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Quick Food for Hot Days! (July 9, 2009)

Summer finally got here, and no one wants to spend time in the kitchen when the weather is so glorious! Local fresh fruits and vegetables are available; farmer's markets and pick-your-own farms are open at last. Make use of the bounty and increase your outdoor time all in one! So here's a delicious collection of quick, incredibly tasty recipes that go from kitchen to table in about 30 minutes!

We love recipes from Australia; they're inventive and fresh, and they draw on the increasingly mixed character of Down Under. The hands-down dear old favourite, Australian Women's Weekly magazine, sent us their latest little cookbook, 4 Fast Ingredients, a collection of ultra-fast recipes each using only 4 or less ingredients plus in-pantry items in each. As Pamela Clark, the Food Director, says, "This book was tailor-made for you if: 1. You want to sit down at the table and feed your family or friends a delicious and healthy meal; 2. You have little or no time to cook; 3. Both you and your pantry are well organized; and 4. You prefer to work with fresh, simple ingredients that don't cost a fortune." Sounds like you? You'll love this booklet!

We always keep talented Michael Chiarello's Casual Cookbook: Wine Country Recipes for Family and Friends close to hand; it's full of Napa-inspired dishes with a huge pleasure quotient – you'll love this summer time choice! The book is a great read as well, with lovely photographs and stories of Chiarello's life in the Napa Valley. A must have!

Another top 10 on our cookbook list is A Flash in the Pan, a collection of fast, fabulous recipes each done in a single skillet. Authors Brooke Dojny and Melanie Barnard keep the ingredient list low and the flavours high with exciting ingredients and condiments. Best of all, only one pot to wash after the meal!

Our DNA is partly American Southern, so it goes almost without saying that The Best of Southern Living Cookbook, with more than 500 recipes from this treasured magazine of Dixie, is one of our bibles! Our pick this time is a variation of our favourite key lime pie; it's got added excitement with the addition of orange liqueur and tequila! Olé, honey chile!

On today's menu:

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Tomato Steak with Baked Goat Cheese and Herb Salad

Oh, Michael, you always have the best ideas... and, like you, they're so attractive! The salad looks best when the tomato slice and the goat cheese slice are about the same size, so choose tomatoes and cheese log accordingly.

Chef Chiarello adds that edible flowers would be a nice addition to the herb salad, if you have them. Anything you say...

From Michael Chiarello's Casual Cookbook: Wine Country Recipes for Family and Friends.

Serves 4

  • ¼ cup fine dried bread crumbs
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp water
  • 1 egg
  • 4 rounds fresh goat cheese, about 2 ounces each
  • 4 thick, ripe beefsteak tomato slices
  • 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the salad
  • 2 cups lightly packed mixed tender fresh her leaves such as basil, chervil, tarragon, Italian flat leaf parsley, chives or young cress
  • Red wine vinegar

In a small, shallow bowl, mix the bread crumbs with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the water and work it in with your fingers to moisten the crumbs lightly. In another small, shallow bowl, beat the egg just until blended. Dip one flat surface of each goat cheese round in the egg, and then in the bread crumbs, patting the crumbs in place. Repeat on the other flat surface, leaving the sides of the rounds, uncoated. Refrigerate the coated cheese for about 15 minutes.

Center the tomato slices on 4 salad plates. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over moderately light heat. Add 2 tsp olive oil. When the oil is almost smoking, add the cheese rounds, one coated-side down. Cook until lightly browned, about 45 seconds, then turn and cook on the second side until the cheese just feels quivery, about 45 second longer, depending on the thickness of the rounds. Place a cheese round on each tomato slice.

In a bowl, toss the herbs with a splash of red wine vinegar, a light drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Mound the herbs on top of the cheese, dividing them evenly. Serve immediately.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Sauvignon Blanc – Loire, New Zealand, Ontario


Thai-Style Beef and Lettuce Wraps

A Flash in the Pan gives us just that: fast and fabulous meals in a single skillet. Hungry? Friends walking in the door? Whip up this Beef Council winner up in a few minutes; it's not only scrumptious, it's a social ice-breaker with the hands-on fun of rolling the seasoned meat mixture into a soft lettuce leaf to create the cute, fat, cigar-shaped wraps. Add some Asian noodles tossed with fresh cilantro or a tangy rice salad and you've got dinner!

Serves 4

  • 1¼ pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ½ cup Asian peanut sauce (available at most markets)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled seeded and chopped (about 1¼ cups)
  • ½ cup torn mint leaves, plus springs for garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 12 large Boston lettuce leaves

In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, cook the beef and onions, breaking up the meat into small clumps with the side of a spoon, until the meat browns and the onions soften, about 8 minutes. Spoon off any excess fat. Add the peanut sauce, soy sauce, cucumber and mint, and stir well to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon some of the beef mixture into a lettuce leaf, fold in the sides, roll up and garnish each wrap with a mint sprig. (Or pass the ingredients for the wraps and let each person make her own.)

We think: add a few drops hot sauce if you like a spicier version.

On the table: 30 minutes or less!

Tony's wine recommendation:
Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or Chilean Maipo Valley Merlot


Prawn Skewers with Lime and Green Onions

Well, one glance at that photo and you know this recipe will serve two at best... We just love this recipe for its simplicity and burst of flavour. The sweet shrimp is offset by the lime and onion, and ohhhh it comes together by the time you have the wine opened and poured. Another skewer? Why thank you!

From Australian Women's Weekly 4 Fast Ingredients.

Serves 4

    Pantry staples
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
    What to buy:
  • 36 medium uncooked prawns (1.5 kg)
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 3 green onions

Peel and devein prawns, leaving tails intact.

Combine prawns, lime juice, oil and garlic in large bowl.

Cut green onions into 4 cm lengths. Thread 3 prawns onto each of the 12 skewers, threading a piece of green onion after each prawn.

Cook skewers in heated oiled grill pan (or grill on barbecue) until browned on both sides and just cooked through.

Tip: The prawns can be marinated in a lime mixture for up to 1 hour. If you are using metal skewers, oil them first to prevent the prawns sticking. And don't forget, they will be very hot after cooking if using bamboo skewers. It is best to soak them in water for at least 1 hour before using.

On the table: 35 minutes

Tony's wine recommendation:
Chablis, unoaked Ontario Chardonnay or Muscadet


Chicken Tikka Drumettes

Another fave appetizer or small meal; these will disappear in seconds when put on a platter. Indian recipes can be so intricate that they are sometimes off-putting – trust the Aussies to streamline and simplify without sacrificing any of those flavours we crave. Please pass the plate!

From Australian Women's Weekly 4 Fast Ingredients.

Serves 4

    What to buy:
  • 12 chicken drumettes (960 g)
  • 1/3 cup tikka masala paste (100 g)
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (140 g)
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh coriander

Preheat oven to moderately hot, 350°F.

Place chicken in large bowl with combined paste and 2 Tbsp yogurt; toss to coat chicken in paste mixture. Place chicken in single layer, on wire rack in large baking dish. Roast, uncovered, in moderately hot oven about 20 minutes or until chicken is browned and cooked through.

Meanwhile, combine coriander and remaining yogurt in small bowl. Serve chicken drizzled with yogurt mixture and accompanied by steamed rice, lime pickle and pappadums, if desired.

Tip: Chicken can be prepared a day ahead.

On the table: 35 minutes

Tony's wine recommendation:
Riesling Spätlese Trocken or Viognier


Margarita-Key Lime Pie with Gingersnap Crust

"Fine, how you?" Well, much better, thank you, now that we've found this superannuated version of our cherished key lime pie. Orange liqueur? Tequila? Oh my! While you do have to cool the dessert before serving, it goes together in 25 minutes, a mere trifle in our day! Make in the morning and serve at night. What could be better, y'all?

Serves 8 or so

  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup fresh key lime juice (or regular lime juice)
  • ¼ cup orange liqueur
  • ¼ cup tequila
  • 1 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tsp grated lime rind
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • Gingersnap crust (recipe follows)
  • Garnishes: lime rind curls, sweetened whipped cream
  1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, 20 minutes or until temperature reaches 165°F; remove from heat. Stir in lime rind; cool 2 hours or until completely cooled.
  2. Beat whipping cream at high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Fold into egg mixture. Spoon into gingersnap crust.
  3. Freeze 2 hours or until firm. Let stand 20 minutes before cutting. Garnish, if desired. Store in refrigerator.

Gingersnap Crust

  • ¾ cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
  • 18 gingersnap cookies, crumbled
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  1. Stir together all ingredients. Press into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate.
  2. Bake at 350°F for 8 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Riesling Icewine, Beaumes-de-Venise, Sauternes


We wish to thank the following for permission to publish recipes and photographs:

Publishers Group Canada, Whitecap Books, Ltd, Canada and ACP Magazines Australia for 4 Fast Ingredients, Pamela Clark, food director, The Australian Women's Weekly. ©ACP Magazines Ltd 2006. For more information, go to

Raincoast Books, Vancouver and Chronicle Books, San Francisco for Casual Cooking by Michael Chiarello with Janet Fletcher. Text © 2002 NapaStyle Inc. Photographs © Deborah Jones.
And for A Flash in the Pan by Brooke Dojny and Melanie Barnard. Text © 2003 Brooke Dojny and Melanie Barnard. Photographs © 2003 Maren Caruso.

Raincoast Books, Vancouver and Oxmoor House, Inc. for The Best of Southern Living Cookbook. © 2008 by Oxmoor House, Inc.


Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

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