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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?

Vichyssoise
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.

French Fridays with Dorie: Warm Weather Vegetable Pot au Feu

This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie took me by surprise. I love vegetables, and I love soups and stews. And yet, when I read the recipe through, I felt ambivalent. Even the picture didn’t help. But I carried on.

Though Dorie says to use whatever’s fresh in this recipe, I stuck with the vegetables called for, including the lemongrass, because they all looked great at the market. The asparagus and the baby spinach were local. Also in the mix were a Vidalia onion, a leek, carrots, baby potatoes, and shiitake mushrooms.

I found the recipe a little vague about how to cut up some of the vegetables. It seemed like the leek and asparagus were left whole, but I don’t like having to cut things when I’m eating with a spoon. I ended up thinly slicing the quartered leek and cutting the (unpeeled) asparagus spears into 2-inch pieces. Also, I used only half the spinach called for because more seemed overwhelming.

Because this dish was simply vegetables in broth, I knew the flavor of the broth would be key to the success of the dish. I thought I had homemade chicken broth in the freezer, but instead, I struck gold when I came across a container of duck stock I’d forgotten about.

When the pot au feu was done and I tasted the broth for seasoning, I was surprised by how sweet and springy and delicious it was. I loved it! After our violent midweek thunderstorm (fortunately no tornadoes here), the oppressive heat has been traded for crispness in the air (almost like fall, even though it’s June). A bowl of light soup was perfect for the cooler weather.

I served this in low and wide pasta bowls, with a poached egg in each bowl. I also snipped from herbs from the garden: chervil, tarragon, and parsley to sprinkle over top.

I was pleasantly surprised how fast it all came together. Dinner was ready in less than an hour. I did have help. Howard helped with chopping the vegetables and poaching the eggs. He also made some quick guacamole to snack on while we cooked. I like having a sous chef!

I can definitely see making this one again, varying the vegetables with the season. Once again, even though I wasn’t that excited about the recipe at the start, it turned out to be a winner.

Dorie said that leftovers on this won’t be so good, but we only ate half, so we’ll give it a go again tomorrow.

I do have a lot of leftover lemongrass. I had to buy a bundle with several stalks, and only used a 2-inch piece. Anyone have suggestions of how to use the rest?

One of the high points of my weekends is reading the posts of the other FFwD bloggers to see how they changed up this week’s recipe. Check out their links at French Fridays with Dorie. We don’t post the recipes, but consider getting your own copy of the book, Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. Maybe you’ll even want to cook along with us on Fridays. It’s a blast!