Hot Weather Cooking — Beat the Heat Aboard

Hot Weather DiningCooking while cruising in hot climates can be daunting. Cruisers in places like Central America or the Sea of Cortez in the summer tend to eat out, or make meals aboard of cold food or easily prepared snacks. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to have a wonderful dinner aboard while still keeping your cool. The following menu is one of my favorite hot weather meals which avoids adding heat to the cabin and is still elegant enough for company!

Poach chicken breasts in the morning while its still cool.

Poach chicken breasts in the morning while it’s still cool.

You can poach the chicken early in the morning during the coolest part of the day, then put it in the fridge covered with poaching water until dinner time.  The avocado sauce is made just before serving. The peppers can be roasted on the grill early in the day, prepared at your leisure, and served at room temperature. The yellow or saffron rice is made in the rice cooker, rather than turning on a stove burner.  Have another cool drink and enjoy!

Poached Chicken with Avocado Sauce

Ingredients for Poached Chicken:

  • 1 small onion, halved or quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 black peppercorns (or some ground pepper)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast

Ingredients for Avocado Sauce:

  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt, sour cream, or crema
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons reserved poaching water
  • 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce

Place onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt in a large skillet, add a couple of inches of water, and bring just to a simmer.  Add the chicken, adding more water if necessary to cover the chicken, cover the pot, and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or so.  When done, the chicken breasts will be about 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer, or the juices will run clear when pricked with a fork.  Make sure to reserve some of the poaching water for the avocado sauce.  Transfer chicken to a bowl or plastic container, cover with poaching water, and let cool to room temperature.  Cover the container and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Just before serving, combine all the sauce ingredients in a food processor or blender (or smush by hand) until smooth.  Serve the chicken breasts whole, or attractively sliced on the diagonal.  Top each breast with 2 tablespoons of avocado sauce and serve the remaining sauce on the side.  Garnish with additional chives, if you have some.

Roasted Pepper Salad:

  • 6 large bell peppers of various colors (I generally use red, green, and yellow)
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil (substitute 2 teaspoons dried basil)
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped (optional)
Peppers are grilled until the outsides are heavily charred.

Peppers are grilled until the outsides are heavily charred.

Roast the peppers on a hot grill, turning frequently, until thoroughly charred on all sides (about 15 – 20 minutes).  Remove the peppers from the grill and immediately place in a paper bag or wrap in aluminum foil.  Let stand until cool enough to handle.

Peppers are put in a closed paper bag hot off the grill. The steam will loosen the skin so it slips off when they are cooled.

Peppers are put in a closed paper bag hot off the grill.

Once the peppers have cooled in the bag or foil, you can easily remove the charred skins with your fingers or a thin knife.  Remove the core, seeds, and ribs.  Rinse the skinned peppers to remove any black bits, then slice into 1″ wide strips and arrange on a platter or in an attractive bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, garlic, salt, black pepper, basil, and oil.  Pour the dressing over the peppers and garnish with parsley and, if desired, capers.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yellow or Saffron Rice

A Yellow Rice mix can be prepared in the rice cooker.

A Yellow Rice mix can be prepared in the rice cooker.

Okay, by this time you can feel virtuous about your “from scratch” cooking and resort to a rice mix to round out your dinner.  Place the contents of a box of yellow rice mix in your rice cooker along with all of the ingredients listed in the package directions, usually water and butter or oil.  Start the rice cooker and ignore until it’s done.  Instant colorful side dish!

Now you’re ready for company! If you’re really ambitious, you can add an easy appetizer or a dessert of fresh fruit or cookies.

Fair winds and following seas,

Heather, The Cruising Cook


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