So, there we were, a weekday summer dinner on the porch.
It was still hot at the end of the day, and I had prepared what I thought was a delicious meatloaf: yellow-gold mashed potatoes with real cream and butter and green beans. What was I thinking? My “better half” met my culinary endeavors with significant resistance—the meatloaf wasn’t bad, but it was too hot to eat like that and something about sweating. (More likely due to the two glasses of wine he had consumed.)
My menu choice was mostly due to the desire for meatloaf sandwiches for the week ahead. What’s better than that? Nevertheless, I violated one of my primary cooking rules—cook seasonally. I was starting to resemble my Aunt Mary, who once made pot roast and gravy for the Fourth of July.
So, I re-visited several of my favorite recipes for dishes more conducive for serving on a hot summer evening: chicken salad spruced up with plump bing cherries, chilled Nicoise salad (a classic combo of fresh tuna, hardboiled eggs, Mediterranean olives, tomatoes and green beans), several uncooked tomato sauces fragrant with fresh basil and chilled soups.
I have always loved cold soups in the summer. But food trends are constantly changing. One rarely sees the classic French vichyssoise made with potatoes and leeks as a restaurant offering anymore or the sweet-cream blueberry soup that could double as dessert.
But one summer favorite seems to have retained its popularity—gazpacho. Traditional gazpacho, which hails from Andalusia, Spain, is usually a tomato-based concoction. Today, endless varieties are popping up, such as green gazpacho, which is honeydew melon-based, watermelon gazpacho and even white gazpacho made with a puree of almonds and cucumber. Chefs are adding toppings such as cold shrimp or crab, diced avocado, sliced celery and chopped herbs that add a nice contrast to the pureed vegetables.
My favorite gazpacho has always been a traditional recipe from an old cookbook of mine entitled “Cold Cuisine.” It is slightly spicy, spiked with vinegar, and, to me, really tastes like each of the summer vegetables contained in it. Its consistency is a cross between chunky and smooth, and all you need is a blender or food processor to make. If you pair it with some melon and prosciutto or a nice cheese and whole grain crackers, it can be dinner.
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 2 parsley sprigs
- 2 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped (about 1 to 1 ¼ pounds)
- 1 medium-sweet green pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 or 3 scallions, chopped
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 2½ cups tomato juice
- 2½ tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Tabasco or other hot sauce to taste
- Chop the garlic and parsley in a food processor.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, green pepper, scallions, cucumber and basil to the work bowl.
- With the motor running, add the tomato juice in a stream and process until the vegetables are chopped fine but not completely pureed.
- Turn the mixture into a bowl and add the oil, vinegar and seasonings to taste. Thin with extra tomato juice if you feel the soup is too thick.
- Chill until very cold.
Serve the soup in chilled bowls with a garnish of sour cream and some shredded basil. You will be surprised how filling this soup is and how beautiful it looks. You can serve it as a first course, too, along with a grilled main course.
I’m saving the meatloaf until fall, along with my great pot roast and chicken cacciatore. August can bring the hottest days of summer and, by now, if you have read this column before, know I am tired of charred grilled meat and dried-out, boneless chicken breasts. So, I will charm the resident grumpy spouse with a lovely chilled soup (maybe gazpacho?) and a crisp white wine. Dinner on the porch? I think I have it figured out!
Author: Rosemary Ruggieri Baer