I drew the line at blankets.

Sure, it was a bit chilly in the backyard last week. But I had to exert maternal veto power when a teenager traipsed through the family room with an armload of blankets, direct from his bedroom and bound for the backyard. I take a dim view of transporting the great outdoors back inside via blankets crawling with critters. And besides, we're Northern Californians. We pretend we aren't shivering when sitting outside on a fine summer night.

The truth is, I relish our cool summer evenings and send annoying texts to my family enduring East Coast heat waves as I enjoy nature's air-conditioning -- "It's 59 degrees here. I can almost see my breath." But summer weather here can be a bit mercurial, sending us from sweatshirts to sweltering in nothing flat.

A number of Plates readers also will go to almost any length to avoid heating up the kitchen and thus the house on hot summer days, and you shared all manner of intriguing salads and side dishes. I've included a sampling of chilled salads with this week's column and will serve up your chicken salads in another column.

Plates regular Linda Sue Liu, of Santa Clara, makes a cranberry walnut coleslaw that doesn't rely on either the usual mayo-based or vinegar dressings. Shredded cabbage is tossed with walnuts, celery, onion, red bell pepper and dried cranberries. The dressing is simply honey mustard and honey.

Dona Dickie, of Livermore, says her crab salad is "fresh tasting." She has made it with fake crab on occasion or even used two cans of crab meat, rather than the fresh or frozen crab called for in the recipe. "I bet you could substitute chicken for the crab," says Dickie, another regular. Crabmeat, red bell pepper, red onion, parsley and white beans are simply dressed in lemon and olive oil.

Yet another regular contributor, Sophie Gluhaich, of Gilroy, shared one of her favorite recipes after seeing the corn, black bean and mango salad recipe in a recent column. "I call it Nusheen's bean appetizer because my friend Nusheen gave me the recipe," Gluhaich says.

You can fiddle with her recipe of black beans, seasoned pinquitos, green onions and white shoepeg corn, adding as much avocado and diced tomato as you like, along with chopped cilantro to taste. If you have trouble finding shoepeg corn, simply substitute another variety. The dressing includes lime juice, olive oil, a little garlic and some cayenne for zip.

Second helpings

Plates regular Karen Anderson, of Morgan Hill, has some advice if you make the eggless, milkless, butterless cake in last week's column. "Do not put the flour mixture into the heated liquids after waiting only 10 minutes," she says. "The liquid needs to be at room temperature, or you end up with a big hard ball you have to throw out. I had that experience some years ago and learned my lesson.

"My grandmother gave me this recipe, though with less cinnamon and a half-cup of walnuts, years ago. It was a Depression-era cake she called plain cake because it had no frosting.Her recipe says to cool it, so I cooled it about 10 minutes and proceeded. No good. When the woman said cool, she meant cool."

The cake is delicious, similar to an applesauce cake, Anderson says, if you patiently wait for the liquid to cool.

Request line

  • Home Plates helps readers find long-lost recipes, locate out-of-print cookbooks and solve tricky cooking issues. But readers have never been asked to find a person -- until now. "Remember Alberto Fuentes, the original executive chef at Consuelo at Santana Row?" asks Bill Luehmann. "He left there and opened up a wonderful hole in the wall in Morgan Hill called El Rincon, with fabulous, creative food. At the same time, he had a second similar place in Gilroy whose name escapes me at the moment. Then he opened a more upscale place called Sangria's on the main street in Morgan Hill."

    The restaurant closed, and Luehmann has lost track of Fuentes. "Does anyone know if he is cooking again somewhere or has opened another place? His food is fantastic."

  • A friend wants recipes for socca, the Mediterranean flat bread/street food made with chickpea flour. Of course, sources for chickpea flour would be helpful as well.

  • Lois Lawrence is searching for the salad dressing used on the spinach salad at the old Courtyard restaurant in Alamo. "It was the best, and all due to the dressing," she says. If you've got the recipe or a spinach salad recipe you think Lawrence would like, please share.

    Send recipes and requests to Kim Boatman at HomePlates@bayareanewsgroup.com. Find recent Home Plates recipes online at www.mercurynews.com/home-plates.