Simple! Sensible! Sensational!®

July 2004
© 2004 by Bret S. Beall


As I type this month’s column, it is late June 2004, and the weather is unseasonably cool here in Chicago. I have received a reprieve from the usual heat of summer, which I find so oppressive.

There are other ways to receive a reprieve from summer’s heat, and one of the single most important (for minimizing both work and resource exploitation) is to minimize the amount of actual cooking you do during the summer (because GOD-DESS promotes environmental sensibility, using air conditioning to offset the effects of oven cooking is just silly … if not immoral). Also, I have emphasized emphatically in the past, I am NOT a proponent of the Raw Food “Movement,” but I AM a proponent of eating a LOT of raw food in your normal diet. Raw food has great convenience, great flavor, great texture, and even great nutrition (including fiber).

Another way to get a reprieve from the effects of summer heat is to adopt recipes developed by people in tropical countries. Tropical cuisines have been honed over the centuries to maximize health, comfort and overall satisfaction. This month, I share two recipes, one from Indonesia that also can be modified to emphasize raw food, and one from Jamaica that requires just a minimum of cooking.


I have synthesized and adapted several recipes of the same name from different sources (after all, I’m not a native Indonesian, so this recipe is not a family tradition, nor is it is an original creation, but it is now consistent with Simple! Sensible! Sensational!® cooking). I’m particularly fond of two versions that influenced my recipe: · Jaffrey, Madhur. 1989. Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery. Harper & Row, Publishers: New York. 320 pp. · Solomon, Charlene. 1992. The Complete Asian Cookbook. Charles E. Tuttle Company: Rutland, VT. 511 pp. Try this recipe or any of its variations, particularly with children (they love peanut butter, and since this salad can be treated as finger food, it’s FUN to eat!). Just don’t tell them how healthy this recipe is.

For Gado-Gado salad:

For peanut sauce:

Bring one quart of water to a boil in a dutch oven or stew pot or stock pot (using more water is fine to ensure adequate depth. Add 2 T salt. Using a sieve that fits into the pot of water, place the green beans into the sieve, lower into the boiling water, and boil for about 3 minutes; the goal is for the beans and all of the vegetables to be cooked with a hint of crispness; remove sieve with green beans, dump into cold water to stop cooking; remove to a plate with paper or cloth towels. Repeat with the carrots, boiling for 3 minutes. Repeat with the potatoes, boiling for 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat with the broccoli, boiling for about 2 minutes. Repeat with the bean sprouts, boiling for about 30 seconds. Allow all of the vegetables to drain on paper towels, blotting after about 5 minutes. Leave the cucumbers raw. Prepare the peanut sauce while the veggies are draining and cooling.

To prepare the peanut sauce: Heat oil in a skillet, add garlic, and cook until just fragrant (if using the onion, add it to the oil first and cook until translucent or even slight caramelized before adding the garlic). Add peanut butter, cayenne, black pepper, ½ t salt, and sugar to the skillet, along with 2 c water. Stir mixture together, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, or until sauce has thickened to the consistency of bottled creamy salad dressing. Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice.

Arrange the cooked vegetables, cucumber slices, and quartered eggs on an attractive platter (it looks great on a large white platter, and I have also served it on a huge platter that looks like a banana leaf which always elicits “oohs” and “ahhhs”; both the salad components and the sauce may be prepared to this point the night before serving, and refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap). When serving, allow diners to help themselves from the platter; pass the sauce separately to be drizzled over the components and mixed on each plate slightly to individual preferences. Serve with boiled/steamed rice, if desired. Serves 4 generously.

Variation I: All of the vegetables, except the potatoes, can be left raw (in fact, if you are going raw, just exclude the potatoes for a truly easy dinner salad). Furthermore, you can add whole pea pods, sugar peas (they are at my fave market now, Chicago’s Green City Market, and they are fabulous!), julienned jicama, even celery, to make a sort of Indonesian crudite. Try using some raw, tender leafy veggies (spinach, young rainbow chard, baby kale, pea shoots, etc.) for some extra vitamins, flavor and texture.

Variation II: Steam the veggies until just tender, instead of boiling them. More of the nutrition is preserved than with boiling (though admittedly, you are really only scalding the veggies in the original version, and the results are still nutrition-packed.

Variation III: For dessert, or as an accompanying variation with the veggies (since Indonesian meals generally offer multiple dishes simultaneously, as in the famous rijstafel [rice table]), use melon slices, other fruit slices (such as apple, pear, peach, apricot, papaya, mango, whatever is in season), whole or halved grapes, berries, anything that strikes your fancy!

Variation IV: Once you have that spicy peanut sauce, you can use it on almost anything: for various desserts (it’s great with fine semi-sweet chocolate), or as a sauce over meat, fish, poultry, or anything else that needs a sauce (FYI, if you are using it as a sauce for meat, fish or poultry, you can make the sauce in the pan, thus deglazing it, to add more flavor; just be aware that the cooking time means that you will either have to serve the meat at room temperature, which is fine for summer, or keep it warm in an oven … try the sauce on chilled salmon!)! It’s a great addition to any repertoire.


This recipe is adapted from several sources, but it is primarily obligated to a recipe in: · Harris, Dunstan A. 1988. Island Cooking: Recipes from the Caribbean. The Crossing Press: Freedom, CA. 162 pp.

During one of my theme dinners, I stumbled across this Jamaican classic. I was awestruck by the simplicity and ease coupled with profound flavor of this dish (it’s a soup, but calling it a “tea” makes it a bit more exotic, don’t you think?). You must try it!

Combine the water/stock, thyme, chile, salt, starchy vegetables and plantains in a large pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer until vegetables and plantains are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. If you have purchased seafood with skins and/or shells, remove the skins and shells and let them simmer with the vegetables and fruits (or make a light fish stock to use instead of water); be aware that leaving the skins and/or shells on becomes a hazard at the dining table. When vegetables and fruits are tender, remove the chile halves, and the fish skins if using (to facilitate removing shrimp shells, wrapping them in cheese cloth can be helpful). Add the seafood, and simmer until just cooked, about 5 minutes.

Variation: If you are vegetarian, omit the seafood, and be sure to use a nice vegetable stock (instead of water or fish stock) and perhaps some additional mild chiles in addition to the other ingredients.

Visit the Simple! Sensible! Sensational!® archives (particularly those from last summer) for more recipes to help you escape the summer heat (this is a recurring theme for me!). As always, feedback is welcome at 773.508.9208 or email me. Thanks, and Happy Reprieving!