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WND – . . . but uh-oh those summer nights

July 8, 2010

At work I have a space heater under my desk, a wool scarf hung over the back of my chair, and a pair of arm warmers in my desk drawer that make me feel like Cyndi Lauper circa 1985, but also stop my hands from aching in the frigid air of my office so I’ll accept the hit for the dubious fashion statement (other comments from my office – ‘I thought you’d broken both your arms,’ and ‘hello, Debbie Gison’). At lunch I go outside and lie in the sun, and it takes 20 minutes for my feet to defrost after a morning at work. Some of this is a reflection on exactly how cold my office is, but a lot of it is a reflection on the fact that I’m just always cold.

My favorite temperature falls somewhere between 80 and 87. Much below 75 and after the sun goes down I’m reaching for a sweater and pulling up my quilt at night. I’m one creepy alien encounter away from actually being cold blooded, or possibly my internal temperature gauge was warped by too many summers spent in Virginia as a child. Either way when I say I don’t mind the heat, what I mean is I actively like the heat but I don’t feel like dealing with the ‘what kind of freak are you?’ looks that you get when you tell people that. For reasons that escape me it’s fine to like the icy winter weather, but enjoying some hazy summer sun is forbidden unless you’re at the beach.

Along with the Netherlands advancing to the World Cup finals, Tuesday was also note worthy for Boston breaking triple digit temperatures. This capped a weekend where it never dropped below 90, and even I will admit that I wilted a little when the thermostat in my apartment registered 92 at midnight on Tuesday night. Wednesday was actually nicer than anticipated, but in the interest of not roasting everyone at Dinner by turning on the oven on Wednesday night I had done all my cooking on Monday when I could take a cold shower as soon as I had finally turned off the oven and washed the last dirty dish.

Summer Squash Soup with Mint Pistou
Roasted Beet Salad with Cumin and Mint
Tomatoes & Cucumbers
Bread & Cheese

Summer Squash Soup with Mint Pistou
(serves 6)

This isn’t actually a cold soup. I rewarmed it over a low heat until it was hot, but not boiling.

I know that 4 Tbsp of butter sounds like a lot, and if this was a winter squash soup that would be true. But, summer squash doesn’t have the buttery velvety flavor of a butternut or acorn squash so it needs a little help in the form of actual butter. There’s nothing much else in this soup to give it richness, so don’t skimp on the butter (the original recipe called for 6 Tbsp, but I balked at that).

Soup
4 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
½ tsp salt
2 lb yellow summer squash, halved and thinly sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 potato (½ pound), peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
4 cups chicken stock

Melt the butter in a heavy pot over moderate heat. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened (about 8 minutes). Add the squash, carrots, potato and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer until vegetables are very tender (about 20 minutes. Cool soup for 10 minutes and then puree until very smooth. Return to pot and season to taste, thin with some water if necessary.

Pistou
¾ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
½ cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
2 scallions, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp water
¼ tsp salt

Pulse the mint, parsley and scallion in a food processor until finely chopped. With the motor running add the olive oil, water and salt, blending until incorporated.

Swirl 1 Tbsp of the pistou into each bowl of soup.

Roasted Beet Salad with Cumin & Mint
This is a loose interpretation of a loose interpretation of a Moroccan mezze.

1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium beets (1 ¼ lb total without greens), trimmed
1/3 cup fresh mint, coarsely chopped
2-3 oranges, sliced

Heat the oven to 425.

Trim and wash the beets, and then wrap them tightly in a double layer of foil and roast on a baking sheet until tender (about an hour). Cool in the foil package until cool enough to handle.

While the beets are roasting, toast the cumin seeds in a small pan until they are fragrant. Crush them lightly and then mix them in with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Peel the beets (rubbing them with a paper towel is the fastest and neatest way I know to do this), and then slice into chunks, or wedges. Toss with dressing while still warm.

Just before serving mix in the orange slices and the mint, serve on a bed of lettuce.

Tomatoes & Cucumbers
Last summer we had 63 days of rain. This summer has been so spectacular that fruits and vegetables are appearing at the farmer’s market 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule – I was stunned to find peaches and plums there this week. Early stone fruits notwithstanding, it’s still early enough in the tomato season that I haven’t gotten over the novelty of sun ripened, juicy sweet tomatoes yet.

Bread & Cheese

Crusty French Bread and Six-Grain & Pumpkin Seed Bread courtesy of When Pigs Fly Bakery

Goat Cheese Gouda
Oude Gouda
Amish Blue
Irish Cheddar

Peaches & plums for aesthetic value, and because I could.

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