Grilled steaks weren’t the only thing sizzling on the back patio this weekend. With temperatures pushing into the mid 90s the only thing wilting faster than the flowers in my Tiki garden was me.

As written in an earlier column, Paul and I try to keep indoor cooking to a minimum from mid-June through mid-September. As much as we love sandwiches other flavors call to us and eventually the grill, smoker or slow cooker get fired up.

Cooking first thing in the morning before things heat up or in the evening when the sun sets certainly is an option. Cooking a chicken or roast and keeping it for a meal later in the week saves time and decision making when you are under the gun to prepare a quick meal.

Kalua pork

A tasty option for a picnic or small gathering is kalua pork and cabbage cooked in a slow cooker. Don’t get too excited, kalua refers to a cooking style and not the tasty coffee-flavored liquor. This one pot dish is excellent served on those amazing rosemary rolls made by Little Red Hen Bakery or Kings Hawaiian rolls. 

Ingredients:

8 bacon strips, divided

1 3-to-4 pound boneless pork shoulder, Boston butt roast, well trimmed

1 tablespoon kosher salt or sea salt (table salt will work as well, just add a little more)

Dash of garlic powder

Black pepper to taste

1 small head of cabbage, cored and chopped coarsely

Line the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker with four strips of bacon. Sprinkle all sides of the roast with the salt, garlic and pepper. Place in slow cooker and lay the last four strips of the bacon across the top and over the sides of the roast. 

Cook covered on medium-low about 6 to 8 hours or until the pork is tender. Add cabbage and cook an additional hour. Remove the roast and place on a large cutting board or in a roasting pan, Shred the pork with two forks, removing any fat you find. Place the shredded pork back in the slow cooker with the cabbage and stir everything together in the juices. Serve on a roll or on a plate. A fresh fruit salad with berries, pineapple and banana is excellent with this dish, as it cuts the richness of the meat.

Asparagus chicken salad with Italian cream dressing

Salad ingredients:

1 pound fresh asparagus

1½ cups of cooked, chopped chicken (grilled, roasted or a rotisserie bird will do) 

3 cups of lettuce (iceberg is nice, but romaine or spinach will work)

¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted

¼ cup fresh parsley

1½ tablespoons raisins

1 red apple, unpeeled

Italian cream dressing ingredients: 

³/4 cup sour cream

¼ cup of crumbled blue cheese or Gorgonzola

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Black pepper

Remove the tough ends of the asparagus and use a vegetable peeler to remove the scales. Cook asparagus in a small amount of boiling water for 3 minutes. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process. When cool, drain the water and cut the asparagus into 1½ inch pieces. Reserve a few pieces for a garnish. 

Combine the asparagus and next five ingredients in a large bowl. Halve the apple and cut into ½-inch cubes. Save the rest for garnish. Place salad on a large serving platter or in a bowl. 

Whisk together all the salad dressing ingredients. Garnish the salad with the remaining asparagus and apple pieces. Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Serve in chilled bowls or plates. This salad is hearty enough to be served as a main dish. 

Tasty cucumber slices

Cucumbers are coming up quick and soon you may be overwhelmed with your cukes and have no idea what to do with them. If you are not a canner consider making this quick recipe. These are  great as a side dish, snack or on a sandwich with herbed cream cheese.

Ingredients:

3 or 4 cucumbers, sliced

2 medium white onions, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon of dill weed

1 cup sugar

½ cup vinegar

½ cup water

1 teaspoon salt

In a medium bowl, combine cucumbers, onions and dill weed. In a medium saucepan combine sugar, vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a boil. Pour over the cucumber/onion mixture. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill three hours or overnight.

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