Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lulu's User-Friendly Guide to: Savory Summer Foods to Keep You Cool

Summer is the home of frozen treats: popsicles, ice cream cones, and ice cream sandwiches (yes, shameless self-promotion). But one can't survive on sweets alone -- trust me, I've tried. So what can you do to keep cool during meal time? Here are a few of my favorite cold savory dishes from my cookbook collection for you to try during these sweltering dog days of summer:

A classic summer stand-by that hails from Spain. This soup combines the coolness of cucumbers with the tangy acidity of tomatoes and garlic.

1 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
4 plum tomatoes
1 red onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
23 ounces tomato juice (3 cups)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup good olive oil
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper


Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess!

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop. Serves 4. (Source: Garten, Ina. The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, 1999)

Bibb lettuce with lump crab and creamy basil dressing
This delicate lettuce pairs nicely with the cool flakes of crab meat and sweet basil dressing.

  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs of jumbo lump crabmeat
  • 1 head of Bibb lettuce
  • ---
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallot
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar if you'd like the green to really pop)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • a few cracks of black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


Combine the second group of ingredients in a blender until smooth. Place cleaned Bibb lettuce leaves down on a plate (or in a martini glass, if you're feeling festive), top with crab meat, and drizzle dressing over the top. Serves 4.

Shrimp and Scallop Seviche
I'll be going to Peru before the year is over, so naturally my thoughts turn to this classic Peruviano take on seafood. This recipe comes from my good friend (and excellent home chef) Virginia Graham.

2 lbs. of shrimp, cooked and peeled
1 lb of raw scallops, thinly sliced
1 cup of fresh lime juice (about six limes)
6 Tablespoons of finely chopped red onion
4 Tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons of finely chopped green pepper
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of oregano
Dash of Tabasco
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 avocados, peeled and sliced


Cut the shrimp in half, down the center and then bisect (you should get four pieces per shrimp). Mix with the scallops in a bowl. Three to four hours before serving, marinate the seafood in the lime juice at room temperature. Cover and let stand for one hour, stirring occasionally. Drain and discard the juice. Add all the remaining ingredients to the seafood, except the avocado, and toss lightly. Chill for an hour. Finally, arrange on plates with the avocado. Yum!

Prosciutto e melon
It really doesn't get any easier than this salty-sweet Italian dish. The important thing is to get really good ingredients. If you can get your hands on a Charentais melon, do! They are especially sweet and fragrant. Otherwise, cantaloupe should do the trick.


1 Charentais melon

1 package of prosciutto ham


Quarter melon and then slice flesh away from the rind so that you end up with crescents. Bisect each crescent to get more manageable pieces. Remove thin slices of prosciutto from the package and wrap completely around melon. Pop in mouth and enjoy!

Cold Soba Noodles
Noodles may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you're in need of something refreshing, but I always crave these noodles on a muggy summer night ever since I tried them in Japan a few years back.

1/2 lb. soba noodles
2 cups finely shredded napa cabbage
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
2 Tbsps. seasoned rice vinegar
2 tsps. soy sauce
2 tsps. sweet chili sauce
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup sliced Japanese pickled ginger
2 Tbsps. chopped cilantro
2 green onions, julienned
1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

In a large pot of boiling water, cook noodles according to package directions; drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Place noodles in a large bowl. Add napa cabbage and sesame oil; toss until evenly combined.

Combine dressing ingredients in a medium bowl; mix well. Pour dressing over noodle mixture. Add pickled ginger, cilantro, and green onions. Toss to evenly coat and let chill in fridge. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve. Serves 4. (Source: Yan, Martin. Martin Yan's Quick & Easy, 2005)

Stay cool!