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Ask Casey: Hot-Weather Cooking

Ask Casey: Cooking and Kitchen Questions Answered

I’m cooking dinner for my parents…but it’s August and I don’t want to heat my apartment. What can I cook that doesn’t involve the oven and a minimal amount of long boiling pots?

This is a tough call for me, because I am a full-fledged kitchen sado-masochist. I have no compunction about turning on the oven in 90-degree weather, torturing myself and my extra-furry, extra-sheddy cats in the pursuit of delicious cherry pies, peach galettes, the best breakfast bread, and even mac and cheese. But maybe it’s time to rethink my ways.

I mentioned this in my compound butter post, but if you don’t have an outdoor grill, the next best item might not be a stovetop grill pan but a toaster oven. When I’m feeling lazy, I’ll just throw my dinner protein in there instead of firing up the burners.

True, the following recipe doesn’t work when you’re making an entire roast chicken or pork tenderloin, but unless you’re a crazy person like me, you’re not contemplating this on an August weekend anyway. Go for smaller portions, like lamb chops (10 minutes at 450 degrees F for medium-rare, slathered with rosemary butter upon removal) or my summer take on what the Italians call involtini (basically a meat roll).

As a side, salads are obvious solutions for a course that doesn’t involve the oven or stove, but as the garden lettuces start to fade away, how about making a peach caprese? Just substitute peaches for tomatoes (a good idea considering this summer’s tomato blight) layered with fresh mozzarella and drizzled with your best olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add a little mint to the traditional basil chiffonade to further the sweet/savory connection.

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Sicilian Chicken Involtini

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup chopped golden raisins
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Mix the bread crumbs, parsley, rosemary, orange zest, and golden raisins together in a bowl. Lay the chicken thighs flat on a work surface, sprinkle with salt and pepper, fill with the mixture as if you were assembling a burrito, and roll each up into a neat little package.

If you were doing these in a real oven, I’d recommend tying with twine or stabbing with toothpicks, but it can get dangerous when doing this in a toaster oven. Carefully move the rolls over to your foil-lined toaster oven pan, brush the tops lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper once more.

Preheat a toaster oven to 375 degrees F.

Line the toaster pan with parchment paper and place 4 of the rolls on the prepared pan.

Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the chicken is browned and the juices run clear. Repeat with the remaining 4 rolls. Please note that cook times vary in toaster ovens vs. big ovens, so always keep an eye on your creations.

If you don’t have a toaster oven, this can be done stovetop-style too. You don’t have to brush with olive oil—just brown the rolls in a bit of butter and olive oil over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, then flip, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low until the rolls are cooked through, about 7 minutes.

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Ask Casey about anything food-related (unfortunately, I’m not very good at answering home improvement questions or giving advice on housebreaking puppies) at caseyATgoodfoodstoriesDOTcom.

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