Drink Your Dinner Tonight

Ah, the weather. The way it shapes our lives, changes our mood, affects the way we think, sleep and eat.

This week in weatherland has been a real hootenanny, hasn't it? Even in the short time I've been back on DC soil, the uber-meltdown has a heat-lover like myself running for shade.

Gazpacho: Much better than a V-8. (Kim O'Donnel)

Under such extreme conditions, what does one eat? Do you cook? Do you even want to eat? Consider uncooked items for the dinner table -- no, that's doesn't mean a bowl of cereal.

Consider another kind of bowl -- gazpacho. The Andalusian cold soup is like having a whirl of air conditioning down the hatch. There's something so lovely and cooling about a cold tomato puree. Let it linger in the throat and feel the internal temperature come down a few degrees.

In addition to its cooling factors, gazpacho offers wiggle room in the recipe department. You'll need those newly arrived tomatoes, a cuke, a sweet or mild onion, some garlic (a summer produce dream!).

The rest is up to you. I like mine loaded with herbs -- parsley and basil (After all, it's one of the few things in the garden loving the heat) -- and a spritz of lemon and/or sherry vinegar, which lifts the flavors a bit. I usually throw in half a jalapeno for some heat and if I've got a little bit of crusty bread laying around, I might toss that in. But that's the beauty of this baby - it can be your very own improv meal.

Best well chilled, gazpacho keeps in a covered container for up to five days. Keep a bunch throughout the week for workday lunches or a midday quencher.

Gazpacho gets high marks in the nutrient department too. Loaded with anti-oxidant lyocopene in those tomatoes, gazpacho also boasts Vitamin C, fiber, antivirals from the onion and garlic, and best of all, it's low-cal and cholesterol free.

That grill is sounding a bit toasty now, isn't it? Share your favorite ways to cool off in heat-lacious weather -- in comments area below!

By Kim ODonnel |  August 4, 2006; 1:12 PM ET Seasonal Produce
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If you don't mind turning on the stove long enough to bring a pot of water to boil, then I suggest a couscous salad that I love making every summer. Prepare the couscous per the package directions (for about 1 cup of dry couscous). When it's done, pour into a bowl set in an ice bath, and periodically stir/fluff with a fork to chill the couscous. While the couscous is chilling, chop tomatoes (about 2 large, esp. good with heirloom varieties and different colors), one english cucumber, one small sweet onion, one bell pepper (I like red or yellow), a big bunch of basil, italian flat leaf parsley, and chives. Mix vegetables/herbs together in a large bowl and season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir in the cooled couscous, and then dress with your favorite vinegarette (I prefer Gerard's champagne vinegarette if using storebought). This salad is best served at room temp. A big bowl of the salad with some crusty bread and cheese makes a great, cool lunch or dinner.

Posted by: Angie | August 4, 2006 3:55 PM

this sounds delicious, kim! i'm going to give it a try. (i have to say, though, that sometimes there's nothing wrong with a bowl of cereal for dinner...there are nights when it's too hot to even think and a nice bowl of cheerios hits the spot!)

Posted by: amy | August 4, 2006 4:40 PM

If it were me, I will not add jalapeno, instead, will add coriander and mint.
Both are cooling herbs and will make your mind-body cool down instantly after a hot summer day.

Also another suggestion for drink-your-dinner recipes for summer-
Cold cucumber soup. You will find recipes for it on the net.

Posted by: Stayingcool | August 4, 2006 5:03 PM

Gazpacho rules in the summer! I have a great recipe that I got from the Sunday Source section three years ago and I make it every summer. I can't wait till I get to the farmers' market tomorrow.

Posted by: Little Red | August 4, 2006 6:19 PM

Cold soups are wonderful, and the variety is endless. I make one with a cucumber, an avocado, 1/2 cup of low-fat sour cream, 1 cup of low-fat broth, 2 chopped scallions, 3 tablespoons lime juice, puree. Or take six tomatoes, an avocado, cilantro, tabasco, 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream, 1 cup broth (there's a shrimp broth now that's great), scallions, lime juice, puree. There's vegetable broth for the vegetarian crowd, you can substitute yogurt for sourcream, and use whatever herbs are going strong in your planters.

Posted by: Christine | August 4, 2006 9:37 PM

Tabouleh is a great way to create a cool meal. You can buy the boxed stuff, but it doesn't really save any time. Just buy cracked wheat (bulgur). Bring water to a boil, add the wheat, turn the heat OFF, cover the pan, let sit for an hour. That's all the cooking there is. Then add green onions, tomatoes, parsley, mint, lemon juice, a little olive oil, and it's a great side dish. Or add some feta cheese to give it some heft, maybe some shrimp or cooked chicken, and it's a dinner in a bowl. Great stuff. You can add fresh rosemary to the boiling water for another nice variation.

Posted by: Cathy | August 4, 2006 9:42 PM

Favorite hot summer night dinner:
chilled glass of white wine, room temp juicy tomato with salt and pepper, fresh bagette to dip in tomato juice and havarti cheese.

Posted by: KB silver Spring | August 7, 2006 1:20 PM

Not sure where I got the inspiration - very likely from Kim's chat or blog! - but I had bought about 3 pounds of fresh bing cherries really cheap at Magruder's and had to use them up, so I made a cold dessert soup: into the blender went about 2 cups of pitted fresh cherries, a cup of canned pie cherries, a cup of light sour cream and a cup of vanilla yogurt. Chopped up some more fresh cherries as a garnish and to add texture, and chilled for a couple of hours. OK, it was as much of a smoothie as a soup, but it was delicious, refreshing, and well received, and I have more left over for breakfast.

Posted by: Reine de Saba | August 9, 2006 9:13 PM

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