Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Beat-the-Heat Cool Summer Dinner

Cold Cucumber Soup and a different method for cooking beets
While the weather here is mostly mild, Cleveland is seeing some temperatures in the upper 80's and pushing into the 90's, albeit rarely. When this happens, a cold summer menu can be very enjoyable and refreshing. D and I recently prepared an evening meal of cold cucumber soup and salad of mixed greens accompanied by baguette peppered goat cheese. Since I've not posted any recipes here yet, I thought this might be a fine time.

To make the cold cucumber soup (serves four):
3 cucumbers
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 clove garlic
2 Tbsp fresh dill
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro
1 tiny pinch nutmeg
1 pinch cayenne (or to taste)
sea salt to taste

Peel, seed and chop the cucumber. Put the cucumber and the remaining ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Adjust the consistency by adding more milk (or water) as necessary. Taste and adjust seasonings. I didn't measure my ingredients exactly, so play with the herbs and amount of yogurt until you are satisfied with the flavor. I have conservatively estimated the herbs, so you may need more. The table set with some napkins and place mats we picked up in Provence.

Not a bad wine, especially when on sale at Whole Foods for about half the regular price. I confess to liking a slightly oaked, sur-lie sauv blanc.

Now, who in their right mind would crank up the oven just to roast a few beets in this hot weather? Here's a great alternative. I used this method for our Bastille day dinner (see post below this one).

Peel and cut the beet into whatever size and shape you wish to serve. Place the cleaned beets in a zip lock bag with fresh herbs, olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a small dash of good vinegar. I used fresh thyme and oregano. A little minced shallot would help, too. Seal the bag and drop it into a small pot of simmering water. I used the pot/same water that I had on to blanch the peas. The beets will probably need about twenty minutes cooking time or less, depending on how small you cut them. Check for doneness by lifting the bag out of the water and giving the beets a gentle squeeze with your fingers. Yes, it's going to be a little hot. Hey, toughen up. Are you a cook or what? Allow the beets to cool in the bag. When the beets are cool, drain them into a container for storage in the fridge. Or you can save them in their juice, if you have used very little vinegar. And now for some pictures of the meal.
Beets in the bag, going into the pot.Beets simmering along side some peas.The finished product. Yum.Prosecco should be three things (in my humble opinion): inexpensive, chilled and delightful!Here's a fine example.