It's basically SAW: Beauty Edition.
Don’t get me wrong, I love summer. Stuff grows in my garden, everyone is on the street, biking and walking around in summer dresses and ironically colored hipster shorts and if there is a weekend where Portland doesn’t host a beer festival, I was too drunk from the weekend before to notice. That’s the great part.
The downside: mosquito bites, sunburn, the dog park is a giant pile of dust and the unrelenting, unending, sweltering heat. Global warming 1, pale redhead, -10. I grew up in the Phoenix desert, and so you’d think I’d be used to it, but the heat just makes me mean. In the worst of it, I throw tantrums and simply refuse to turn on the stove.
Me: I don't care where we go for dinner. But not hot. Has to be cold.
Him: Well, you can't have ice cream for dinner!
Me: I can come up with seven arguments to that and I'm not even trying yet.
Some sushi and sake martinis later, I decided it was high time to come up with a survival kit for the summer. On a napkin I scratched out a list of realistic recipes that would keep you cool.
There is nothing as satisfying to me in the summer as gazpacho. It's cold, it's filling and has a bit of tart and a bit of sweet. It requires no cooking, few ingredients and is one of my Unfuckupable Recipes ™.
Add 3 chopped tomatoes, 2 peeled and seeded cucumbers and 1 red bell pepper to a bowl. Add 2 chopped garlic cloves, 4 cups of tomato juice, 2 tbsp lime juice and ½ cup vinegar. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce of your choice. Refrigerate and dare yourself to eat anything else that week.
I fucking loathe rhubarb, but it's impossible to kill, so I’m always inundated with it. I haven’t quite given up the attempted rhizome homicide but in the meanwhile, I’ve looked for new and interesting ways to get rid of it. In the 1960s movie that I believe to be my life, we all enjoy a 5 o’clock cocktail and this is it.
In a clean jar, add 1 cup chopped rhubarb and 2 cups white sugar to 1.5L of cheapo vodka. Stir the sugar into the vodka, allow to sit on a shelf, and stir once a week. Stir in more sugar every few days until you achieve level of sweetness you want. Serve with club soda and some mint over ice.
As kids we used to make popsicles with Styrofoam cups and plastic spoons. Buying a real adult popsicle mold set me back $18, but when I did the advanced math in a cost projection spreadsheet of every summer to come x number of Dreyers Fruit Bars, well, $18 seemed reasonable.
Lemonade, lime or pink lemonade popsicles are the perfect way to cool down quickly, and best yet? They’re mobile. We grab one on the way out the door to go on a walk around the neighborhood.
Easy street: buy frozen limeade, make it per the directions and pour into popsicle molds. Ambitious route: Grab a bag of 12 limes. Use a microplane to grate the skin off them (just the green, not the white underneath) then juice all of them and combine with skin. Add 1 cup of honey and heat over stove, stirring, until honey dissolves. Allow to cool and then pour into molds.
Cranberry Iced Tea
Some years ago, I went to the bother of learning to drink cranberry juice without doing the “I just ate a lemon” face. But since I wanted it without all the sugar, I tracked down real cranberry tea and it is so much cheaper than fancypants tea from Nepal in lovely tins. The best part is that it tastes delightful and isn’t cranberry bitter. I always have a pitcher of it in the fridge.
Remove teabags from box. Place in pitcher. Fill with water. Place in fridge. Contemplate life.
It's choke season, and you should be able to find them everywhere. When I can stand it, I steam them on the stovetop, famously until the leaves practically fall off. When I can’t stand it, it's about the microwave.
Halve the artichokes, use a spoon to clean out the fuzzy part, put chokes in a covered dish and cover with an inch of water, and then pop them in the microwave for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then refrigerate. Serve with aioli, mayo, or lemon juice and olive oil. Or tzatiki. Or really anything except hot butter.
If there is any better showcase for a summer tomato than this oft overlooked idea, then slap my ass and call me Sally. Well, maybe we’ll do that later anyways. I know BLTs seem generic and easy, but it's about the quiet deliciousness of different textures and tastes and the quality of the ingredients.
I like a dark, nutty bread or focaccia toasted on one side to perfection. Paint both untoasted sides of the toast with a superlight layer of mayo, layer crisp clean lettuce like romaine on one side, and some sliced tomato on the other. Layer a few slices of crispy bacon and if you’re feeling saucy, avocado, put the sandwich together and kick back with an iced tea.
Ice, Ice Baby
Growing up in Phoenix, you become a trained monkey when it comes to hydration. As long as it's cold, I can drink my weight in water each day. My life changed the day I joined a fancy gym many moons ago and their water stations always had fruit or cucumber in the water. The fascination with flavored water far outlasted the gym membership.
Fill an ice cube tray with fruit. I like strawberries, sliced orange, lemon juice, lime juice, mint leaves, basil leaves, cucumber or other berries, just make sure they fit below the waterline. Fill with water and freeze. Keep a glass in the freezer, pop a cube into the water and fill. It's just water, so when you’re done drinking, pop it back in the freezer.
Do you have a favorite recipe for keeping cool? Let me know in comments.