Thursday, July 2, 2009

Summer Cooking

Okay, call me crazy, but summer isn't my favourite season. I don't suffer scorching days and humid nights easily, and get especially frazzled when they stretch, one upon the next, for weeks on end. It's because of this, cooking – which I normally love doing – becomes a dreaded chore. Standing over the stove, adding even more heat to an already over-warm house, ratchets up my level of exhaustion. Hours later, that heat still lingers, too. I'd fast if summer didn't last so long.

For this reason, most of our summer cooking is done outdoors, on the barbeque. It's surprising just how much of the day's meals can be prepared on an outdoor grill. Ours is a propane model, which is not a favourite amongst many grilling aficionados but it works fastest and easiest as stove-top replacement. Even without using the side-burner, the grill top can function well as a cooking surface. Cast iron pans, grills, and griddles, as well as heavy-gauge metal pots and pans (with heat resistant handles) work well on the grill top, which happens to also be one of the best places to cook pizzas, in my opinion.

An added bonus of cooking this way is the economy of it. I stumbled upon this saving when comparing our household energy costs for the same months in other years when the stovetop was still being used. Energy costs had changed, obviously, so I evaluated the savings by kilowatt hours. The difference was significant. Then, I calculated the dollar savings and compared that with the total cost of propane refills over the same season, and found using the barbeque cost us about half of what our energy supplier would have charged us had we cooked indoors on the stove. The difference was so stark I actually did the calculations twice, just to be sure.

Not everything needs cooking, either. One of my favourite summer drinks, homemade iced tea, would normally require making fresh, hot tea, but can also be made using the sun's heat. Here's my version of "Sun Tea":

  • In a 2-quart glass jar, use two (or more) teabags, depending on desired strength, immersed in a gallon of tap water (or filtered water, if necessary.)
  • Add to this, half a lemon, sliced thinly.
  • After sealing the jar, place on a doorstep, porch, or sunny window ledge, to "steep" under a hot sun for about five hours, minimum.
  • When the tea has reached its desired strength, remove the lemon and teabags and add sugar, to taste, while the fluid is still hot.
  • Stir until sugar is dissolved and then chill the tea thoroughly before serving.

Cheers to staying cool!