10 Tips for Keeping Cool in the Kitchen

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It’s been such a mild summer I’d almost forgotten that we eat differently when it’s really hot. Just in case you have, too, here are 10 suggestions for keeping it cool in the kitchen.

Yes, there’s a recipe for these delishy cocktails:

1. Go out to eat. Obviously, right? This is the time of year when you should look for spicy food (try the new Masala Kraft Cafe in Hartsdale or Thai Garden in Orangeburg); or light food (a platter of meats and cheeses at Peniche in White Plains or Mima in Irvington or the raw bar at LuShane‘s in Nyack); and dark restaurants (Goldfish in Ossining is a good one, or the bar at Restaurant X in Congers is super dark and cold).

Or, put on your lightest linen shirt, get your hair off your neck and go somewhere outside, preferably near the water. A couple places we forgot to mention in our outdoor bars article last week?  Hudson Bistro in Verplank, Sea Breeze One in New Rochelle, Seaside Johnnie’s in Rye and F.I.S.H in Port Chester.

2. Get takeout. A few of our staff’s favorites recently: Q in Port Chester or Mount Kisco, Good to Go in White Plains, Melt in White Plains, Cassie’s in Orangeburg, Bao’s in White Plains, On’s Kitchen in?Pleasantville, the brand-new Quaker Ridge Pizza in New Rochelle, Toyo in Mamaroneck, and Mex-To-Go in Croton. Other suggestions, readers?

3. Grill. (See above suggestion of light linen clothing and hair tie.) Get your grill nice and hot and cook something that only takes a few minutes. This is not the time to be kicking back with a beer and poking around at a pork shoulder cooking low in the smoker for 8 hours, no no no. Consider flank steak (4 minutes a side), sea scallops (2 minutes a side) or seared tuna (30 seconds to 1 minute a side if you use Alton Brown’s method of a grill grate over a charcoal chimney). (Be careful with the flame that last one.) Suggested cool sides? Iceberg lettuce wraps (for the steak, especially if you marinate with soy), arugula scattered with raw corn kernels (for the scallops) and microwaved rice-in-a-bag (for the tuna).

4. Make gazpacho. I’m a fan of smooth, not chunky. I have a great recipe. (See below.)

5. Leftovers. You have some cold chicken in the fridge? Now is the time to make chicken salad. My favorite ind these days: diced chicken, diced celery, curry powder, cashews and mayonnaise. Don’t like curry powder? Leave it out. I’ve also been doing diced chicken, mayo, lemon zest and juice and walnuts. Delishy.

6. Drink lemonade. If you’re a cocktail nut like me, you already have simple syrup in the fridge. If you don’t, it only takes a little bit of heat on the stove to melt sugar in water. (Or use superfine sugar and just stir real hard.) My ratio: 1 cup lemon juice, 3/4 cup simple syrup (made with a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water) and 4 cups water. If you’re using superfine sugar instead, use a little less than 3/4 cup.

7. Eat melon. It’s thirst-quenching and very versatile. Cut up some canteloupe and serve it with prosciutto. DIce watermelon and cut cherry tomatoes in half (try this with Sun Golds from the farmers market… amazing) and garnish with shredded mint or basil and feta cheese. Make honeydew balls and float them in tall glasses of water.

8. Go out for ice cream. All summer long we’ve been featuring profiles on the most popular ice cream shops in the region. Check the food page here for a list or search this blog for “ice cream.”

9. Make slushy cocktails. My favorite? Lemon-Ginger Vodka Ices. Found the recipe in Food & Wine years ago. I’ll share it below the gazpacho recipe.

10. Make (or takeout) lobster rolls.Two suggestions: Either get the pre-cooked lobster from Stew Leonard’s (it’s great) and mix with mayo, lemon juice and tarragon (or chives are OK). Melt some butter in the microwave, put hot dog buns in the toaster. Butter the buns and pile the lobster salad in them. Serve with salt and vinegar potato chips. Presto, dinner.
Or go to Ebb Tide and get lobster rolls to go. Or, better yet, go there and sit on the picnic tables on the deck by the water and eat the lobster roll. (See above suggestion of linen and hair tie.)

And here’s a bonus tip: Take it easy. Now is not the time to stuff yourself with burgers and dogs. Eat light (see gazpacho, melon and lettuce wraps, above), drink lots of water (especially if you’re drinking Lemon-Ginger Vodka Ices) and keep the air conditioning on (but as high as you can stand it, to conserve energy). This is why people in the South move so slow. Put your ceiling fan on, wrap a napkin around your sweating glass of tea and take it all in. It’ll be fall soon enough.

Recipes for Gazpacho and Lemon-Ginger Vodka Ices, after the jump.

Liz’s Favorite Gazpacho
5 pounds tomatoes (about 6 to 7 large), cored
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
1/2 green pepper, cored and seeded
1/2 red onion
1 jalapeno, seeded
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Avocado
Chop all the vegetables into large chunks add them to the bowl of a food processor. Add the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and puree until smooth. Strain through seive into a bowl. Refrigerate until cold, up to 3 days.
Garnish with avocado and tomato chunks.
Yield: 8 servings.

Lemon-Ginger Vodka Ices
By Tyler Florence as seen in Food & Wine
1 (3-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup fresh lemon juice
8 cups crushed ice
2 cups vodka
8 mint sprigs

First, make the slushy ginger-lemon mixture by starting with a ginger simple syrup. Combine the ginger, water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, then let the ginger mixture cool slightly. Transfer to a blender and puree. Strain the syrup into a large, shallow glass dish. Stir in the lemon zest and the juice. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

Let the frozen ginger-lemon mixture stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes. Chop the mixture into chunks. Put half the pieces in a blender, add 4 cups of crushed ice and 1 cup of vodka. Blend until slushy. Pour the vodka cocktail into 4 lowball glasses and garnish with a mint sprig. Repeat with the second half of the mixture, ice and vodka. Put the mixture in the freezer if it’s for your second round.

Makes 8 drinks.

To make a virgin version: add 1/2 cup water to the blender in place of the vodka. Pour the mixture into a highball or rocks glass about halfway up. Add ginger ale and turn the drink out once into a cocktail shaker. Pour the drink back into the glass and add a mint sprig.

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About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and lohud.com, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

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