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Surrender to the heat with cooking made for the occasion

Instead of avoiding the heat, embrace it and cook outside by making a slow-roasted pork shoulder to eat all weekend long.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Well, it’s another weekend of record-breaking high temperatures. And while I could sate your hunger for cold, no-cook dishes to “beat the heat,” may I propose a different tactic? As someone born and raised in the South, where it’s always “too hot to cook,” you don’t not cook when it’s hot, but rather, change up what you eat so it works with the heat instead of against it.

If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard or outdoor area with space for a grill, take your cooking outside and make one of the two recipes for slow-roasted pork shoulder. I wrote about them in my story about what a pork shoulder actually is (“butts,” bones and “picnics,” oh my!) and how to cook it perfectly every time. Make sure to keep a jug of iced tea or boozy agua fresca nearby the whole time and maybe even cook the pork through the night to take advantage of the (relatively) cooler temps. And since you’ll have plenty of leftovers, maybe make some fried pork sandwiches and deliver them to your neighbors?

But the best thing to make when it’s too hot to function? A Southern tomato sandwich. Tomatoes are at their height of flavor right now, and if you can get a really ripe farmers market specimen, about to burst through its skin like a nicked water balloon, know that it tastes best when slightly warm from the sun’s rays.

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Tomato salads are great, but keep one perfect fruit aside and try this: Slice it into ½-inch-thick equatorial slices and season the slabs with a little flaky sea salt to season it throughout. Start with two squares of good ol’ white bread — pain de mie from your local bakery is nice, but the Wonder bread variety would be the most authentic — and slather each with plenty of mayonnaise “wall to wall,” or side to side, to ensure there are no dry patches at the edge of the bread. Season the mayo-coated bread with salt and pepper, then tile on an even layer of tomatoes — one tomato is perfect for two sandwiches (if you’re making one sandwich, save the other half for a B.L.T. or Caprese salad the next day). Close the sandwich and then lean over the sink for the first bite; the tomato juices need to drip down your arm for the full effect.

In my childhood, you’d eat that sandwich with a cold glass of iced tea for lunch right after you emerged from a shower. Clean and cooled after a few hours spent mowing the grass in the early morning heat, the sweating time made the cooling sensation of the sweet, salty tomato and cool creamy mayo on soft bread taste like that much more of a relief. But in the absence of blades of grass stuck to your forehead as tithe for the sandwich, a walk with your dog around the block or saunter to the mailbox will, in this heat, more than do the trick.

Foolproof Pulled Pork

Time 14 hours, largely unattended
Yields Serves 8 to 10

The best pulled pork requires only salt and pepper and plenty of time for the pork to render itself spoon-tender.

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Crackling Roast Pork Shoulder With Fennel and Chile

Time 14 to 16 hours
Yields Serves 8 to 10

If you’re a fan of crispy skin, this is the roast for you. Pro tip: Use a razor blade to make the scoring easier.

Fried Pork Sandwiches

Time 20 minutes
Yields Serves 2

What’s better than roast pork? Maybe this sandwich, which combines it with fried sweet plantains and pickled onions into one amazing meal.

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Faith Willinger’s tomato salad

Time 15 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8

The best way to eat tomatoes: seasoned simply and dressed in their own sweet, floral juices.

Caprese salad with heirloom tomato skin chips

Time 50 minutes
Yields Serves 4-6 people

Sun-warmed tomatoes are a great complement to chilled mozzarella in this classic Italian salad.

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Ask the cooks

I am always so confused by all the different kinds of rice. I know Arborio is for risotto, bomba for paella, and things like that, but when a recipe calls for “white rice,” what kind is that? I always use jasmine but I feel like I’m making mistakes.

— Helen Rosner

If you’re using jasmine rice, you’re not that far off. Jasmine is my everyday, go-to style of rice because of its intense fragrance and nuttiness. It also cooks very similarly to American-grown “long grain” or “extra long grain” white rice (think Uncle Ben’s or Mahatma brands), which is what is typically being referred to when a recipe states “white rice.” Other long grain rices, like basmati, can work if the rice is a serving suggestion, but if it’s being cooked with other ingredients, it’s best to go with an American long grain rice or jasmine rice, unless specified in the recipe, since those types take longer to cook than basmati.

A different kind of Food Bowl

The Los Angeles Times Food Bowl will celebrate 2020 Restaurant of the Year award winner Orsa & Winston and its chef, Josef Centeno, with a special virtual dining experience at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 26. The ticket price, $175 per person, includes a three-course meal prepared by the restaurant — which can be picked up the day of the event. In addition, participants can tune in to a conversation with Centeno and L.A. Times food writer Jenn Harris. Tickets can be purchased at eventbrite.

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