I'm getting ready for a weekend in New York for my birthday, and in the mean time, I'm trying to keep my cool. I'm the kind of gal that doesn't mind sweating if that's what I intended to do. Chicago has turned up the heat and we're having the best summer since we moved back to the US. Our thermometer hit 100 degrees this weekend, just as we finished a meltingly hot round of golf Saturday afternoon. We've made the most of the weather by seeking shade during the day and heading outdoors just as the early evening kicks in.
Lately, evenings in our neighborhood have been filled with people piled on their front porches, a slow stroll with the dog, and a nice cold drink underneath a cloudless sky. The thought of eating when the sun is still glaring is all but impossible, but here are a few of my favorite treats for sweltering summer evenings:
- cold, sliced watermelon
- cucumber slices and Ina Garten's green herb dip
- Stacia's citrus salad with honey and mint
- home-made brown bread ice cream
- an ice cold arnold palmer
- cold chicken: fried or grilled
- cottage cheese and tomatoes, peppered and salted liberally
- mint julep peaches
- fresh summer berries topped with greek yogurt, honey and toasted granola
- a rhubarb bellini with prosecco straight from the freezer
- coming soon in August: super sweet corn from Indiana-
Last, but not least, is a chilled summer soup that is so shockingly pink, you may well think you should be sitting next to Barbie at the dinner table. Chilled summer borscht, is a cold beet soup. It is an old Lithuanian or Russian recipe, popular in Eastern Europe. If you like beets, this soup is for you. It's a perfect start to a meal, so serve it in small cups to brighten your guests palates and cool them right down.
You can make this soup with a clear broth, like this one from the NY Times or Martha's, but I prefer it when it has the yogurt incorporated into the soup. Ina Garten's is the best I've ever made. It's a cool and creamy combination of cooked fresh beets, cucumber and dill. I love watching the pink soup develop its color in the fridge. I prefer to let it sit overnight so that it turns a deeper shade. You can peek at it every so often and give it a stir and watch the beets work their magic.
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa At Home by Ina Garten
5 medium fresh beets, tops trimmed
2 cups chicken stock, homemade if possible
16 oz sour cream, plus extra for serving
1/2 plain yogurt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp champagne vinegar
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups medium-diced English cucumber, seeds removed
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill, plus more for serving
Place beets in a large pot of boiling, salted water and cook for 30-40 minutes until tender. Remove the beets with a slotted spoon and let cool. Strain the beet liquid through a fine sieve and reserve.
In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of beet cooking liquid, chicken stock, sour cream, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, 1 tbsp salt, and freshly ground pepper. Peel the cooled beets (use gloves unless you want pink fingers) with a knife or rub them off with your hands.
Cut the beets into a small to medium dice and add them, the cucumber, scallions and dill to the soup. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight (minimum 4 hours).
Season to taste and serve cold with a dollop of sour cream, a few chopped scallions and some dill.