Cooling Off With Hot Food Writers

If you live east of the Mississippi and as north as Boston, you know it's BLAZING hot for early June. Here in Washington, we're in Day Four of an extreme heat wave, making popsicle eating a competitive sport.

In the heat of the moment, I asked a few dozen food writers, bloggers and chefs to share their favorite ways to cool off in the kitchen -- suppers that are raw, uncooked or using as little stovetop power as possible. Below, a dozen or so very cool ideas.

Pea shoot pasta. (Courtesy Rachel Rappaport/Coconut & Lime)

Fruit is at the top of the list for Washington area writer and cooking instructor Monica Bhide:

Here's what I'm having for lunch these days. Peel and chop -- lychees, papaya, mango, apricot and watermelon and place in a large bowl. If I have on hand, canned jackfruit and canned mangosteen (found at local Indian and Asian stores, drained and rinsed), also go into the bowl. Add freshly chopped mint, a touch of lemon juice, salt and sugar to taste. CHILL for at least two hours and enjoy a super, spectacular cold, exotic fresh fruit salad for lunch.

Slightly further north on I-95, Baltimore-based blogger Rachel Rappaport of Coconut and Lime suggests her pea shoot pasta as a main -- a great idea if you can get to the farmer's market this week -- but, she confesses, "My absolute favorite low-cook food is a dessert" -- blueberry-ginger ice box pie. Yowza!

Great minds think alike: Isa Chandra Moskowitz, of "Veganomicon" and Post Punk Kitchen fame and I are on the same wavelength. Her reply to my e-mail: "I was just writing about this (I mean, literally, just now writing it)." Her grain salad-y idea is along the same lines as my instant couscous improv number from last week. Here's her take:

Choose a grain that you just need to pour boiling water over, like bulghur or couscous (not a grain, I know!), that way the stove is only on for the amount of time you need to boil the water. Prepare the grain the night before, when things cool down a bit. Put it in the fridge overnight and then next day add maybe some cooked beans (from a can is fine), a little vinegar or lemon, olive oil, sliced fresh veggies, fruit and fresh herbs. You'll have yourself a refreshing, filling and pretty gourmet meal that will last you a few days and you hardly had to touch the stove.

Cold soup is on the menu for three food bloggers:

Beatrice Peltre who writes the bilingual La Tartine Gourmande suggests sipping on a chilled avocado, orange and lime puree and Young Gansie at Endless Simmer takes that avocado theme in a tropical direction and adds some sultry mango. Cucumber soup is on Shannon Henry's mind over at the Denver-based Cooking With Friends. "I made a HUGE vat of it and have been giving it out to friends," she writes.

Gorgeous avocado soup with oranges and lime. (Courtesy Beatrice Peltre/La Tartine Gourmande)

Kim Carlson, editor of the Portland, Ore.-based Culinate reports:

It's freezing in Portland -- well, 61F -- and we really haven't had one of those days where it's too hot to cook for quite awhile now. But when we do, I'll probably make a Salad Niçoise. I know that means I have to cook a few things before I go to work -- small white potatoes, green beans, 7-minute eggs -- but that's pretty easy. If I'm really lucky, there's leftover albacore cooked on the grill (but I'm not above using a good canned tuna either). Other ingredients: the ripest tomatoes available, really good black olives, and butter lettuce. I make a simple mustard vinaigrette and serve it as a composed salad; that way everyone can find something on the platter they like to eat.

Jaden, the hot number over at has drinks, dessert and dinner all lined up:

Summertime in Sarasota, Florida gets so unbearable that even the ants march following the shade lines of palm trees. During those days, we break out the Slip-N-Slide on our front lawn and enjoy Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Fresh Lemongrass Ginger Ale. Of course, the adults get the ginned version!

For supper, I head to the market for fresh seafood and make an Asian style ceviche -- sliced salmon, scallops, salmon eggs, mussels and pomelo sections with lime juice, fish sauce, grated fresh ginger and topped with minced chilies and cilantro.

And our favorite dessert of all time is home made Co-Co-Fro-Yo with Tropical Fruit

I caught Miami-based writer Diana Abu-Jaber, author of "Crescent" and "The Language of Baklava" in transit in Chicago, and when it gets too hot, she returns to her Jordanian roots:

My favorite, coolest meal for me is a traditional Jordanian mezza -- a compilation -- garlicky hummus, pita bread, cured black olives, sliced tomatoes from the garden sprinkled with olive oil and fresh basil, Armenian braided cheese, sliced baby cucumber, iced sweet mint tea. (To be followed with rosewater ice cream!) I can make this into breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Cucumbers are the solution for two chefs in two different parts of the world.

Chinese cooking expert Fuchsia Dunlop, whom I interviewed recently about the earthquake in China, suggests this "Cool as a cucumber" Sichuanese appetizer:

Whack a cucumber, hard, with the side of a Chinese cleaver to loosen it, and then cut into bite-sized pieces and place in a serving bowl. Make a sour-hot dressing from Chinkiang vinegar (dark brown Chinese rice vinegar) and chile oil, with a dash of soy sauce for saltiness, and perhaps a pinch of sugar and a smidgeon of toasted sesame oil if you please. Pour over the cucumber, mix well and serve immediately.

And Courtney Knapp, associate producer for The Martha Stewart Show reports from New York that tzatziki is her answer to the raging heat:

Cucumber, greek yogurt, lots of garlic, salt, and a little lime -- great on fish or even as a salad dressing, thinned out with some olive oil. No measuring, no fuss.

Got a cool idea to add to this hot list? Talk to me today at noon for the popsicle edition of What's Cooking.

By Kim ODonnel |  June 10, 2008; 10:45 AM ET Summer
Previous: 'Morning, Sunshine: Is Breakfast on Your Menu? | Next: Sorting Through the Tomato Pulp


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It's hot down here in ATL as well so a nice gazpacho is always a tall order; Or something I love making is star anise lemonade with a lot of crushed ice and maybe some sugar cane! YUM. I'll post recipe on my blog this week!

Posted by: Flanboyant Eats | June 10, 2008 11:28 AM

My cooling off dessert treat is the San Miguel Cookies (Iced Lemon Cookies) from the Elsylee line (

They burst with freshness and tartiness!! perfect summer treat!

goes well with a nice raspberry or chocolate gelato.

Posted by: Peter Acevedo | June 10, 2008 11:58 AM

Great post. Love the recipes. But most of all--I think I'm moving to Portland!

Posted by: wow | June 10, 2008 2:28 PM

Great post. Love the recipes. But most of all--I think I'm moving to Portland!

Posted by: wow

LOL!! You got room in that bag? That was exactly what I was thinking.

Everything sounds cool and yummy...

Posted by: LABC | June 10, 2008 3:10 PM

I love Fuchsia Dunlop's idea, and you can do pretty much the same with radishes (Dad always called them simply smashed radishes.)

I think my dinner tonight - because it's the Jewish holiday Shavuot commemorating the Torah - is going to focus on dairy: specifically, strawberry shortcake, and I may cheat and buy frozen pound cake, but shortcake really doesn't heat up the kitchen for too long...

Posted by: Reine de Saba | June 10, 2008 3:15 PM

I've always loved a cold mango with some cilantro and lime to beat the heat. Goes especially well with grilled salmon.

Posted by: Centre of Nowhere | June 10, 2008 5:52 PM

Dare I say it? Go raw! No, not wrestling. Sushi!

I'm into the raw fish, but it's not necessary to go over to the dark side. Think mango and avocado California rolls. If you like fish, the imitation crab meat is pretty good in a roll and it's fairly cheap at the local Asian markets. Tuna salad makes a great center filling for a roll. The best tuna fish sandwich I ever had was in Japan (sushi roll).

Another variation on this theme is ceviche. Fresh fish, cool lime juice, and tossed with onion, cilantro, jalapeño (solo un poquito), and tomato. Vine on, of course.



Posted by: Fairlington Blade | June 10, 2008 8:24 PM

Kim....... this sounds great!! Its been 100 degrees for a few days, and with the heat index 105-110 degrees. A cool salad and fruit are refreshing during these Hot steamy and sticky days and nights. Great article! Enjoy your blog, as always. STAY COOL : )

Posted by: East Coast | June 11, 2008 2:28 PM

I'm glad I canned my strawberry jam earlier in the season as this past weekend would have been TOO steamy! But the last of the strawberries did yield a delicious strawberry cheesecake ice cream. The perfect finish to dinner cooked on the grill: grilled chicken, asparagus and bell peppers with a green salad.

Posted by: Sean | June 11, 2008 4:17 PM

Good, timely post! It's not very warm these couple of weeks in Switzerland. Still, my favourtie cold treat is to puree 8 strawberries (or equivalent amount of raspberries) in 250ml of cold buttermilk with a scoop of sorbet or a teaspoon of powdered sugar.

(Did you say challenge? One to you is to edit the punctuation in the quotes from interviewees.)

Posted by: Argus | June 14, 2008 5:29 AM

Just returned from vacationing in the great Northwest. Although I am really fond of Maryland, we thoroughly enjoyed our tour of Portland. Super food, scenery and people there.


Posted by: DocChuck | June 14, 2008 11:15 AM

My husband is a huge fan of Jane and Michael Stern. On the trip he mentioned he rented a 1968 Buick convertable and we hit all kinds of out of the way places, just like the Sterns do!

We even visted a prison (the Sterns secret passion).

It was a great vacation.

Posted by: MrsDocChuck | June 16, 2008 10:54 AM

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