Racing Rachael: Endless Summer

Nothing says summer better than some hundred degree weather, a nice cold beer, and a hot dog, right? Now, generally, I'm not a hot dog eater, but every year I smell a wiener on the grill and I chow down a dog or two. I don't usually love it, but it's such a quintessential part of summer, I can't pass it up. And, since this lovely Texas heat is getting to me already, I figured this was the perfect time for my annual indulgence. Will Rachael's Devilish Chili-Cheese Dogs change my mind about this summertime staple?

The food: This "Endless Summer" meal consisted of Devilish Chili-Cheese Dogs, Oil and Vinegar Slaw and Summer-ish Succotash Salad.

I couldn't bear the idea of cooking inside, so I grilled the hot dogs instead of immersing them in flavorless liquid and then rolled them in the butter-Tabasco mixture. I then loaded on the chili and cheese and threw the whole mess onto the back of the grill to melt the cheddar.

The chili was okay, but lacked a certain chili-ness, tasting more like plain browned beef. Maybe it was due to the short cooking time or the omission of additional spices in this recipe.

The oil and vinegar slaw was surprisingly good. It's tangy, cool and ridiculously easy to make. And I'm beginning to think that Rachael Ray owns stock in butter beans, as they made another appearance in the succotash salad. This salad was much better than last week's Butter Bean Salad. The addition of corn and less onion made this a perfect salad for summer.

The time: 34 minutes. As mentioned, I grilled the dogs outdoors, so this time includes some running back and forth. Success, in my book.

The verdict: If you're a hot dog lover, the chili and cheese offer a nice alternative to mustard and onions. However, if you have a great quick chili recipe, use that one instead or try adding cumin, red pepper flakes and extra chili powder to RR's recipe. Don't worry, Texans...I wouldn't be so bold as to suggest adding beans.

I'm assuming including "devilish" in the name refers to the addition of hot sauce to the dogs, but I couldn't taste it at all. I would suggest either having a heavy hand with the hot sauce or omitting it altogether. The salads were both great light summer salads that don't contain mayo. So these are great alternatives to potato salad for your summer picnics.

Ways to beat the clock: Omit the butter-Tabasco step and grill indoors (but they taste so much better outside that it is worth the extra time).

Happy speedy cooking!

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Carrie Applegate Jaeger