My new apartment has no air conditioning. My sister and I moved in on July 31, on what was probably the hottest day of the year.
What better time to ignite a dormant cooking hobby! I figure while I'm at it, I might as well sit in my stuffy fan-less room and write about it on the internet. I am so that person who always gets their haircuts in the winter.
Thankfully, the no a/c thing is the only downside to this place, as far as my belly is concerned. I'm right down the street from Supreme [a Dominican-owned grocery store with a mind-boggling selection of spanish cheese], Mecca Market [arabic food], and the infamous produce truck. My kitchen is considerably bigger, and it's no longer in my living room. And the door to the balcony is right next to the stove, so when I burn something we no longer have to dismantle the fire alarm.
To resolve my internal contradiction regarding the hot food/hot weather situation, I've been surviving on a few summer staples that make me feel "chill".
Cucumber with mint yogurt sauce
Last week, I picked up a bunch of baby cukes from the produce truck for a dollar. Oh, they are as sweet as can be! I scored the peel a bit, because otherwise they give me the winds. Usually, this is made as a salad with the cucumber mixed in, but for my snacking purposes, I cut them into spears and use them as a vehicle for the dip.
Thanks to Mecca Market, I have easy access to Romi's lowfat yogurt, my favorite brand of arabic yogurt. It's tart, so you don't need to add as much lemon. The lemon I do add, about a half a cup, I add slowly and carefully, stirring vigorously. I once made the mistake of mixing milk and lemon in my tea and the curdles grossed me out so much, I have a lasting fear of mixing dairy and citrus.
I was feeling lazy, so I used granulated garlic instead up mashing up a clove with salt and lemon like I knew I should. I also used dry mint, though I could have easily swiped some fresh from my neighbor's front yard. No matter, as it is impossible for this dish to not be delicious. A generous sprinkle of salt and my cool cukes are done.
Frozen Canned Cranberry Sauce
What a friggin' concept. Thanks to Micky's mom, I've taken to freezing entire cans of cranberry sauce and eating them like sorbet. Yep, the tubular gelatinous glob that you only eat on Thanksgiving is actually quite the treat in the summer. It has the consistency of a jello pudding pop, and a rich plum color that makes it seem more glamorous than it is. I'm not wild about the high fructose corn syrup listed as the first ingredient, but I figure its better than Ben and Jerrys.
There are endless possibilities to be explored with this transformed bastion of midwest-ery.
I want to float small scoops of the cranberry in sweetened condensed milk, topped with crushed peanuts and lime zest. An attractive idea would be to alternate melon-balled scoops of cranberry and lemon sorbet in a crystal dish and top with a sprig of fresh mint. Or, top a dish with a shot of high-quality, chilled tequila. Its so pretty and refreshing, it seems ideal to serve it to guests. Its so bizarre that at least if they don't like it, you have something to talk about.
Fattouch is a Lebanese bread salad, generally made with Romaine lettuce. The good thing about Fattouch is that it can really be whatever the heck you want. I tend to be sort of a purist when it comes to arabic food [spare me your pesto hummus and tabbouleh with avocado...if it ain't broke, don't fix it!] But Fattouch really can include the kitchen sink.
The quintessential ingredients are the dressing [lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, mint, garlic and sumac] and the pita chips. I even used stale, manufactured barbecue flavored pita chips and had no problem. [Note: normally, I would absolutely not waste my money on pre-fab pita chips, but they were one of the many gifts from my dads store].
My latest batch of Fattouch had base of arugula, spinach and purple lettuce leaves, chopped, not torn. I added roasted corn, cut off the cob, red pepper, chunks of cucumber, carrot, onion, and [this is the weird part] mandarin oranges, walnuts and strawberries. I wasn't sure how the sweet of the fruit would go with the potent garlic flavor of the dressing, but the mellow spiciness of the arugula leveled the flavors.
Sliced Grapefruit topped with Rosewater Cream
The sauce is:
1/2 cup lowfat sour cream
2 Tblsp rosewater
1/4 cup powdered sugar
mix until un-lumpy, adding a bit of milk to thin. drizzle onto sliced grapefruit.
This is good, but it would be amazing if I could figure out how to slice grapefruit in a way that did not make them look like mauled pulpy masses of fruit/skin mess.