By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
When it comes time to prepare meals in the summer, Ken Stenback wants you to think outside the box.
Stenback is a senior executive chef for Morrison Management Specialists, which provides food and nutrition services for North Mississippi Health Services.
“Let’s take salsa,” said Stenback, a former executive chef for NASCAR who moved to Tupelo from Virginia. “Everybody thinks of salsa as tomato-based, but you can do fruit salsa, avocado salsa, citrus salsa. Fruit salsa is an excellent accompaniment to white fish.”
And speaking of fruit, Stenback wants you to put it on the grill.
“People don’t think about grilling fruit,” he said. “You can grill watermelon, grapefruit, oranges, pineapple. You can grill a fruit kebab and put a little drizzle of chocolate over it. Then everybody is happy.” Grilled vegetables are also tasty.
“You can do more than steaks on the grill,” he said. “Put a castiron skillet on the grill and sauté some fresh vegetables in it. A grilled Caesar salad will knock your socks off. Or make a toasted corn salad. Grill the corn on the cob, cut it off, and mix it with peppers and onions, maybe a little tomato. Grilling completely changes the taste of corn. It sweetens it and gives it a smoky flavor.”
Grilling is one way to keep from heating up the kitchen. Another is to pull out the slow cooker.
“The Crock-Pot is a great way of doing things,” he said. “You can do everything from baked breads to you name it.”
Stenback deals with two menus: one for fall and winter, and another for spring and summer.
“Foods do change,” he said. “In the cold months, you want stews, casseroles, winter squashes. In the summer, you want lighter fare, like wraps, grilled items and seasonal vegetables. In the winter, you want an Alfredo or a Bolognese sauce over pasta. In the summer, you go more with a vinaigrette-style sauce.”
And there’s a scientific reason for that, too. “You eat more hearty foods in the winter – stick to your ribs, so they say – more meats, more stews, more fats to keep your body temperature up,” he said. “Eskimos eat blubber to keep them warm in winter. In the summer, you want to eat more fruits and vegetables because of their high water content. You want to eat as much fruit as you can possibly imagine. This is the best time of year for fresh fruit.”
You can also purchase canned tuna, a rotisserie chicken or smoked salmon from the grocery store and add them to pasta for a cool summer meal.
“You really want to get away from the heavy-duty meats in the summer,” he said. “You want broiled or grilled fish, like tilapia or yellow tail. Make a pasta salad with fresh herbs, tomatoes, avocados and mushrooms. Use tofu if you don’t want meat. If you do want meat, add some canned salmon or steamed shrimp from the store.”
Stenback said summer is the time to lose a lot of the extra fat we tend to add to food.
“Get the breading off and the fat out of there in the summer,” he said. “Most people do most of their frying in the winter – everywhere except in Mississippi. Here, I think they’d fry water if they could.”
Creamy Avocado & White Bean Wrap
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 medium carrot, shredded
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 can white beans, rinsed
1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons minced red onion
4 (8-10 inch) whole wheat wraps or tortillas
Whisk vinegar, oil, chipotle chile and salt in a medium bowl. Add cabbage, carrot and cilantro; toss to combine.
Mash beans and avocado in another medium bowl with a potato masher or fork. Stir in cheese and onion.
To assemble the wraps, spread about 1/2 cup of the bean-avocado mixture onto a wrap (or tortilla) and top with about 2/3 cup of the cabbage-carrot slaw. Roll up. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Cut the wraps in half to serve, if desired.
Per serving: 411 calories; 18g fat; 4g sat; 7g mono; 15mg cholesterol; 50g carbohydrates; 13g protein; 13g fiber; 633mg sodium; 396mg potassium.
Mediterranean Tuna Antipasto Salad
1 can beans, such as chickpeas, black-eyed peas or kidney beans, rinsed
2 (5-6 ounce) cans water packed chunk light tuna, drained and flaked
1 large red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
4 teaspoons capers, rinsed
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup lemon juice, divided
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 cups mixed salad greens
Combine beans, tuna, bell pepper, onion, parsley, capers, rosemary, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 2 tablespoons oil in a medium bowl. Season with pepper. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons oil and salt in a large bowl. Add salad greens; toss to coat. Divide the greens among 4 plates. Top each with the tuna salad.
Per serving: 326 calories; 17g fat; 2g sat; 11g mono; 17mg cholesterol; 28g carbohydrates; 22g protein; 10g fiber; 652mg sodium; 681mg potassium.
Grilled Caesar Salad
2 hearts of Romaine lettuce
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Cut hearts of Romaine in half lengthwise, leaving the core on. Drizzle each piece with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Place flat-side down on a hot grill, right on the grate. Grill about 30 seconds, then slip to the other side and grill 30 seconds. Place each piece on a serving plate, drizzle with Caesar dressing and sprinkle with Parmesan.
Cut French baguette in half and drizzle cut sides with olive oil and garlic powder. Grill cut-side down until golden brown. Cut into large wedges and serve alongside salad or cut into cubes and use as croutons.