5 must-use summer cooking ingredients
From mouth-watering mains to delicious desserts, celebrity chef Christine Cushing is no stranger to healthy recipes. Here are her five must-use ingredients for summer cooking
Healthy summer cooking
“Summer is so much about delicate flavours and lighter fare,” says Christine Cushing, celebrity chef and host of the VIVA’s Fearless in the Kitchen. But “light” doesn’t have to mean unsatisfying! Here are Cushing’s top five ingredients for cooking up healthy meals this summer.
“Chives are easy to grow and they come back every year,” says Cushing. “For people who don’t like the flavour of onion, it’s a much lighter taste.”
Using chives just takes a little imagination. Chop them up and add to any dressing, or mix with dijon mustard, olive oil and lemon juice for a light-tasting, homemade dressing. “They’re great with asparagus, and in omelets,” says Cushing. “Always add them at the end of cooking,” she adds. “This maintains the colour and preserves the flavour.”
Try this recipe: CC’s Crab Cakes with Easy Lime Aioli
“To me, strawberries epitomize summer,” says Cushing. “The thing about strawberries is that they’re special, because they’re only there a certain time of year. And they’re full of flavour-you don’t need to do a lot to them.” Cushing suggests adding a small amount of sugar, some balsamic vinegar and cracked black pepper to your strawberries, then mashing them up and storing them in the freezer. You’ll have a refreshing, light treat with a unique taste.
Cushing also recommends using strawberries to make a delicious summer parfait. To do this, add lemon juice, a touch of honey and mint or basil to your strawberries. Then layer with fresh yogurt, folded with a bit of whipped cream for a more decadent dessert.
Try this recipe: Blooming Lemon Cheesecake with Strawberry and Rhubarb Compote
If you aren’t spending the summer laying on the beach, enjoy the next best thing with a taste of the tropics. “Coconut reminds me right away of the tropics,” says Cushing. “And there are so many things you can do with it. I love the taste of shredded coconut on grilled shrimp.”
When purchasing coconut, it’s best to look for the shredded, non-sweetened variety at your local health food store. Or try using coconut milk and white wine as a light, sweet sauce for fresh clams and fish.
When late summer hits, there’s nothing better than picking up fresh corn at a road-side stand. “It’s a very Canadian thing,” says Cushing. “Corn offers natural sweetness, as well as something colourful.” The best part about corn? It’s barbecue-friendly! “Summer is the time to make use of the barbecue,” says Cushing. “To barbecue corn, just soak it in water with the husk on, and then throw it on the grill.”
Rather than the traditional butter and salt topping, Cushing suggests dressing your corn with lime juice and chili powder-a combination she learned from her sous-chef. “It’s a beautiful harmony of flavours,” she says.
Try this recipe: Corn and Swiss Chard Sauté
Green peppers are delicious, but in the summer, focus on some brighter colours-namely orange, yellow and red peppers. “They’re sweeter, and they look beautiful,” says Cushing. “They really signal the end of the summer season.”
Peppers are all about texture, Cushing says. Whether you’re adding them to a stir-fry for a bit of crunch, or eating them raw as a refreshing snack. You can also roast or barbecue them for a softer feel.
Christine’s healthy cooking tips
Once you’ve got all your healthy ingredients, here are a few tips for making them into a meal:
• Keep the process easy
• Make sure ingredients are fresh
• Learn some simple chopping techniques. “Make sure you have good knives,” stresses Cushing. “Dull knives make everything else a chore.”
• Try not to do everything at once. Pick one ingredient, and work with that.
“To me, it’s all about the experience,” she says. So dive in, and just have fun!