Clearly, in the heat of the summer (such as it is here in weirdo California--why is it 68F out today after a week of 95F days in April?), no one wants hot food. Therefore, I present: salad.
The big problem with green salad is that it often isn't filling, so you end up staring balefully into the refrigerator 45 minutes after you're supposedly done with dinner. Let's combat this.
What can you put in salad to keep it cool, yet make it substantial?
- Cooked kidney beans, white beans, chickpeas, or what have you. Canned beans are always a good idea when you don't want to heat up the kitchen. You can always toss them with some vinaigrette or quickly saute them with some oil and garlic to improve the flavor.
- Cold meat, such as shredded chicken, tuna, or some finely sliced beef. The problem here is that you often have to cook the meat beforehand. It's a great use for leftovers, though.
- Grains, especially those with substantial protein. Quinoa is the clear star here, but things like bulgur and barley work as well. Using a rice cooker keeps the heat to a minimum, and you can always make a large batch and eat it cold the next day.
- Eggs. A fried egg over a crisp green salad and croutons is a total treat, and takes three minutes to cook. Hard-boiled eggs take a bit longer, but can be done in larger batches, kept for days, and served completely cold.
I decided to go the hard-boiled route.
Egg and green bean salad
a good vinaigrette (or oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.)
The proportion of eggs to beans is up to you; I like using slightly more beans than eggs.
First, hard-boil your eggs. Everyone has their own best method for this. Since we've moved to our awesome new house, complete with a real powerhouse of a stove, I've changed my method. I put the eggs in the cold pan, cover them with water, and bring them to a boil. After boiling for one minute, covered, I turn off the heat and just let the pot sit for five to six minutes. Then I take out the eggs, rinse them thoroughly in cold water, cover them with ice, and put then in the refrigerator to chill. This produces perfect eggs with a tiny dimple of damp at the center of the yolk. However, since everyone's kitchens are different, you should do whatever works best for you.
While your eggs are chilling, cook your beans. I reuse the hot egg water for this, so as not to deal with multiple pots of boiling water in the middle of July. Just wash the beans, trim them, cut them into bite-size pieces, and boil for about three minutes, or until they're done to your taste. Rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking.
By this time, your eggs should be cool enough to peel. Whack them all over with the back of a spoon, and start peeling at the wide end. Once you get under the membrane, the whole peel should come off pretty easily. If you're having trouble, try peeling the eggs under a little stream of water.
Chop your eggs roughly. Put them in a bowl with your beans and a couple spoonfuls of vinaigrette. Mix, mashing the yolks with the back of a spoon, until there's a faint coating of yolk over all the beans and egg whites. Taste and adjust any seasonings.
Now, how do you want to eat your salad?
- Plain, in a bowl. This is usually my first choice, because I am lazy and this salad is good on its own.
- In a sandwich. Yes. Sounds weird; is awesome. Toast bread (or not), spread with dijon mustard or a touch of olive oil, add salad, lettuce, and whatever other vegetable sounds good (roasted red pepper?), and eat. Awesome.
- In another salad. You know how some delis and diners make tuna or chicken salad plates, featuring a big green salad topped with the prepared meat? You can totally do this with any substantial salad. I actually ended up with both my egg-green bean salad and some carrot salad leftovers, so I decided to use them both. The resulting salad: mesclun mix, egg/bean and carrot salads, chopped grape tomatoes, and finely sliced radishes, with a bare scraping of vinaigrette.
Now eat it. Hooray: cold, vegetable-ridden summer lunch!