Well it's official, not according to the calendar, but according to our thermostats. Here in New England we're in the throes of a heatwave as is much of the country. Some people thrive in it, others don't. I tend to fall into the latter category. Extreme heat stunts my appetite, zaps my energy levels and just irritates me. I try to stay inside as much as possible, but the cold forced air can be as assaulting to our bodies as they struggle to find balance between extreme heat and extreme cool... I live in an older home that has not been fitted with central air and so we make do with our window units and oscillating fans. We open our windows and French doors in the morning, and close them as the sun's rays get warm. We become grateful for overcast days. Regardless of how cool your home is or isn't none of us are racing to our stoves and ovens. At the end of the day, the last thing we want is a warm meal, opting for light, cool and refreshing instead. Following are some of my favorite things to eat and drink when the temperatures rise.
Gazpacho is one of my all-time favorite things to eat when the weather is warm. I often make it in big batches so I can snack on it throughout the week or sometimes I'll pull out our MagicBullet and make a smaller batch. It's really a fool-proof recipe and there are many versions. I'll share a basic one with you and you can change and alter as you wish.
- 2 Seedless cucumbers, peeled, cut into large chunks
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into large chunks
- 1 orange or yellow pepper, cut into chunks
- 3 medium to large fresh tomatoes
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- ¼ cup of red wine vinegar
- 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A handful into the blender and a few leaves on top
- Optional: If you want more liquid - 1 cup of V-8 juice, or be daring and use Mr. T’s or Stirring’s Bloody Mary Mix for an extra kick!
Place your ingredients, chopped, into the blender or food processor and pulse to the desired consistency. Taste as you go to adjust the seasonings and chill for at least one hour before serving. This is even better the next day... and the day after that, if there's any left!
Salade Nicoise is and forever has been one of my favorite dishes, no matter what season. Those who know me well, know this to be true. There's something particularly wonderful about eating this during the summer. For me it is part nostalgia, dating back to my childhood summers in the South of France. This salad, with its origins in the Cote d'Azur, an area rich in seafood, olives and fresh produce. Although the seafood used in the traditional recipe calls for tinned tuna, we now substitute fresh tuna and salmon. This originated as a very basic salad - boiled baby potatoes, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes green beans, olives and sometimes anchovies, though many modern takes call for fancier lettuces. As I am no longer a fan of canned tuna, I welcome a seared tuna or grilled salmon.
During the summer I often cook batches of hardboiled eggs, mini potatoes and such in the early morning hours and then keep them on hand to grab at quickly during the week.
No matter whether traditional or newfangled, the salad must contain the following ingredients:
Tomatoes, sliced or quartered
Haricots Verts or Green beans
Cooked fish of some sort
A good Dijon vinaigrette
Possible add-ons can include:
Peppers, grilled or raw
Grilled onion slices
Lettuce, of your preference
How to measure:
I generally allow for 1 egg and 1 tomato per person, a serving of fish per person and a healthy handful of the remaining ingredients per person.
Neatly arrange all the ingredients on a large plate of platter and just prior to serving add some sea salt and pepper to taste and drizzle a generous amount of vinaigrette over the top. This way diners can pick and choose what they wish.
Serve with a lovely baguette and good butter or cheese.
We love a good antipasto platter on a hot day. We love anything that requires no cooking! A quick trip to the cheese section of your grocery store should allow you to gather most of your items. You'll want a selection of hard and soft cheese, some good bread, breadsticks or crackers, or a combination of the above. A couple of choices of cured meat, or even a good store-bought chicken salad to accompany the cheeses. We also add olives, cornichons, fresh tomatoes (heirloom when possible), and fresh fruit such as grapes, berries, sliced peaches, pears, nectarines or mellon. This is really a fun way to eat! For those wanting to stay away from the carbs, there's much to eat sans bread, crackers and breadsticks!
Bruschetta is another easy way to eat sans cooking. It doesn't have to be completely unhealthy - and they can be made in ways that are quite satisfying. Serve alongside a salad, or better yet, a cool cup of gazpacho. Use a good hearty and crusty bread, toasted or grilled if desired. If it's just too much effort or too hot out, you can skip that process altogether.
The toppings you can use are positively endless and include:
Cream cheese, good quality butter, olive oil, ricotta, mascarpone, mozzarella
Sliced heirloom tomatoes
Grilled veggies: Peppers, onions, mushrooms, squash, eggplant
Cured meat and fish: assorted salume, prosciutto, lox
Sliced hardboiled eggs
Assorted sliced fruits: Peaches, pears, nectarines, cherries in the summer (Conversely apples and pears in the autumn and wintertime)
"Fish Taco" Bowl
I do love a good "bowl"
Chock-filled with all sorts of healthy ingredients think of them as a salad but slightly more filling. The above has tortilla chips in it and I would leave them out, personally. Use a brown rice and mix it with quinoa, or quinoa on its own. Then add whatever vegetable and proteins you wish.
Possible add-ins include:
Shredded grilled or barbecue chicken, fish or shrimp
Corn fresh off the cob
Fresh herbs such as cilantro, basil, parsley or mint
Start with the base of 3/4 to 1 cup of rice and quinoa and build up from there.
Summer Pasta with Raw Tomato Sauce
This is something I made in my 20s all the time because not only was it delicious and I could impress suitors with my fabulous cooking abilities, but it was super easy to make and it fit my extremely tight budget. I don't make it often these days as I try to keep clear of too much pasta, but it's still an all-time favorite.
In terms of figuring out how much sauce to make, I figure one large tomato per person at minimum, or roughly 2 medium. Would yield about a cup to a cup and a half per person.
1 - 1/2 cups of heirloom or vine-ripened tomatoes
1 handful of fresh basil shredded or julienned
1-2 cloves of minced garlic
1 cup of good olive oil
A good "healthy" shake or two of crushed red pepper
A good *sea salt, about 1/2 tsp, and freshly ground pepper to taste - and more once pasta has been added
Freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
Cut, removed seeds, and peel if desired, tomatoes into bite sized pieces and place in a deep bowl.
Add garlic, crushed peppers, garlic salt and pepper and mix well. Stir gently.
Add olive oil and basil and stir gently. Let sit anywhere from an hour to all day.
Cook desired pasta per directions on packaging.
Drain pasta and return to pan.
Add all the tomatoes and desired amount of oil.
Any remaining oil should not be tossed! It is wonderfully aromatic and makes a wonderful dipping sauce for bread. Keep out in room temperature for a day or so or place in refrigerator.
Once pasta has been dressed with the oil and the tomatoes place it in the bowl where the tomatoes had been infusing.
Serve with the freshly grated or shredded Parmesan.
This is wonderful at room temperature or slightly chilled.
Watermelon and other summer fruits
Watermelon is my favorite thing to eat on a hot day - especially after a good, hard workout. It's so hydrating.
Infused Water and Seltzers
I think this is just genius. This is brought to us by Zulu Summer by way of ElleDecor Germany. Because these bottles can be sealed and re-sealed you can make your own flavored seltzers or still water. I've become a fan, as of late, of the screw-top wine bottle. They're wonderful for bringing with you on the road, whether for a tailgate, picnic in the park, or for sipping on the beach at sunset. Once emptied they're good for a myriad of things, this may be one of my favorites.
Fill the bottles with your choice of still or sparkling waters and infuse with desired fruits and herbs:
Ginger, lemon and mint
Lemon and mint
Lemon, lime and mint
Cucumber and lime
Orange and grapefruit
Peach, plum and mint
Watermelon and mint
Strawberry and basil
Canteloupe, honeydew and mint
Cherry and lime
And any other combination you desire!
As we work to stay hydrated sometimes we want something a little more exciting than water. Sun teas are so easy to make and require no stove. Add mint, oranges, plums or peaches for a fruity version. Get creative with your teas and play around with Earl Grey, Passionfruit, Citrus and Herbal teas. Sweeten them slightly with some lemon or limeade to create your own Arnold Palmer. While I used to love to make Sun Tea with the children when they were young, because the water isn't boiled, or doesn't reach a hot enough temperature, this tea can harbor bacteria - non-caffeinated teas even more so, so we've decided it just wasn't worth the risk... not like, say, raw cookie dough! Refrigerator tea is just as delicious.
- Fill a glass jar or pitcher with cold water and a few bags of your favorite tea. Let them steep in your fridge overnight. This tea is milder than tea that has been steeped in boiling water so you may want to double up on desired tea bags, say 2 per glass. If you find it is too strong you can always dilute with more water.
- In the morning the tea will be fully "brewed."
- Discard your pitchers tea bags and add your desired garnishes.
- Keep refrigerated at all times.