO (makes 2 sandwiches)

  • 2 fresh Italian rolls or demi baguettes
  • ¼ lb prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • 1 small heirloom tomato, sliced
  • 1 4-oz. ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into ¼ inch slices and drained on paper towels
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Drizzle the cut sides of both rolls with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Layer equal portions of sliced prosciutto on the bottom halves of the rolls. Top with several slices of heirloom tomato and season with salt and pepper. On top of the tomato, place several slices of mozzarella and garnish with a generous amount of hand torn basil leaves. Place the remaining halves of the rolls on top of each sandwich.

Tightly wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap and allow them to sit at room temperature for one hour. For a fun twist, place the sandwich on a flat, hard surface and sit on it for a few minutes. Doing so will allow the ingredients to press flat and the flavors to meld. Unwrap the sandwiches and slice into thirds. Serve alongside a salad of fresh greens and vinaigrette.

Sorbet
When I think of sorbet, I think of two words – refreshing and delicious. It's not only the perfect summertime dessert it's also a great way to cleanse the palate in between the courses of a fancy meal. While it does require about five minutes of use from one stovetop burner, its preparation is fairly simple and yields some unbelievable results. Here is a recipe for sorbet that utilizes a flavor combo I find to be truly spectacular.

WATERMELON AND MINT SORBET (makes about 5 cups of sorbet)

  • 6 C ripe seedless watermelon, rind removed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 C water
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 C mint leaves (plus more for garnish)

In a saucepot, add water, lime juice, lemon juice, sugar and mint leaves. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to steep for 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place watermelon cubes in the work bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Strain the watermelon puree until you end up with 4 cups of juice.

Strain the mint syrup and discard the leaves. Add the syrup to the watermelon juice and mix well. Pour the mixture into ice cube trays (roughly 3 or 4 trays) and freeze for 2 hours. Remove ice cubes from the trays and place back into the food processor. Add 3 tablespoons of water to the bowl and process until the mixture is smooth. Transfer to a re-sealable plastic container and refreeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

We did it again, folks. Three summertime recipes, all of them having little or no need for heat. So, do yourselves a favor and make at least one of them while the weather is still hot. Chances are you'll love it so much you'll end up making all three dishes, officially making you the coolest person on your block.

Kirk Leins has been cooking his entire life. No stranger to professional kitchens, he currently devotes most of his time to cooking instruction, food writing, and producing television. Kirk also provides his services as a personal chef in and around the Los Angeles area. He has made several TV appearances on both the national and local level, and is the Executive Chef for YOU Magazine. His free newsletter, The Everyday Gourmet, is available by contacting Kirk at EGcuisine@gmail.com.




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