Sunday, August 24, 2008
It is not even 10am and the dogs and the cats have already sought refuge in the cool basement. Babyface has flattened herself on the concrete floor of the laundry room—her big brother is not far away and the cats are draped across the tops of various bookshelves.
It is the kind of day, an old-time radio comedian once remarked, that makes you want to take off your skin and sit around in your bones.
It is the kind of day that the spousal unit is going to turn the kitchen into a “burning fiery furnace” when he starts canning tomatoes.
It is the kind of day when no one in his or her right mind does any cooking. Dishes that can be prepared without turning on the oven and that can be served cold are called for, preferably from lands where women have been coping with heat-dulled appetites for centuries.
Here are three dishes, copied/modified/adapted from various cookbooks (Claudia Roden, Martha Shulman, and Nancy Harmon Jenkins) and if not authentic they certainly are inspired by the Mediterranean and the Middle East. They can be made in the cool of the morning and eaten later that day (warning: they are not good keepers, not that there will be much left over).
Be as generous as you can with the fresh herbs. I am lucky enough to have mint, parsley, cilantro, sage and dill growing along the side of the house all summer. Serve any or all of them with good country bread or pitas, and with dishes of olives, sliced raw vegetables, and pickled hot peppers on the side. If you worry that this is not substantial enough, add a cold roast chicken for the carnivores.
Half a dozen long Japanese eggplants
1 clove garlic, smashed with a little salt
1-2 T plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
2 T olive oil
Half a jalapeno pepper, chopped fine (about 1T, or more if you like it fiery)
Salt to taste
One plum tomato, diced
Half a lemon
Prick the eggplants and cook them in the microwave until they are soft. Depending on the size and age of the eggplants, this will take 3-5 minutes. When they have collapsed, they are done. Put them to one side until they are cool enough to handle.
Carefully remove the skin and scrape the flesh into the bowl of a food processor. It will be feel a little slimy but that’s ok. Add the garlic, oil, jalapeno, and yogurt or sour cream and pulse until it is fluffy. Stir in the diced tomato and squeeze the lemon over the top. Taste for salt and garnish with chopped parsley.
1 can of chickpeas
1 T flavorless cooking oil, such as Wesson’s
1 T sesame oil
2 T plain Green yogurt
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed with a little salt (I like my hummus garlicky)
Half a lemon (edited to add: this should read JUICE of half a lemon!)
Rinse the chickpeas and remove as many of those nasty hard skins as you can. I pour them into a bowl of cold water and then agitate them until the skins float to the top. Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it is fluffy. Taste it and add more yogurt if it is too dry. Add salt if it needs it. Garnish with lots of parsley; anything with legumes needs a shot of something green.
White Beans with Dill
2 cans of Great Northern beans
2 T olive oil
¼ c plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
1-2 cloves garlic, smashed with a little salt
Salt to taste
Coarse-ground black pepper
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
Rinse and drain the beans, and place them in the bowl of a food processor with the oil, yogurt or sour cream, and garlic. Pulse until it is fluffy. Garnish with the pepper, hard-boiled eggs and a fistful of chopped fresh dill.
(images from Dover)