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Summer school: 5 simple cooking tricks to master

By Carolyn Malcoun, June 9, 2010 - 11:03am

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Summer is a great time of year to learn a few new tricks in the kitchen. It’s warm enough to grill, and there are so many fruits and vegetables—even fish—that are in season right now. Learn the 10 Secrets to Healthy Summer Cooking here.

As a food editor and recipe developer at EatingWell Magazine, I know that once you master a few tricks, cooking is even more fun and delectable. So why not resolve to expand your cooking repertoire and learn some new recipes this summer? I challenge you to cook these 5 recipes this summer.

Why these 5 recipes? They use techniques that you might think are fussy and difficult but really aren’t, or are recipes you should know how to make to enjoy summer’s best foods.

Cooking Trick #1: Perfectly grill a salmon fillet.
Recipe: Grilled Salmon with Tomatoes & Basil (recipe follows)
Grilling fish can be tricky. Make it foolproof by using a sheet of foil to keep the fish juicy while cooking and eliminate the need to flip. This recipe is a simple way to get more fish in your diet. Fatty fish like salmon are rich in omega-3 fats, which support heart health and may help to prevent skin cancer by reducing inflammatory compounds that can promote tumor growth.

Cooking Trick #2: Make an amazing summer fruit pie.
Recipe: Peach-Raspberry Pie
Really, who can resist a pie? Especially when heady peaches and sweet berries are at their best! I know I was nervous to roll out pie dough until I went to culinary school and learned how to do it correctly, so I can totally relate if you’re nervous too! But it’s really not that hard once you get the hang of it. My husband even managed to make an amazing pie without my supervision (which is a big deal for him). When you’re ready to tackle your first pie here are recipes for peach-raspberry pie, apple-blackberry pie and more, plus step-by-step photos to guide you through the process of making flaky, tender pie crust.

Cooking Trick #3: Mix up a signature mocktail or cocktail.
Recipe: Fresh Grape Soda
We entertain more frequently when the temperature rises. One of my favorite things about summer parties is fun, fruity drinks. Added bonus: if you make them with fresh fruits and vegetables, your drinks will be full of antioxidants that keep you healthy. I like to make Fresh Grape Soda, particularly if I’m entertaining a crowd of varying ages, because kids love that I’m making “pop” with real fruit—and adults love it with a little vodka stirred in.

Cooking Trick #4: Cook a potluck dish everyone will want the recipe for.
Recipe: Zucchini Rice Casserole
We inevitably have a couple of different potlucks to go to every month in the summer. Zucchini Rice Casserole is always a crowd pleaser—it’s full of savory bits of sausage and zucchini all mixed up into creamy, cheesy rice.

Cooking Trick #5: Pull together a fast no-cook dinner.
Recipe: Chopped Greek Salad with Chicken
Hey, even if it’s too hot to cook, you still need to eat! And while PB&J is easy to whip up, why not make something a little more nutritious and satisfying? Chopped Greek Salad with Chicken takes advantage of the summer-fresh vegetables that are falling over themselves to be part of your meals at this time of year.


Grilled Salmon with Tomatoes & Basil
Makes: 4 servings
Active time: 30 minutes | Total: 30 minutes
This recipe is so beautiful and yet so simple to prepare—it’s perfect for entertaining. You just spread a side of salmon with minced garlic, sprinkle with fresh basil, then layer sliced tomatoes on top. Put it on the grill for 10 minutes and you’re done! Shopping Tip: Wild-caught salmon from the Pacific (Alaska and Washington) are more sustainably fished and have a larger, more stable population. For more information, visit Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch,

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole wild salmon fillet (also called a “side of salmon,” about 1 1/2 pounds; see Shopping Tip, above)
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat grill to medium.
2. Mash minced garlic and 3/4 teaspoon salt on a cutting board with the side of a chef’s knife or a spoon until a paste forms. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in oil.
3. Check the salmon for pin bones and remove if necessary (see Tip, below). Measure out a piece of heavy-duty foil (or use a double layer of regular foil) large enough for the salmon fillet. Coat the foil with cooking spray. Place the salmon skin-side down on the foil and spread the garlic mixture all over it. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup basil. Overlap tomato slices on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.
4. Transfer the salmon on the foil to the grill. Grill until the fish flakes easily, 10 to 12 minutes. Use two large spatulas to slide the salmon from the foil to a serving platter. Serve the salmon sprinkled with the remaining 1/4 cup basil.

Per serving: 248 calories; 10 g fat (2 g sat, 5 g mono); 80 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbohydrate; 0 g added sugars; 35 g protein; 1 g fiber; 367 mg sodium; 799 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Potassium (23% daily value), Vitamin A (22% dv), Vitamin C (18% dv), Magnesium (15% dv).

Tip: Depending on how your side of salmon was prepared at the market, small white pin bones may still be in the fillet. We suggest removing them before you cook the fish. To remove the bones, place your hand underneath the fillet to bend it up slightly, exposing the row of bones running down the length—they will poke out of the flesh and point at an angle toward the wider end of the fillet. Grasp each bone with a clean pair of tweezers or needle-nose pliers and gently pull it out in the direction of the wide end of the fillet.

What recipe would you like to learn to make this summer? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Carolyn Malcoun, Food Blog, Dessert, Dinner, Entertaining

Carolyn Malcoun
A graduate of New England Culinary Institute and University of Wisconsin with a degree in journalism, Carolyn pairs her long-standing love for food with writing as EatingWell's senior food editor. Carolyn’s culinary interest is rooted in her childhood; she grew up making thousands of Christmas cookies every year with her mom and picking leaves off bunches of parsley to make tabbouleh with her dad. Away from the kitchen, Carolyn enjoys seeking out rare craft beers and exploring the outdoors with her husband, young daughter and dog.

Carolyn asks: What recipe would you like to learn to make this summer?

Tell us what you think:

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