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What’s Cooking in Bryan County: If you can’t stand the heat, don’t heat up the kitchen
Libby Hires
Libby Hires

Libby Hires

Local Cooking Columnist

The cooler breezes in the evening have been so welcoming compared to the usual hotter days we have this time of the year. Yes, Mother Nature has been having problems with her hormones again. Those hot flashes made her turn on the air conditioning a bit, I think. I’ve been trying to tell y’all about her!

Even though the calendar doesn’t proclaim the summer solstice until later this month, Memorial Day Weekend seems to be the unofficial kickoff for the season’s festivities. Even though I dread the humidity, bugs, and scorching heat the “J” months bring, the peace offering of fresh fruit and other produce it also generates appeases me.

Remember that adage, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen!”? Well, if you can’t stand the heat, don’t heat up the kitchen. It’s Coastal Georgia for Pete’s sake! Make use of that fresh produce for no-cook meals. Now is the time to take advantage of great local produce at farmer’s markets, too! Support our Georgia farmers! Of course, I’m going to take you to the Mediterranean this week with these recipe offerings. Try these tempting salads that are easy to make, satisfy your taste buds, AND beat the heat!

Caprese Salad

(This is very pretty served on a plate with the drizzle of balsamic dressing. For extra color, use different types of tomatoes, but make sure they are at the peak of ripeness, but not too ripe!)

3 large tomatoes, sliced 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, drained and sliced 1 handful of fresh sweet basil leaves 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon cherry balsamic vinegar (or your favorite balsamic vinegar) * Sea salt and black pepper to taste Directions: Layer salad plates with alternating slices of tomatoes, mozzarella, and a basil leaf.

Keep chilled till ready to serve or serve immediately. Mix oil and vinegar. Drizzle lightly over salad. (Great served with hot pita points or Italian bread.)

*Can use 3 TBSP of your favorite vinaigrette dressing if you prefer.

Just be sure to drizzle a small amount right before serving.

Mamma Mia Caprese Salad (This is the mad-dash Caprese Salad that’s an Italian Mamma’s tossed salad when she wants a caprese salad, the kids want it, and well, who cares about the lay out?)

4 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved 1 cup fresh sweet basil (or ½ cup basil and ½ cup chopped romaine hearts) 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, drained and cubed your favorite vinaigrette, sea salt and ground pepper to taste Directions: Toss all ingredients except the vinaigrette, salt, and ground pepper. Allow salad to chill for about 30 minutes. Serve in individual dishes with drizzles of vinaigrette and dashes of sea salt and ground pepper to taste.

Greek Salad

2 packages (10 ounces) mixed salad greens or 2 lb. freshly chopped romaine lettuce 3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives 1 pound plum or grape tomatoes (cut into halves, if desired) 1 small red onion, thinly sliced 2 medium cucumbers, peeled, cut into slices 1 package (4 ounces) crumbled Feta cheese, or to taste Prepared Greek vinaigrette dressing Directions: In a large bowl, toss together lightly all ingredients except dressing and cheese. Add dressing, tossing again to coat or serve dressing along side of salad for personal preference of the consumer.

Goes great with warm pita bread!

Libby Hires is a local cooking legend and one of our favorite writers.

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