Hot Beyond Ridiculous

Our appetites generally don't flag in the heat of summer. We celebrate the season with its specific bounty - fresh corn, tomatoes, watermelon, tender okra, black plums, Bing cherries - but don't alter our basic diet beyond the inclusion of chilled soups, jugs of iced coffee and the occasional batch of homemade nutmeg or pistachio ice cream. Until now. Until the legendary Heatwave of 2013 rolled in and, for the first time ever, scared us out of the kitchen because we couldn't take the heat.

Incinerated appetites and sapped energy supplies forced a scramble for dinner and lunch ideas best served like revenge, cold, completely cold. Hence the menus of the last week: Middle Eastern plates of baba ghanouj and tabouli; countless cups of gazpacho, both red and "white" varieties; BLT sandwiches; blackberry milkshakes for lunch and salads of all stripes for sultry weather suppers consumed inches away from the air conditioner.

You're probably suffering along with us now, especially if you reside on the ablaze East Coast. Relief may be found below in a few favorite recipes guaranteed to cool you down, with only the minimum of oven or stove time required in a few instances. Our game plan at Cafe Drake HRV is simple and effective - iced coffee for breakfast, or if you're feeling peckish, include a yogurt smoothie; cold soup, bread and cheese for lunch and a main course salad for dinner. Variations include cold soba or sesame noodles, pesto and fresh mozzarella sandwiches and tuna salad with sliced tomatoes and black olives. Most important advice of all : Get Out of the Kitchen. The Devil's in the Kitchen!

Q: What's better than fresh peas in their pods? A: An ice-cold martini to sip when shelling peas.

Shell as many fresh peas as you'd like and boil them for about 4-5 minutes. Drain and plunge into ice water. Drain again very well and place in a bowl. Gently stir in just enough mayonnaise to coat lightly then season with salt and black pepper. That's it. You don't need anything more other than fresh herb garnishes. Above: baby chrysanthemum leaves from the Cafe Drake HRV cooking garden.  

Chilled cubes of custardy tofu, dressed with ponzu sauce and slivered chilies and ginger, must be one of the most comforting hot weather dishes ever. No recipe, just drain tofu well, wrap in a paper towel and chill for at least 4 hours, chop into cubes and top as you like. A drizzle of soy sauce may suffice if simpler flavors are desired; otherwise, try with a dab of wasabi paste or hot mustard.         


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