Monday, July 9, 2012

beat the heat

...with cold, fuss-free summer meals.

As much as I love to cook and bake, there are days when even turning on the toaster seems to heat up the kitchen. I did very minimal cooking this weekend - one meal involved a couscous salad (boil water/broth, add couscous, stir, turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes, and it's done... add vegetables and herbs of your choice, some kind of dressing, maybe some feta cheese). This is another one of those "non-recipes" as I like to call it, as you can do whatever you want! Choose a different vegetable. A different grain/starch. A different flavor profile with other herbs. During the colder months I would use a heartier grain like barley or spelt berries, but in the summer couscous is just perfect. I chose these vegetables because these are what I got from last Friday's produce pickup.

The trick here, I think, is to flavor everything from the start - for instance, instead of cooking the couscous/pasta/grains in plain water, I cook it in vegetable broth. If I happen to not have broth and just have water, I add other aromatics (garlic, onion, herbs, whatever) and salt in the cooking water too. And, in either situation, some olive oil. A little olive oil never hurt anybody. (And actually, having a little fat, like olive oil, with vegetables helps our bodies absorb the fat-soluble nutrients in the vegetables. It's a good thing!)

whole wheat couscous, chickpeas, carrots, tomatoes, kale lightly sauteed in garlic and onions, parsley + basil from my balcony (Yes they are growing! There's hope for cactus-killing, non-green-thumbs like me!), and sheep's milk feta (from Lucky Penny Farm), dressed in extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper

Other meals involved cold soups just using the blender.

Cold soup #1: Cucumber Soup

There is a reason cucumbers are harvested in the summer.

  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I extended the yummy Velvet View Farmstead yogurt by saving a bit to use as a starter for homemade yogurt!)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, depending on how garlicky you want it
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped spring onions
  • half a jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (optional, but I wanted just a tiny bit of a kick)
  • a cup or so of vegetable broth (cold!) -maybe more, maybe less... just enough to get the consistency you want
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh herbs of your choice (mint, dill, parsley are good choices... I had some parsley on my balcony so that's what I used)

The most work here (which really isn't a lot of work) is prepping the cucumbers and garlic. When a dish calls for raw garlic, I like mincing it with a little salt so that it becomes pasty. Sometimes, big garlic pieces somehow escape the blades of the blender, so mincing it into a paste avoids that. The salt seems to tame the flavor a bit too. (I do the same for raw onions, like for guacamole - though I don't mash them, just sprinkle salt over chopped onions and let it sit for a few minutes).

Whizz everything in a blender until smooth, and it's done.

You might chill it in the fridge some more, but since all my ingredients were cold to begin with, I didn't have to.

Cold soup #2: Sopa de Ajo Bianco (Almond and Garlic Soup)

This soup is not for those who are lukewarm toward garlic. Even A., who really likes garlic, said it was a little much. Two cloves of garlic (instead of 3) would be just fine here. Feel free to adjust to your liking.

  • 1 cup of almond meal (available at Trader Joe's; some grocery stores also carry the Bob's Red Mill brand of almond meal)
  • a cup or so (around 2 slices) of cubed day-old white country bread, crusts removed, and soaked in enough milk to cover
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced with salt until pasty
  • a dash of sherry vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Again - whizz everything in a blender until smooth. To make it extra smooth, pour it through a sieve into bowls. I did this, but ended up not wanting to waste the almond bits that collected in the sieve. So I slathered it on bread. It was already flavorful, so why not?
Technically, this recipe calls for blanched almonds so you probably wouldn't even have to run it through a sieve since you won't be dealing with the almond skins anymore. But I didn't have blanched almonds, so it had to be almond meal. I think it worked out.

This soup also calls for green grapes, as a garnish or served on the side - like in this recipe. Unfortunately I didn't have any, but I imagine that would be really good here as a contrast to the creamy and garlicky soup. Note to self for next time.

Chill in the refrigerator before serving.

Hope it cools off this week! 

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1 comment:

Suzanne said...

The couscous salad looks delicious, I'm going to have to try that one. It's been hot here too!

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