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Dog Days

By Judith Hausman, Urban Farm Contributing Editor

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Chilled cucumber soup

Photo by Judith Hausman

C is for cucumber soup.

The first real heat wave of the season was a record-breaker this summer: about five days near or over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and really humid. The Sun Gold cherry tomatoes on the deck needed water, water, water, but the good news is that the heat and humidity were a big kick in the growing pants for the plants.

But what to eat, besides ice cream, when you’re wilting, melting, sweltering? Turning on an oven is just torture. Not so fast there—don’t do it. And you don’t have to eat Cheerios for dinner either. Here are three ideas for dog-day dining. Just add good bread (and a glass of chilled rosé) to complete the meal:

Pizza on the Grill

First, turn on the grill or light it.

Start with pre-made refrigerator-case dough. Maybe you can get a whole-wheat or seven-grain dough like I can in the supermarket here. (Or try this easy homemade pizza dough.) Stretch the stuff out and brush it with olive oil.

When the grill is hot, lay the stretched dough oiled-side down on the grill for about 10 minutes or until it’s nicely striped and brown. Flip it, and on that “virgin” side, quickly ladle, slather sprinkle on whatever you like on top of a pizza. Close the grill and wait five to seven minutes more or until the toppings have softened and the cheese has melted. Done.

I recently did thyme, yellow and red beets, sliced onion, ricotta salata and Parmesan — no tomato sauce. OK, so I already had the beets roasted but, hey, pepper strips, thin zucchini rounds, mushrooms, fresh tomato slices, olives, marinated artichoke hearts and ribboned radicchio don’t have to be pre-cooked at all.

Kitchen Sink Salads

Start with clean, dry salad greens waiting in a big, big bowl. Now, picture me flexing my fingers before I reach into the fridge. Into the salad go cubed, cold, leftover potatoes; a few anchovies; black olives; capers; sliced hard-boiled eggs; the rest of the pint of blueberries; sliced radishes; a half can of leftover, drained chickpeas; torn-up basil leaves and some tarragon; grated cheese. Wait, where’s that cold brown rice?  Throw in cut-up bits of all the veg you just got from your CSA. Pièce de résistance: really good Italian or Spanish oil-packed tuna (Genoa or Ortiz brands?). Now get extravagant with plenty of good olive oil and tasty vinegar. Et voilà.

Cold Soup

Borscht

Photo by Judith Hausman

During the dog days of summer, garnished borscht makes an elegant (and cool) summer meal.

Start with tomato juice or tomato or tomato soup in the blender. One cucumber, two ripe tomatoes, two peppers and a half small onion (preferably red) later, and you’ve got your basic gazpacho. Now, it needs a drizzle of olive oil, a dollop of red wine or sherry vinegar, salt and pepper and a touch of pimentón (smoked paprika), if you have it.

Make a creamy version with some plain yogurt whirred in too.

Or, start with OJ. Add chunks of cantaloupe, some honey if you picked a not-sweet melon, some mint and some white wine. Whir. Flourish with sour cream.

Or, start with some already-cooked broccoli, squash, chard or spinach. Add broth and some herbs. Blend those suckers. Season and add a dairy product of your choice or none. Garnish with chopped scallion. I admit, this last type of cold soup is better if you soften some onions and garlic in butter or oil to puree along with the cooked veg too. Don’t worry; the stovetop won’t be on long.

P.S. Ceviche, shellfish “cooked” only by marinating it in acidic citrus juices, is wonderful for hot weather, too, but it does require very fresh, very trustworthy fish.

Give us your opinion on Dog Days.
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All sound good.
Carl, Livermore, CA
Posted: 1/3/2012 11:13:25 AM
Good ideas.
Galadriel, Lothlorien, ME
Posted: 1/12/2011 10:34:11 PM
Got back to you late, David; sorry. Don't know about Nebraska but the Hudson Valley weather is truly autumnal now, almost time for minestrone and apples.
Judy, South Salem, NY
Posted: 9/13/2010 6:28:32 AM
Great article about how NOT to heat up the kitchen. The days have been brutal here in Nebraska this August as well. Heat indexes up 115 have been common place. These suggestions are great for those extreme heat conditions.
David, Omaha, NE
Posted: 8/11/2010 7:11:52 AM

About the Blogger

Judith Hausman

Judith Hausman
As a long-time freelance food writer, Judith Hausman has written about every aspect of food, but local producers and artisanal traditions remain closest to her heart. Eating close to home takes this seasonal eater through a journey of delights and dilemmas, one tiny deck garden, farmers’ market discovery and easy-as-pie recipe at a time. She writes from a still-bucolic but ever-more-suburban town in the New York City 'burbs.

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