November 30, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Cool cooking

By |2022-08-20T03:54:41+02:00August 20th, 2022|"Suzanne's Taste"|
When it's hot, hot, and hot your stomach needs something cooling.

his summer I may or may not have kids and grandkids coming for a couple of weeks (another house — too many for this one!) and we will distance and be careful and eat on a long table in a sweet garden and hope these temperatures drop from the high 30s!!!

Who wants to eat in this weather?

Well, we do, but I have turned to cold soups, no-cook pasta sauces, and combinations of fresh vegetables, succumbing only to poaching salmon to eat cold with rémoulade sauce, frying a few bacon slices for BLTs, or simmering whatever strange items are in the fridge for soups. Oh, and always tucked away somewhere: cooked potatoes and rice for salads.

The first thing to do is look in your fridge and take out all the wondrous leftovers you might have, which I pray you do, leftovers being the heart and soul of delectable summer menus.

In mine, for example, I found corn, garbanzos, and cucumbers from my neighbor, a garden guru, who graces us with cukes, zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, and more. Those were all I need as starters.

Leftovers are the heart and soul of delectable summer menus.

Garbanzo beans, tahini (sesame paste), garlic, lemons, and mint went straight into the food processor for hummus: 2 cups cooked garbanzos, 2 big spoons of tahini, juice of a lemon, handful of mint or cilantro, ½-cup olive oil, and 2 tablespoons cold water will give you a smooth dish for dipping your pita or even tossing with pasta. Complex carbohydrates, right?

My favorite cold soup starts with a large forgotten-in-the-fridge zucchini, 1 sweet onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 small peeled potato, chopped coarse and put into a pot of chicken (or vegetable) broth to cover. They simmer for 20 minutes, cool off and go into the food processor with, get this, a ripe avocado and lemon juice and chill for a couple of hours until being served in a soup bowl with a dollop of Greek yogurt added. No one ever guesses that guacamole’s star is the secret of the rich taste.

Many do not eat tuna in these food-fearing days, but there could be more mercury in a piece of swordfish than a can of tuna so, using the food processor yet again, I mix my wonderful can of tuna in olive oil with fresh mint, a cup of broth, a small sweet onion, lemon juice to taste, and lots of fresh pepper and toss the sauce with short pasta. This tuna sauce can be tossed with cooked cubed potatoes, a bit of chopped sweet red pepper, little green onions, a small can of cooked corn kernels and fresh cilantro to make yet another easy salad.

The ubiquitous gazpacho is always in the fridge in summer: 4 tomatoes, a sweet onion, a small bit of celery, 2 large peeled cucumbers (thank you, neighbor), sweet red pepper (optional), a couple of garlic cloves, salt, pepper, a handful of fresh cilantro, and a splash of wine vinegar will get you your minimum daily requirement of all the vitamins you need to combat heat waves. You may add grilled almonds to the mix to have salmorejo, the gazpacho of Andalusia.

The potato, a staple that has practically become part of the family, is the star in Potatoes Gerardo, named after my stepson’s good friend, age 14, whom I allowed in my kitchen when he visited us in the summer in LA because he promised his warm potato recipe would knock our socks off. And it did: 4 potatoes, cooked and quartered in a bowl, generous olive oil over all, salt, pepper, fresh chopped basil, a shot of lemon juice and a skilled hand to mash them up a little so that there are chunks left in the mix. These are heavenly tepid, or stirred up with a couple of eggs to make potato pancakes for a second meal.

You can mix and match almost anything to come up with salads that please the palate and cool the soul.

Who needs socks in the summer anyway?

I love kids in the kitchen.

Last week when the thermometer hit close to 90, my cold salad started with 2 cups of leftover-on-purpose rice tossed with a huge fresh tomato, chopped fine, a cup of cooked corn kernels, ½-cup chopped sweet red pepper, a handful of fresh cilantro, mint from the garden, 4 little green onions, chopped fine, a few leaves of fresh basil, and the whole kit and kaboodle dressed with olive oil, a dash of balsamic vinegar, the juice of a lemon, along with a little grated peel, and a large spoon of mayonnaise.

You can mix and match almost anything to come up with salads that please the palate and cool the soul. It is HOT here.

If all of this looks like too much effort on a sweltering day, maybe just fit in a nice G and T and think about it tomorrow.

About the Author:

Suzanne Dunaway, a longtime major magazine writer and artist, is the author and illustrator of "Rome, At Home, The Spirit of La Cucina Romana in Your Own Kitchen" (Broadway Books) and "No Need To Knead, Handmade Italian Breads in 90 Minutes" (Hyperion). She taught cooking for 15 years privately and at cooking schools in Los Angeles, and now maintains a personal website and a blog. She divides her time between southern France and Italy.