Yesterday was HOT. So hot. Romance aside, this month has been a steamy one. Facebook has been burgeoning with pictures of car thermometer readings over 100. People travel to work in as little as they can get away with. Bitter sweetly, it has been too hot to eat or drink aside from ice water and cold fresh fruit. Back from a lunch meeting yesterday, I sat in my air-conditioned apartment tempted by the bright sunlight from outdoors, but I knew better. Once outside, I’d either wilt or become irritable. I was reminded of the intense hotel scene in the Great Gatsby…nothing good comes from extreme heat. I contemplated mixing up a big batch of mint juleps, which is what I think the characters in that novel choose to get drunk on to stave off the heat, but I wanted something refreshingly non-alcoholic on a day like yesterday where I begrudgingly paid a cab driver $7 just to get me 5 blocks home.
I love Nigella Lawson’s book, “Forever Summer” for some perfect and simple recipes on uncomfortably warm days . My parents thoughtfully picked it up for me in a small bookshop on a vacation of theirs. Her accompanying vignettes for each recipe are so well-written and entertaining, I’ve spent an afternoon reading the book as a volume of short-stories. Here is a fantastic Greek salad recipe and mint and lime cool aid from her book that, from experience, help one cool off.
Don’t worry that there are no cucumbers, which tend to get soggy anyway…this is the best Greek salad I have ever had. In fact, Nigella warns her readers just how addictive it is. The onions marinate in vinegar for a couple of hours which not only softens their texture but sweetens their taste, allowing them to meld together perfectly with the wine vinegar. The recipe calls for some ingredients that were unfortunately not in the house, nor nearby as I live in the grocery store desert of the Chicago Loop district with a few mom-and-pop shops or Walgreens to fill in the gaps. There are some places not too far to walk if it were not so miserably hot. With this in mind: the salad is great even without the fennel, using white wine vinegar and swapping white onions for the red…Enjoy!
Adapted slightly from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer
1 red onion (may sub white)
1 tbsp dried oregano
Pinch of black pepper
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (may sub white)
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
5 fresh beefsteak tomatoes
1 teaspoon caster sugar
pinch of sea salt
1 large head of romaine lettuce
4 ½ oz pitted black olives
14 oz feta cheese
juice of half a lemon
Peel and finely slice the onion then sprinkle over the oregano and season with pepper. Pour in the vinegar and olive oil and toss well, cover with clingfilm and leave to sit for at least 2 hours. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and then cut each quarter into quarters (Nigella suggests always lengthwise here for fine segments rather than chunks). Sprinkle the sugar and a pinch of salt over them and set aside. Wash the lettuce and tear into bite-size pieces, placing them in a large salad bowl. Slice the fennel and add, then the tomatoes, olive and crumbled feta. Pour in the onion mixture and add the lemon juice. Toss gently to combine ingredients.
It’s funny how something so simple as oregano, onions and vinegar could be so delicious, but together they are and I cannot wait to tuck into my leftovers.
I am a fiend for citrus beverages and this limeade with a touch of mint is incredible on a hot day.
Mint and Lime Cool Aid
Recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer
8 limes (or enough to make 1 cup of juice)
¾ – 1 cup of caster sugar
bunch of fresh mint with some sprigs reserved for pitcher
5 cups water
Remove the zest for 4 limes using a vegetable peeler and put this, along with the sugar, mint and 1 cup of the water into the saucepan. Bring this mixture to a boil., stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once this starts boiling, turn the heat down and let the liquid simmer for about 5 minutes. Take this off the heat, allow to cool and then strain into a jug or pitcher.
Squeeze the limes to make about 1 cup of juice and then add, with the rest of the water to the jug of sugar syrup. Add some ice cubes and a few sprigs of mint.