Don’t knock it because it’s simple

Even with the wonderful advances made in air conditioning and energy-efficient appliances, the climbing outside heat and humidity are directly proportional to the lack of desire to heat up the kitchen and fix a big meal – at least at our casa.

It’s dumb, I know. But I grew up in Virginia,  lived in college hovels and had questionable abodes in the first few years of my so-called professional life – all without AC.

So maybe it’s the memory of sweltering indoor heat that failed to disipate even after midnight come July and August and ugh, my least favorite month of the year – September, that makes me reach for simple things to cook.

And don’t even talk to me on a 95-degree day about grilling. There is a reason this masochistic pastime seems to be male dominated – just like rugby.

Simple doesn’t have to mean bland or boring. We’ve all heard writers and cooks rhapsodize about fresh tomatoes – yadda, yadda, yadda. But they have a point. Simple fresh ingredients, combined in surprising ways can be real palate pleasers.

So here’s one of my favorites. It does involve boiling water, but other than that, it’s a make-ahead dish that is served blissfully cool.

Sheila’s Chicken Salad

I first had this at my friend’s house on a blistering July day in Greensboro.

2 whole chicken breasts, skin on

juice of 6 limes

1 red onion, sliced thin

salt and pepper

Boil enough water to cover chicken breasts. Poach chicken about 30 minutes. Remove from water and cool.

You can juice the limes and slice the onion while poaching the chicken.

Discard skin. Pick chicken off the bones into rough pieces.

Combine chicken, lime juice and onion in a large bowl. Salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Stir mixture well before serving.

I know you might want to add stuff to this. Cilantro, green Tabasco and basil are all fine additions. But try it plain first. It’s a surprising tart, savory dish. The lime juice “cooks” the onion, mellowing its flavor.

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