Savor the cool cuisine when summer simmers

As the mercury rises, these recipes will keep you away from the oven.

Posted: July 19, 2007

When temperatures climb above 90 degrees, the last thing we want to think about is hot food.

And the very last thing we want to do is cook.

But there are plenty of options for cold summer suppers, as almost any food can be served cold. It's just that few home cooks are practiced in the art.

Take your cues from some of our local restaurant chefs who understand their customers' desire for more cold food options in summer.

At Loie on South 19th Street, just two weeks into his tenure, executive chef Brenton Wallace is drawing on his repertoire of cold blender soups, including a watermelon gazpacho- a watermelon, honeydew and cucumber puree accented with a little jalapeno heat and a crab salad garnish. (And watermelon gazpacho seems to be an especially popular starter this season.)

Don't be afraid to experiment. Another unexpected but winning flavor combination is the pairing of watermelon and feta cheese in salad, now on the menu at Brasserie Perrier and other fine restaurants around town.

A more traditional tomato-based vegetable gazpacho blend, pureed with a touch of vinegar, becomes a salad dressing at the hands of Cuba Libre's consulting chef Guillermo Pernot. (It can double as a cocktail mixer, says Pernot.)

Cold soba (buckwheat) noodles are a staple on Japanese menus, but Morimoto has taken the dish up a notch with the addition of edamame (soy beans), bacon and scallops for a Far Eastern take on carbonara served at room temperature (recipe below).

Of course, producing cold food presentations and dishes requiring little or no cooking at home can present certain challenges.

For starters, ingredients must be the best and freshest possible. And it is especially important for perishables such as beef or fish served raw, as is the tuna carpaccio on Morimoto's tuna pizza (recipe below).

Keep in mind that flavors tend to be stronger in hot foods, mellowing as they cool. Thus, if a food will be served cold, you may want to add extra flavor up front.

This is especially true of meats, for which a seasoning rub or glaze, a salt or horseradish crust can make cold slices more appealing. (Note: Keep beef tender and juicy for cold slicing by roasting it rare.)

Try to make use of the many foods that require no cooking, such as the great assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, try other precooked shortcut ingredients, such as canned beans.

Root vegetables and other firm foods - potatoes, carrots, broccoli or string beans, for instance - may need varying degrees of blanching or cooking to suit individual tastes. Some of these foods can be sliced very thin, shredded or grated, however, to be used raw in recipes more readily.

For example, Summery Squash Slaw is a simple mix of shredded zucchini and yellow squash tossed with a drizzle of olive oil, a few drops of balsamic vinegar, sea salt, and shaved Parmesan or Pecorino cheese.

Gelatin-based mixtures, mostly salads and desserts, are another form of cold cooking, allowing use of the refrigerator instead of the oven.

Similarly, seviche-style marinades are an easy and tasty choice for heat-free cooking of seafood.

Prepared foods are another option. Rotisserie chickens and other precooked forms of the fowl sold in supermarkets can save an overheated summer cook from dinnertime distress. Add to any pasta dish, cold salad or sandwich that calls for cooked chicken.

So, too, sliced meats cooked ahead at home or in the market.

But for lighter summer fare, go easy on meats. Make them a complement to, rather than the core of, a meal.

Focus instead on the fresh vegetables and fruits, with a good measure of grains. Some grain foods, such as rice noodles or couscous, need only sit a while in hot water or broth to soak up the liquid and soften. Others need a few minutes at a boil, some a bit more.

For main-dish salads, tuna, canned or fresh-cooked, works well with pasta. Try adding nicoise accents - olives, green beans, cooked egg and anchovy. But don't limit yourself to the tried and true. Chunks of white tuna take on a new aura when teamed with mildly sweet fruits - sliced or chopped crisp Granny Smith apples, cantaloupe, honeydew melon and seedless grapes with some celery - all dressed with a creamy lemon vinaigrette.

Lest we forget dessert, nothing cools quicker or better on a muggy summer night than a frosty drink or frozen dessert.

Some of us could easily live on ice cream straight from the container, but for family meals, glam up the freezer favorite as a sundae or pie.

Prepared graham or cookie crumb crusts eliminate any need for baking. Just pack in scoops of your favorite ice cream or frozen yogurt, cover with plastic wrap and return to the freezer. Add toppings and sauces later, to taste.

The semifreddo recipe below is a more elegant Italian take on ice cream in fresh flavors.

(Note: Take frozen desserts out of the freezer 15 to 20 minutes before serving, for easy slicing and spooning.)


Watermelon Mint Gazpacho

Makes 4 to 6 servings, about 11/2 cups each

11/2 to 2 quarts watermelon chunks (1/2 seedless melon)

2 to 3 cups honeydew (1/2 melon, seeded)

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, divided use

1 shallot, peeled

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced, or to taste

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

1/2 cup cilantro chiffonade (shreds), divided use

1 cup sparkling water (such as San Pellegrino)

8 ounces lump crab meat

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon virgin olive oil

Salt and white pepper

1. To a blender or food processor, in batches as needed, add 3/4 of the watermelon, the honeydew, 11/2 cucumbers, the shallot, jalapeno, mint, and half of the cilantro. Blend at medium speed while slowly adding the sparkling water. For a smooth puree, a blender works best. (If you want some texture, blend in quick pulses to avoid overmixing.)

2. When all is blended and combined in a serving bowl or pitcher, season with salt and white pepper. Refrigerate.

3. For the crab salad, pick over the crab meat for bits of shell. Cut the remaining watermelon and half cucumber in small dice and add to the crab. Drizzle with the lemon juice and oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix gently.

4. To serve, ladle the soup into chilled bowls. Place about 2 ounces of crab salad in the center. The soup can be held for up to 3 days, covered and refrigerated.

- From chef Brenton Wallace, Loie Brasserie, PhiladelphiaPer serving: 146 calories, 10 grams protein, 22 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams sugar, 3 grams fat, 34 milligrams cholesterol, 145 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.


Soba Carbonara with Edamame, Bacon and Bay Scallops

Makes 4 servings

12 ounces Japanese soba noodles

1. Bring 8 quarts water to a boil. Cook soba just tender, 4 minutes. Add the edamame after 3 minutes. Drain. Rinse.

2. Prepare the Carbonara Sauce. Add bacon and chives.

3. On low heat, toss the noodles and edamame in the sauce for 2 minutes to coat and thicken. Do not overheat or the sauce will break down. Remove from heat.

4. Bring the dashi-soy to a simmer. Add the scallops, turn off heat and let cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Portion the noodle mixture into serving bowls. Finish with grated Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of truffle oil. Spoon the soy-poached scallops on top and a tablespoon of the dashi-soy poaching liquid around noodles on each dish.

6. Serve at once warm, at room temperature or chilled.

- From chef de cuisine Gerald Drummond, Morimoto, PhiladelphiaFor the Carbonara Sauce: Bring ½ cup dry white wine to a boil to cook off the alcohol. Add ¼ cup dashi-soy and 1 cup heavy cream. Return to a low simmer. Meanwhile, set up a double boiler. Crack 3 egg yolks into a nonreactive bowl and whisk, slowly tempering in the wine-dashi-cream mixture. Set the bowl over simmering water. Whisk until eggs set at 160 degrees F. (the mixture will ribbon lightly). Do not overheat or mixture will separate. Add salt, freshly cracked white pepper and truffle oil, to taste.

Note: Dashi is a Japanese broth, often seaweed stock, sold in Asian and specialty food markets. For dashi-soy, mix 11/2 cups prepared dashi with 1/2 cup soy sauce. Refrigerate.

Per serving (with Carbonara Sauce): 858 calories, 39 grams protein, 77 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams sugar, 44 grams fat, 284 milligrams cholesterol, 3,400 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber.


Morimoto's Tuna Pizza

Makes 4 servings

4 (8-inch) flour tortillas (see Note)

¼ cup Unagi eel sauce (see Note)

20 ounces yellowfin tuna (sushi grade), sliced thin

¼ red onion, sliced very thin 2 ripe plum tomatoes, sliced into 24 thin rounds

2 jalapeno peppers, sliced into 24 very thin rounds

Hot pepper sauce (Tabasco)

½ cup white anchovy aioli

Cilantro leaves for garnish

1. Heat a slow grill or toaster oven (325-350 degrees).

2. Brush one side of tortillas with eel sauce. Place on a well-seasoned grill until crisp. Turn occasionally. Let cool.

3. To assemble Tuna Pizzas, cover each crisp tortilla with thinly sliced tuna, then sliced onion, tomato and jalapenos. Drizzle or spritz with a few drops of pepper sauce, to taste, and anchovy aioli. Garnish with cilantro. Cut into 6 wedges.

- From chef Masaharu Morimoto, Morimoto, PhiladelphiaNotes: Crisp flatbreads may be used, as desired. Or make nacho-style pizza pieces using tortilla chips. Unagi sauce is a sweet soy blend used when grilling eel. It is available in Asian and specialty markets or can be made by simmering 1/2 cup each soy sauce and mirin (sweet rice wine) with 1/4 cup sugar. For Anchovy Aioli, whisk or blend together 1 egg yolk, 3/4 tablespoon rice vinegar, 3/4 teaspoon light soy sauce, and 1 fillet white Spanish anchovy, minced to a paste. Slowly add 1/2 cup grapeseed oil while whisking vigorously. Season with salt and white pepper, to taste.

Per serving: 512 calories, 42 grams protein, 51 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams sugar, 14 grams fat, 94 milligrams cholesterol, 935 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.


Mini Semifreddo Cupcakes

Makes 8 servings, each with 1 lemon and 1 chocolate

For Lemon Cream:

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 lemon (juice, grated zest)

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

1/4 cup sour cream

Lemon zest, curls or shreds

For Chocolate Cream:

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

4 egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

Orange zest, curls or shreds

Use the same method to prepare each of these foolproof ice cream desserts. (You will need 16 paper muffin cups.)

1. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Set aside.

2. In a large pot, bring 2 to 3 inches of water to a boil.

3. In a heat-proof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and flavoring (lemon or cardamom).

4. Place the bowl over the boiling water and whisk until the mixture thickens and becomes a pale yellow. For the Chocolate Cream, whisk in the cocoa until blended.

5. Remove the bowl and egg-base from the hot water.

6. For the Lemon, add the poppy seeds and sour cream.

7. Fold the reserved whipped cream into the egg-base.

8. Pour the ice cream mixtures into cupcake tins lined with paper muffin cups. Freeze for at least 2 hours.

9. To serve, peel away the paper liners. Place 1 lemon and 1 chocolate semifreddo on each dessert plate. Garnish the lemon with lemon zest, the chocolate with orange zest.

- From Dave's Dinners by Dave Lieberman (Hyperion)

Per serving (based on 8): 371 calories, 5 grams protein, 25 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams sugar, 29 grams fat, 290 milligrams cholesterol, 35 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.


How To Make Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee or Tea

Cold-Brewed Coffee

The set-up time for making cold-brewed coffee is about 5 minutes. But plan ahead for 12 hours of "brew" time.

One-third cup of ground coffee - preferably a medium-coarse grind - makes enough concentrate for two tall iced drinks or two to three cups of hot coffee.

1. For the Coffee Concentrate, in a jar, mix 1/3 cup ground coffee (medium coarse grind) with 11/2 cups water. Cover. Let rest at room temperature overnight or 12 hours.

2. Strain the coffee-flavored concentrate twice through a coffee filter, a fine-mesh sieve, or a sieve lined with cheesecloth to remove all grounds.

3. In a tall glass filled with ice, mix equal parts of coffee concentrate and water, or to taste. If desired, add milk.

Note: To make hot coffee, dilute the concentrate one-to-one (or to taste) with water and heat in the microwave.

Sun-Brewed Tea

1. To a clear glass pitcher or jar filled with water, add tea bags or loose tea. Use 4 bags or 4 teaspoons loose tea for 4 cups water. Put loose tea in a tea ball or tie it in a cheesecloth bag to save having to strain the brewed tea.

2. Cover. Place the pitcher in direct sunlight. Let it stand for a few hours, checking the strength and color of the tea in a hour or so until it is of desired strength. Reposition pitcher in sunlight as needed.

3. To serve, pour over ice. Add lemon, lime, honey or simple syrup and/or mint to flavor and garnish to taste.

- Marilynn Marter


Contact food writer Marilynn Marter at 215-854-5743 or mmarter@phillynews.com.

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