Is anyone else just so tired of this heat?!?! I am feeling like EVERYTHING is taking so much more effort--just moving through the air is exhausting. All I want to do is sit in my recliner next to the air conditioning vent and over-indulge in the celebration of National Ice Cream Appreciation month. But while that plan might be delicious, it is certainly not nutritious.
Frankly, even concentrating on writing this column feels onerous. I am dreaming of dunking in a swimming pool filled with ice water, floating the river submerged (at least partially) in the cold snowmelt from the Sierras, and looking forward to the fall when the heat of the day subsides into lovely late-September evenings. How is it only July!?!
Unfortunately, duty calls--produce must be harvested and delivered box-by-box, columns must be written, and no one should only eat ice cream for an entire month. This week, I am going to bypass the storytelling and waxing philosophical in order to provide you with three great recipes that you can make at home that requires minimal use of the stove. Regardless of anything else, we all gotta eat and the last thing that I want to do is stand over a hot stove in order to meet the needs of my growling stomach.
The first recipe comes from the New York Times cooking section. A few months ago, the Times asked their food writing team to identify their favorite things to make when they don’t feel like making anything. This recipe for “Scarlett’s Tuna Salad” was mentioned by literally 9 out of the 10 people surveyed. I have made this recipe about 10 times since then--it really is that good. The second recipe is for gazpacho. While not necessarily a full meal in and of itself, gazpacho is a fresh and refreshing sippable soup that can be adapted to use up pretty much whatever veggies are in season. Finally, I have included a spicy peanut noodle salad. I always enjoy eating spicy food when it is hot out--if it makes you sweat, it will cool you down! Combine this salad together with a chilled cup of gazpacho and you will have laid a solid foundation for the massive bowl of ice cream you eat later--preferably while submerged up to your armpits in some cool water.
Scarlett’s Tuna Salad
Recipe by Scarlett Lindeman of Cicatriz Restaurant in Mexico City
½ cup rice-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 red onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
1 cucumber, peeled if skin is thick and waxy, sliced about 1/4-inch thick
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 limes, juiced, about 1/4 cup
5 to 7 ounces olive-oil-packed tuna
1 avocado, peeled and cubed
½ teaspoon or more flaky salt
black pepper, to taste
Handful basil leaves, washed and torn
Handful cilantro sprigs, washed and torn
Handful fresh mint leaves, washed and torn
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
In a clean glass jar with a tightfitting lid, mix vinegar, sugar, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt with 1/2 cup hot water. Shake until sugar is dissolved. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the onions. Let it sit for just a few seconds in the hot water, then drain well and transfer onions to the jar with the vinegar. The pickled onions will be ready to use in an hour or can be made ahead and kept in the fridge for up to a week.
In a large mixing bowl, dress the cucumber and spring onions with the remaining kosher salt and lime juice. It should be fairly wet. Pour into a deep serving plate or a wide bowl, along with any extra liquid at the bottom of the bowl.
Spoon tuna out of the oil and use your hands to break it into bite-size pieces, directly into the now-empty mixing bowl. Add avocado, 3 tablespoons of pickled red onion, and 1 tablespoon of pickling liquid from the jar and mix gently with your hands to dress. Scatter over the cucumber mixture, and season with finishing salt and black pepper. Cover with torn herbs, and generously drizzle everything with olive oil. Eat right away, with spoons.
The Best Gazpacho
Recipe by Julia Moskin
2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 Anaheim pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 small mild onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, more to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste, plus more for drizzling
Combine tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion, and garlic in a blender or, if using a hand blender, in a deep bowl. (If necessary, work in batches.) Blend at high speed until very smooth, at least 2 minutes, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
With the motor running, add the vinegar and 2 teaspoons salt. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The mixture will turn bright orange or dark pink and become smooth and emulsified, like a salad dressing. If it still seems watery, drizzle in more olive oil until the texture is creamy.
Strain the mixture through a strainer, pushing all the liquid through with a spatula or the back of a ladle. Discard the solids. Transfer to a large pitcher (preferably glass) and chill until very cold, at least 6 hours or overnight.
Before serving, adjust the seasonings with salt and vinegar. If the soup is very thick, stir in a few tablespoons of ice water. Serve in glasses, over ice if desired, or in a bowl. A few drops of olive oil on top are a nice touch.
Spicy Peanut Noodle Salad
By J. Kenji Alt-Lopez
8 oz Chinese noodles made with wheat - cooked according to the package directions
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons Sambal Oelek or Sriracha (garlic chili sauce) more or less to taste
2 limes, juiced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
3 tablespoons warm water
2 large bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
1 large cucumber, seeded and sliced into fine julienne or small half-moons
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil, mint, or cilantro leaves
8 scallions, finely sliced in long, thin strips
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded, sliced into fine strips
1 to 2 red Thai bird chilis, finely minced (optional)
1/2 cup roughly crushed roasted peanuts
In a large bowl, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, chili sauce, lime juice, sesame seed oil, garlic, sugar or honey, and water. Whisk until homogeneous. Drain noodles thoroughly and add to bowl. Add bell peppers, cucumber, bean sprouts, basil leaves, scallions, jalapeños, and bird chilis (if using). Toss to combine. Serve immediately, topped with roasted peanuts.