Screen Your Hearing By Telephone. Free for AARP Members for a limited time. Learn More

3 Hot (as in Spicy) Dishes for Summer

In some cultures, when the temperature rises, the food has heat

En español | Hot, spicy foods feature prominently in the equatorial countries — Mexico, India and the Caribbean islands, for example. The reasoning: If you eat something hot, you sweat, and that cools you down. You're also likely to rehydrate. It's why bars set out those complimentary spicy-hot, salty snacks — to boost the bar tab.

Spicy Salmon Vera Cruz Foil Packets (

Spicy salmon Veracruz and other hot dishes can help you cool down during the summertime. —

So, deep into the sweltering days of summer, I'm considering this time-honored antidote and adding a little kick to my meals.

Fresh jalapeno provides the subtle heat in Spicy Salmon Vera Cruz Foil Packets, but the prep and cooking techniques are pretty cool.

Toss all of the ingredients together, divide the mixture into portions and put each atop heavy-duty foil, then seal. Cook them for just eight minutes in a blistering-hot covered grill, where the packet contents are pressure-steamed. Remove the packets from the grill and let them sit for a couple of minutes.

The residual heat will gently cook them to perfection. If you want bolder heat (the spicy kind), add a generous pinch of cayenne pepper or hot red pepper flakes to the mix.

See also: Unique grilling recipes for summer

Spicy Grilled Shrimp With Sweet Chili Sauce and Cilantro features two different forms of heat. Before grilling the shrimp, toss them with sriracha (Thai) or chili garlic sauce (Vietnamese) — similar chili concoctions made with vinegar, salt and little sugar. These spicy sauces provide not only the first layer of heat but also enough sugar to encourage browning.

Once the shrimp come off the grill, toss them with bold, sweet Thai chili sauce, balancing the sweet with sour lime and fresh cilantro. The shrimp make a superb appetizer or first course, but you can also serve them with a side of rice and stir-fried vegetables as a main course.

Chopped green chilies, chili powder, salsa — radishes even — all heat up Spicy 7-Layer Chicken Tostadas. For bold heat, opt for hot chili powder and extra-spicy salsa. And for extra kick, don't forget to set out bottles of hot sauce. These days I'm drawn to the green hot sauces and those that feature smoky chipotles.

The next time it's 80 degrees at 7 a.m., forget the frozen pops and iced tea. Reach for the cayenne, hot pepper flakes and spicy chili powder — and cool down, Tijuana-style.

Spicy Salmon Veracruz Foil Packets

Serves 4

If you don't have a gas grill or don't feel like firing it up, just adjust the rack to its lowest position and roast the foil packs on a rimmed baking sheet in a 500-degree oven for 15 minutes.

If you don't have dry sherry, substitute a little white wine. And if you don't have fresh basil, use a few teaspoons of dried basil instead.

  • 4 center-cut salmon fillets (1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds)
  • 1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 4 each: large garlic cloves and scallions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup sliced pimento-stuffed olives
  • 1/4 cup each: extra-virgin olive oil and dry sherry
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and minced
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Heat a gas grill, igniting all burners on high for at least 10 minutes.

Mix all ingredients, including a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper, in a large bowl. Divide mixture among four 12-by-18-inch sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bringing long sides together, fold foil over about 1/2 inch; crimp to seal. Repeat folding and crimping twice more. Fold ends in twice to seal completely.

Set packets on hot rack; cover and grill for 8 minutes. Remove from grill; let stand for 3 minutes before opening. Serve.

See also: Grilled Mahi-Mahi & Asparagus with Lemon Butter

Spicy 7-Layer Chicken Tostadas

Serves 6

  • 6 medium (about 8-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 can (16 ounces) refried beans
  • 1 can (4.5 ounces) chopped green chilies
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 3 cups cooked shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) of your favorite prepared salsa
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon light or regular mayonnaise
  • 6 ounces (1-1/2 cups) shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green part
  • 12 large radishes, coarsely grated

Adjust oven rack to upper and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place tortillas on two large baking sheets, one on each rack; lightly brush each tortilla with oil and lightly sprinkle with salt on both sides. Bake until crisp and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, mix beans, chilies and chili powder in a medium microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic and set aside.

Heat chicken and salsa in a medium skillet until heated through and sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes; remove from heat until ready to assemble.

Mix yogurt and mayonnaise; set aside.

Prepare cheese, avocado, scallions and radishes; set aside.

When ready to serve, microwave bean mixture on high power until piping hot, 3 to 4 minutes. Return chicken mixture to burner and heat through.

Spread each tostada with bean mixture, top with chicken, sprinkle with cheese, dollop with yogurt, and then scatter avocado, scallions and radishes. Serve!

Spicy Grilled Shrimp With Sweet Chili Sauce and Cilantro

Serves 6

  • 2 pounds large (21 to 25 count) shrimp (wild Gulf, if possible), peeled, but tails left on
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha or chili garlic sauce
  • 1/4 cup sweet Thai-style chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Heat gas grill, igniting all burners on high for at least 10 minutes, or build a hot charcoal fire. Clean grate with a wire brush, then lubricate generously with an oil-soaked rag.

Toss shrimp with sriracha or chili garlic sauce, place on hot rack and cover, turning them only once, until opaque and lightly browned, about 5 minutes total. Transfer shrimp to a medium bowl as they come off the grill. Add sweet Thai-style chili sauce, cilantro and lime juice; toss to coat and serve.

Pam Anderson is a best-selling cookbook author, successful blogger and AARP's food expert, writing twice monthly.

Join the Discussion

0 | Add Yours

Please leave your comment below.

You must be logged in to leave a comment.

AARP Membership

Discounts & Benefits

    Next Article

    Read This