By the time you're reading this, you're probably warming up to summer. The grass is green, the nights are cool, and shade-free beaches are still tolerable. But as the weeks wear on, evenings get muggy, and the soft, lush grass turns brittle and brown, summer starts to lose some of its sultry appeal.
In Chinese medicine, summer is the time of fire, or yang energy; it's hot, it's dry and it's intense, and it can leave the best of us feeling irritable, depleted, and ready to relocate to Iceland. But you can beat the heat with cooling and moistening foods like cucumber, melons, mint and raw greens that balance soaring temperatures and dampen the fiery flames of summer.
Try the recipes that follow; they'll help decrease your internal temperature and moisten your body, and they're lovely enough to share at your next summer cookout. How cool is that?
Cucumber and Casaba Melon Soup
1 (3-pound) casaba melon, peeled and cut into chunks
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
1 small lime, juiced
1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped
Whole basil leaves for garnish
1. Combine melon, cucumber, lime juice and basil in a food processor or blender, and puree until smooth. Season to taste with sea salt and white pepper.
2. Pour into a large bowl, cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, until chilled through. To serve, ladle soup into individual bowls, garnish with whole basil leaves, and serve.
Blackberry and Butter Lettuce Salad with Violas and Raspberry-Grapefruit Vinaigrette
1/4 cup grapefruit juice (about 1/4 of a grapefruit)
1/4 cup fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons chopped basil
3 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
2 small heads butter lettuce, core removed and leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup violas, or other edible flowers
1. In a blender or small food processor, combine grapefruit juice, raspberries and basil and puree until thick and smooth. (Add 1/2 teaspoon of honey, if raspberries are tart.) With blender or food processor running on low, slowly pour in oil, until mixture is just thickened (alternatively, pour raspberry-grapefruit mixture into a small bowl and whisk in oil.) Season with white pepper and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine butter lettuce and 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Toss to lightly coat leaves. Divide mixture between four individual salad plates.
3. Arrange avocado slices and blackberries on top of lettuce. Scatter with violas and serve, with additional dressing on the side.
Makes 1 quart
6 cups watermelon chunks (about one 4 or 5 pound seedless watermelon)
1/3 cup agave nectar
Juice from 2 large limes
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
Fresh mint for garnish
Lime wedges for garnish
1. Combine watermelon and agave in a food processor, and puree until smooth. Add lime juice, and process until blended.
2. Add mint leaves and process until tiny specks of mint remain. Transfer mixture to an ice cream or sorbet maker, and process according to manufacturer's directions.
3. To serve, divide sorbet between four individual martini or cocktail glasses, garnish with fresh mint leaves, and place a wedge of lime on the side of the glass. Serve immediately.