Well, it appears that summer has finally arrived in Toronto (gee, only two months late!). Under normal circumstances, July and August herald brilliantly sunny days with lush green lawns, a profusion of garden flowers and lazy swishing leaves on tree branches overhanging our suburban streets. The temperatures hover around 30-32C (86-90F), more like 40C (104F) with the Humidex reading (what the temperature actually feels like when you factor in the humidity). Unlike the very unusual circumstances we’ve endured thus far: frigid temperatures and rain, rain, rain.
Since the forecast predicts sun for the rest of the week and weekend, there are many happy Torontonians heading to work today (or, more likely, calling in sick to work today). What does the return to summer mean to me? First off, the four plants I attempted to grow this year (planted back in May) will finally begin to yield some bounty (I noticed a nascent green pepper yesterday evening–whoo hoo!); also, I’ll need to start bringing bottles of water with me on my walks with the dogs (for The Girls, not for me); in addition, my skin will begin to turn the same understated shade of beige as untreated newsprint, implying that I am, indeed, not as anemic as my usual printer-paper white hue would suggest; and, lastly, the only foods I’ll want to eat are those that don’t require cooking. Basically, more than anything else, summer means trying to keep cool.
When I think back to my childhood, my friends and I possessed a huge arsenal of methods to stave off the heat in summer. To wit, running through the sprinkler while wearing our bathing suits. Or walking in the rain in our bathing suits, then rubbing mud all over ourselves and running through the sprinkler to wash it off. Having water pistol fights in our bathing suits, collapsing in a giddy heap on the now-wet (and cool) lawn. Heading down to my parents’ basement, then sneaking into the cedar closet to hold a cool “private clubhouse meeting” in our bathing suits.
These days, I am loathe to do pretty much anything in my bathing suit (who am I kidding? I don’t even own a bathing suit!). Consequently, I’ve had to find other means of cooling down. Sure, I can run through the sprinkler wearing my T-shirt and shorts, but that isn’t nearly as much fun. Instead, I seek out summer foods that will do the job.
Often, all I want for dinner is a fresh leafy salad or sliced tomato or crisp granny smith apple (now that the latter have finally made their return on my menus) and be done with it. Not so the HH. So, the other evening after a later-than-usual walk with The Girls, the HH and I returned home to utter the eternal DDD question: what should we have for dinner? (Unlike so many of my bloggy peers, I am not gifted with the ability to plan my week’s menus in advance; besides, my tastes are so capricious that I’d probably change my mind on the designated day and decide I wanted something else entirely).
Most evenings, we pull open the refrigerator door and stand immobile, peering up and across each shelf as we scan the contents for a sign: which of the melee of fruits and veggies do we feel like consuming at that moment? (Sometimes this procedure takes far too long and really is not very eco-friendly, what with that door open the whole time. So then I feel even more guilty about not pre-planning my menus. On the other hand, it diminishes the need for air conditioning).
For some reason, lately, I’ve been on a cucumber kick. I’d never been enamored of cucumbers as a kid (or even a young woman), but recently, I seem to crave cucumbers. I can’t get enough cucumber. I love me some cucumber! (Okay, I’m exaggerating a tad. While that last sentence is, in fact, true, I’ve also been fixated for a time on the wild, wacky and perverse search terms that people use to find this blog. That last line was just really just my way of provoking the searches. Being provocative with a cucumber, if you will. Ooops, there I go again.)
In any case, we found a lovely, firm, English cucumber (yikes, can’t seem to help myself) in the fridge, and I pondered how I could use it besides on its own as a snack. Then I remembered all the bookmarked recipes I’d set aside in Nava Atlas’s fabulous Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons, which I wrote about shortly after receiving the book last winter. At the time, cold cucumber soup was a distant memory–but now it’s finally summer! I knew the soup would be perfect.
We whipped up a batch of Cool as a Cucumber Soup in no time, and devoured almost the entire contents in one sitting (the recipe actually serves 4-6 people, but we loved it that much). I also had the leftovers the next day for lunch and can vouch that it doesn’t suffer from its overnight sojourn in the fridge. In fact, I’d say the herbs made their presence known just a bit more the second day, and all the flavors had a chance to meld.
The soup is thick and rich with shreds of bouncy and refreshing cucumber throughout. The combination of three fresh herbs provides a lovely counterpoint with their aromatic flavors and bit of crunch, offset by the slightly pungent scallion slices scattered here and there. Every spoonful provided a little oasis of cool.
I have no doubt that this soup will become a summer staple from now on with its refreshing, cooling effects. Just don’t expect me to wear my bathing suit when I eat it.
[Oh–and some cool news re: Sweet Freedomfor those of you in the Toronto area! I’ll be appearing on Toronto’s Breakfast Television next Monday, talking about healthy cakes, frostings and toppings, and sampling some of the goodies from the book! Yippee!]
Cool as a Cucumber Soup
from Nava Atlas’s Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons
(with the author’s permission)
A wonderful way to cool off on a hot summer’s day, this soup comes together very quickly and allows for a lot of leeway with herbs and seasonings.
2 large cucumbers, peeled and seeded [I used an extra-large English cuke]
about 1-1/4 cups (300 ml) vegan sour cream [I used Nava’s recipe, or use this one, with a bit less agave nectar]
1/2 cup (120 ml) finely chopped fresh herbs, such as dill, parsley and mint [I used parsley, basil and mint]
1-2 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) rice or unsweetened soy or almond milk
juice of 1/2 lemon (or more, to taste)
1/2 tsp. ( 2.5 ml) ground cumin, or more to taste
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Grate the cucumbers on a coarse grater, either by hand or in a food processor fitted with a grating disk.
Transfer the cucumbers to a serving container. Stir in the sour cream, herbs, scallions and enough rice milk to give the soup a slightly thick consistency. Season with lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper. Serve at once or refrigerate until well chilled.
Variation: For a heartier version of this soup, add a cup or so of cold, cooked barley.
For a pleasantly peppery flavor, stir in a good handful of chopped watercress leaves.
© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs
Last Year at this Time: Sweet Things Times Three (Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad)