Commons Cooks – Cool Quenchers!

On many hot summer days, when walking to the car or train feels like crossing the Sahara desert, there is nothing like the welcome oasis of a tall, cool drink. This week’s creative cooling quenchers can chill the most sizzling of summertime thirsts – in minutes flat.

Our easy-to-make Mango Lassi, Sweet Tea and Banana Crème Pie Smoothie require just a few fresh items and extra ice. In minutes, you will forget about humidity and heat. Go ahead, bask in a feeling of refreshment. These recipes SCREAM summer!  Enjoy!

As always, be sure to read in our Grocery Guru section, listed below, for nearby options to buy fresh, local ingredients.

Mango Lassi*

Prep time: 2 minutes

Chill time: 1 hour

Yield: 2 servings


  • 2 cups plain whole milk yogurt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 mangoes – peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 4 teaspoons white sugar, or to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

Required equipment

  • Blender
  • 1 quart pitcher


  1. Place the yogurt, milk, mangoes, white sugar, and cardamom into jar of blender
  2. Cover blender tightly, set to high speed setting and blend until smooth (approximately 2 minutes)
  3. Remove jar from blender and pour into pitcher
  4. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour or until cold then remove, sprinkle with ground cardamom and serve

Southern Sweet Tea**

Prep time: 12 minutes

Chill time: 1 minute

Yield: 8 servings

Required equipment

  • Saucepan
  • 1 gallon pitcher


  • 3 cups water
  • 4 tea bags (black tea recommended)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 7 cups cold water


  1. Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a saucepan; add tea bags and boil 1 minute
  2. Remove from heat, cover and steep 10 minutes, discard tea bags
  3. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved
  4. Pour tea into 1-gallon container, add 7 cups cold water and serve over ice.

Banana Crème Pie Smoothies***

Prep time: 3 minutes

Chill time: 1 hour

Yield: 2 servings

Required equipment

  • Baking sheet
  • Blender


  • 1 large ripe banana, sliced (about 1 large)
  • 1 cup vanilla low-fat yogurt
  • ½ cup low-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons graham cracker (crumbled)
  • 1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup ice cubes


  1. Arrange banana slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, and freeze until firm (about 1 hour)
  2. Place frozen banana and remaining ingredients in a blender. Process until smooth.
  3. Sprinkle with graham cracker crumb and serve immediately.

Commons Cooks: Steak Your Claim To Great Summer Taste

For many Americans, summer time grilling season can be the best time to eat steak. Combined with the easy availability of farm fresh summer veggies like eggplant, zucchini, summer squash and bell pepper, steak lovers can elevate their meaty meal with this simple, easy to prepare ‘salad’ dish.



Any cut of steak goes well with this recipe but we recommend hangar steak, a.k.a. the “butcher’s steak” (the meat cutters of yore would keep this cut for personal use because of its rich flavor and tender texture.)


Regardless of your favorite, when it comes choosing steak, be sure to remember the following:


Ask your local butcher what’s best. It’s important to have a cut in mind and how much steak you want to buy, but a good butcher can steer you to the freshest cuts and best values.


Understand the ‘grades.’ The U.S. government assigns four different grades to meat found in supermarkets and three are sold as steak. Ratings are based on tenderness, juiciness and flavor. “USDA Prime” is the most expensive and hardest to fine steak (less than 2% of American meat falls into this category) identified by significant ‘marbling’ (fat interspersed with lean meat.) “USDA Choice” offers very high quality with less marbling and is available in most supermarkets. “USDA Select” is widely available and features uniform, lean cuts.


Fresh meat is red meat. The smell and texture of meat is important, but fresh steak will have a very bright red color. Meat slowly turns less red and changes to dark red with the passage of time. For darker cuts of steak, avoid meat with a distinctive sour smell or the hint of ammonia. Steaks that feel sticky at home should be returned for a refund.


As always, be sure to check out “Grocery Guru” below for the best places to get fresh, local ingredients. And, of course, do share pictures of your dinner creation with us and other residents on our Facebook page!

Grilled Summer Steak ‘Salad’

Prep and cook time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Veggie prep tip:  Cook veggies in batches, allowing more time for peppers and eggplant. This will prevent burning and/or uneven cooking.


  • 1 pound hangar steak (or your favorite cut)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grill
  • ¼ cup fresh rosemary (stems removed)
  • ¼ cup fresh thyme (stems removed)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 eggplant, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
  • 1 zucchini, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
  • 1 summer (yellow) squash, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tomatoes, halved
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 sweet bell pepper (any color), sliced  (remove seeds and stem)
  • ¼ cup favorite steak marinade/flavoring  such as:
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Teriyaki Sauce
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Allegro
  • 1 loaf, fresh bread (wheat, French or Italian)

Preparation Requirements

  • Cutting board
  • Paper towel
  • Chef’s knife
  • Small bowl
  • Two large bowls
  • Small sauce pan
  • Serving platter
  • (If cooking indoors, cast iron pan)


  1. Heat a grill to medium-high or 400 degrees
  2. Clean grill, then apply small amount of oil to hot grill rack by pouring onto paper towels
  3. Wash, dry  and coarsely chop rosemary and thyme
  4. Mince garlic
  5. Combine oil, rosemary, thyme and garlic in small bowl and set aside
  6. Slice all vegetables except for scallions
  7. Place zucchini, summer squash and tomatoes in one bowl
  8. Place eggplant and pepper in other bowl
  9. Place herbed oil into small saucepan and heat on stove over low heat until first sign of ‘smoke’
  10. Remove herb oil from heat and set aside to cool
  11. Brush steak with herb oil, applying generously, then season with salt and pepper
  12. Grill steak for 18 minutes (for medium rare), turning once halfway through cooking time
  13. Remove from grill, cover with aluminum foil and set aside for 10 minutes
  14. Brush veggies with remaining oil, applying generously, then season with salt and pepper
  15. Grill in small batches starting with pepper and eggplant. Wait 5 minutes, then add tomato, zucchini and squash later. Tomatoes will be ready when the skin splits open ((3 to 5 minutes.) Other veggies are done when they produce ‘juice’
  16. Place veggies on serving platter
  17. Lightly brush oil into slices of bread and toast on both sides
  18. Remove bread and slice steak thinly against the grain
  19. Place atop ‘salad,’ and arrange slices of bread around edges of platter
  20. Add marinade/flavoring to 2 tablespoons of remaining herb oil and whisk together.
  21. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then drizzle dressing over steak and vegetables