By Annabel Cohen
It’s already hot, hot and it’s not even officially summer yet. It’s hard to think of hot food as refreshing. Cold food offers two main advantages; It’s fresher and it’s lighter. And because it’s made ahead of time, you’re not sweating just before you’re eating.
On this week’s menu are foods that keep you cool — literally, because they are served either cold or at room temperature — and figuratively, because the stress of preparation ends well before serving time, so there’s no rushing around at the last minute. This way you’re free to think of other last minute details, like what music you’ll play to enhance your dining experience. Personally, I like Bossa Nova on a sweltering night. But that may just be the Brazilian in me.
Start with drinks. While white wine or a frosty beer are perfect, a slushy watermelon cocktail can be just the thing to start the evening. Tomatillo salsa is quick to make (and how often do you get to cook with tomatillos?). Serve it with blue corn tortilla chips.
At dinner, salmon (or substitute snapper or cod) is so good and simple, you’ll prepare it all year round, serving it hot if you feel like it. Add a broccoli salad with sweet and sharp flavor contrasts and end with a show-stopping chocolate shortcake with coconut ice cream and creamy ganache sauce. Wow!
Watermelon Summer Chiller
- 2 cups ginger ale, chilled
- ½ cup frozen limeade concentrate, thawed (do not add water)
- 6 cups 2-inch cubed seedless watermelon, frozen
- Optional: ½ cup orange liqueur or Tequila
- Fresh mint leaves, garnish
Place all ingredients EXCEPT mint in the bowl of a food processor and pulse or process until uniform. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.
- 1 cup chopped raw tomatillos
- 1 cup chopped green pepper
- 1 cup chopped green tomatoes
- 1 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (wear rubber gloves)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips. Makes 8 or more servings.
NOTE: While you can chop ingredients by hand, using a food processor will cut down preparation time considerably. Don’t chop everything together, though. The texture and color of your salsa will be cloudy. Rather, pulse each ingredient in the food processor separately and add it to a large bowl with your other ingredients before mixing by hand. Certain foods, such as scallions, must be chopped by hand.
Mediterranean Salmon with Olives and Tomatoes
- 2½ pounds salmon fillet, cut into 6 portions
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- 3 cups diced fresh tomatoes
- 1 cup white wine
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ cup chopped pitted Kalamata (or your favorite variety) olives
- 2 tablespoons drained capers
- Fresh chopped parsley, garnish
Spray a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange the fish portions on the baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over the fish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the tomatoes around the salmon. Set aside.
Combine the wine, lemon juice and brown sugar in a small saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook the sauce for 10 minutes.
Drizzle all the sauce over the fish. To cook, preheat oven to 400 F. Roast the fish, uncovered, for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before covering with plastic wrap and chilling.
Serve cold or at room temperature, over greens, drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinegar. Makes 6-12 servings.
Broccoli, Almond, Orange, Cheddar and Cherry Salad
This salad is equally good prepared with asparagus or cauliflower.
- 1 pound broccoli florets — cut into small bite sized pieces (if buying whole heads of broccoli instead of the florets, you may need more than 1 pound)
- 1 cup shredded Sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup sweetened dried cherries
- ½ cup sliced or slivered almonds, lightly toasted
- 1 can (about 10-ounces) Mandarin oranges, drained well
- 1 cup slivered red or Bermuda onions
- 1 cup fresh chopped parsley
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Place broccoli in a microwave-safe bowl with ¼ cup water. Cover with plastic wrap and cook on high heat for 3 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, rinse with cold water and drain very well. Transfer the broccoli to a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss well. Makes 6-8 servings.
Chocolate Pine Nut Shortcakes with Coconut Ice Cream and Ganache Sauce
- 2 cups flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup pine nuts or chopped pecans
- 1½ cups whipping cream, not whipped
- 2 quarts coconut ice-cream, sorbet or vanilla ice cream, softened slightly and mixed with 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, to taste and refrozen (or 2 quarts vanilla ice cream mixed with 2 cups sweetened flaked coconut)
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, softened
- ¼ cup whipping cream, not whipped
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to mix. Add remaining shortcake ingredients and pulse until just combined.
Turn out dough onto well-floured work surface. Using well-floured hands, on a floured surface, form dough into a circle, about ¾-inch thick. Using a 3-inch cookie cutter or glass, make circles of dough (number will depend on diameter of circle.) Gather excess dough and repeat until all the dough is used.
Place shortcake rounds on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until shortcakes are firm to the touch. Remove from oven to cool.
Make the ganache sauce. Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, covered, and cook on high for 2 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir in butter and cream until smooth. If the mixture is lumpy, microwave on high for 30 seconds and stir again (repeat until sauce is smooth).
To serve, place uncut shortcakes on individual plates. Place a scoop of ice-cream next to the shortcake and drizzle with the melted ganache sauce. Makes 8 servings.