Cool Summer Cooking

greens potatoes w
Dinner baked outside = cool kitchen inside

When I used to visit my grandparents in the 1980s, the original 1940 gas stove was installed in the basement, having been replaced by a 1960-something model.  It was a beautiful appliance, porcelainized with that granite finish still seen on some cookware, and which looked nice for decades more than my 1990s white-finish gas stove.  The house had no air conditioning, and that stove was used all summer to reduce heat added to the main floor of the house.

Today many houses have air conditioning, but in the interest of energy conservation and comfort, as well as channeling the spirit of my grandmother, I don’t use the oven from May through September.

There are so many different small kitchen appliances that they are their own category of clutter.  Many promise, at least in the advertising copy, that holy grail of cooking: dinner without any actual work or time.  I’ve tried my share of them, and know that dinner without any work or time usually isn’t worth eating (unless the work and time were previously done, otherwise known as leftovers).

Small appliances can be tremendously convenient, though, for cooking outside of the kitchen – including cooking outside, keeping the house cool in the summer, and also reducing indoor humidity.  Added to the grill, they expand summer cooking options:

Slow cooker: dried beans, granola, fish, and all the slow cooker standards

Toaster oven: Anything that’s usually baked and can fit.  My toaster oven can hold a 6- muffin tin, a loaf pan, a 9″ pie plate, or an 11×9 rectangular dish.  Small baking pans can be easily sourced at thrift shops.

Grill: pizza and other flatbreads, vegetables, and the usual grilled fare

Today I had more of our endless stream of garden greens, some gigantic onions, and the end of a bag of potatoes.  So I made

Greens and Potato Gratin

This has flavors similar to spanakopita without the bother of a crust.

Preheat toaster oven to 350F.  Oil an 11×7 baking dish.  Scale recipe accordingly if this is too large for your toaster oven.

Steam until tender:
6-8 c chopped kale or collard greens
½ large onion, chopped

Microwave or steam until tender:
5 small red potatoes

Saute over low heat until soft and browning but not caramelized:
½ large onion, finely sliced lengthwise

Slice the potatoes.

Add to the greens/onions mixture
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp dill
black pepper to taste
salt if desired (feta is salty)

Add half of the greens/onions mixture, then top with ½ of the onions and ½ of the potatoes. Brush potatoes with olive oil and repeat layers. Sprinkle more olive oil and feta over the top layer of potatoes if desired.

Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes when everything is hot on assembly.

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