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Stay cool in your kitchen with these cold, summer salads

It’s summer time in the Miss-Lou, and it’s already getting too hot to be in the kitchen. Fresh vegetables are becoming plentiful and there is nothing better than cooking with seasonal ingredients.

This first salad is best served over crisp greens such as romaine. It is a bit overwhelming for soft greens such as spring mix. Don’t mix it with the greens until you are ready to serve or they will wilt.

Greek style salad

2 medium tomatoes cut into wedges

1 zucchini, cut into matchstick sized strips

1 yellow squash, cut into matchstick sized strips

1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced

1 cup pitted ripe olives

1 medium purple onion, cut in half, thinly sliced and separated into thins semi-circles

1 cup feta cheese, drained and crumbled

6-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, reserve marinade

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Mixed greens

Cut the artichoke heart into wedges. Mix the tomatoes, zucchini, squash, cucumber, olives, onion slices, cheese and the artichoke wedges gently together. In a small bowl mix the reserved artichoke marinade, vinegar and pepper. Pour over the vegetable mixture, lightly toss, cover and chill for 6 to 8 hours. Drain and serve over mixed greens.

This fresh light dip is perfect for raw or blanched vegetables. It is traditionally served in Greek restaurants with pita warm from the oven.

Greek yogurt dip

1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded

1 teaspoon coarse salt

2 cups plain yogurt

2 tablespoons lemon juice

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

Place the cucumber on a plate, seeded side up, sprinkle with the salt and let stand for 10 minutes. Pat dry. Grate the cucumber into a bowl, add the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and parsley and stir until blended. Gently whisk in the olive oil. Cover and chill for at least an hour for flavors to meld.

This next recipe was given to me by a friend in Jackson who served it all the time in her catering business. She usually served it warm alongside grilled chicken breast. I love it as a chilled salad. Another way I’ve had it was lightly spooned into a scooped-out tomato, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and lightly broiled.

Spicy brown rice with eggplant and tomatoes

1/2 cup oil

1 medium onion, shopped

2 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup long grain brown rice

2 cups water

1 large eggplant

2 ripe medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

In a medium skillet heat two tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned. Add garlic and cumin and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat 40 minutes or until tender.

While the rice mixture is cooking, peel the eggplant and cut into 1-inch cubes. In another medium skillet heat the remaining oil. Add the eggplant cubes and sauté in batches for about 10 minutes or until very tender. Remove and drain on paper towels. Drain off excess oil and add tomatoes to the skillet and cook until the liquid is completely absorbed. Remove from the heat add the eggplant back to the skillet.

Check the rice, the liquid should be absorbed and the rice tender. Using a fork lightly mix the eggplant and tomatoes into the rice mixture. Cover and let stand 10 minutes.

Christina Hall writes a weekly column for The Democrat. She can be reached at christina.hall@natchezdemocrat.com

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