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Cold Eats for Hot Days

It’s been a hot July. I can take the cold weather in the winter, but I’m not the best trooper when it comes to bearing up to a summer heat wave. I do my best, but you can only take so many clothes off.

Cold frosty drinks like strawberry daiquiris, frozen margaritas or even lemonade can help, but what about eats? Grilling keeps the heat outside. Watermelon is both refreshing and thirst-quenching. Many of my beloved side salads can be done without heat, especially if you start with canned beans.

My current favorite solution is cold soup. I’ve always been a big fan of gazpacho. Here’s the way I usually make it. I like that it can be made without turning on the stove.

This year, my favorite cold soup seems to be vichyssoise. I start with my usual hot potato-leek soup, add a pint of light cream, and chill it overnight. It’s filling without being heavy, creamy without being too rich. I’ve been making the hot version (without any cream) for decades, but was only inspired to try a cold version this summer. I’m glad I experimented because I’m pleased with the results.

What’s your favorite thing to eat when the weather is steamy?

Serves 6-8

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cups sliced leeks, white and light green parts only (3-4 leeks)
4 cups diced peeled russet potatoes (2-3 potatoes)
1 quart chicken broth
½ tsp nutmeg
2 tsp salt
2 cups light cream

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the leeks, and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

In several batches, puree the soup in the blender. Add the cream and combine well. Add nutmeg and salt. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Chill overnight.

Two Little Salads

Tonight, we had my favorite kind of summer dinner. An assortment of salads. Well, actually, my favorite kind of summer dinner is just an assortment of salads. Admittedly, we did have a few leftover pork ribs from Saturday night’s dinner at Firebox to go with our salads tonight.

For one, we had a Caprese Salad: some sliced tomatoes with fresh mozzarella cheese and slivered basil. As the fresh local tomatoes start to appear, we will start to have this little salad a few times a week. This summer, at Trader Joe’s, I discovered fresh mozzarella that comes in cute little cherry-sized balls. They’re called ciliegine. This salad has no real recipe; it’s more like a guideline.

First, I cut the tomatoes into wedges and arrange them so they look pretty on the plate. I count them so I know how many slices there are. Then, I quarter one little ball for each 4 slices of tomatoes. I like there to be tomato and cheese in every bite. The plate gets sprinkled with fresh herbs. Tonight, I thinly slivered some basil leaves that are just getting big enough to pluck off the plants in the garden. Other times, I chop different fresh herbs, like oregano or savory. Finally, I drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. It only takes about 5 minutes to put together.

The other salad was a delicious Mango Slaw recently posted by Smitten Kitchen. We’re big fans of Champagne or Ataulfo mangoes and currently have a big stash in the fruit drawer. I made half the recipe (one mango’s worth) using peanuts instead of cashews (I was out) and throwing in some chopped cilantro for good measure. The salad was very tasty with the contrast of the crispy cabbage, the sweet mango, and the spicy, tart dressing. Honestly, it was better the first night, not as good as leftovers. I’m glad I made only half the recipe for the two of us, though I would definitely make a bigger batch if we had guests.

Mango Slaw
Adapted from this recipe on Smitten Kitchen
Serves 2-4

1 mango, peeled, pitted and julienned
½ lb Napa cabbage (about half a head), sliced very thinly
½ red pepper, julienned
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1½ Tbsp canola oil
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp Sriracha chila paste
¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup roasted (unsalted) peanuts, coarsely chopped

To make the dressing, whisk lime juice, rice vinegar, oil, Sriracha, and salt in a small bowl. In a very large bowl, toss mangoes, cabbage, red pepper and onion together. Add the dressing, chopped herbs, and peanuts and toss well to combine. Serve immediately.