What To Make When It’s Too Hot To Cook
Field notes 7.24.2022
We’re officially in the no-cook season, and not just here in upstate New York, considering the record-breaking temperatures happening around the world. Admittedly, I’ve never let the heat outside stop me from generating more heat indoors to cook. This summer has been different, though, and I find myself with less of an appetite than usual, so little grazing boards have been on repeat for many meals.
I’ve got a lot of new recipes awaiting their debut here, including a you won’t believe it’s vegan chocolate cake, burnt basque cheesecake and minestrone soup, but since it has been so hot, I figured this would be a good time to transfer over some of the many no-cook, or low-lift recipes I’ve written over the last 12 years. The (good) problem from so many years of writing and development means that one recipe leads you down a rabbit hole of needing to transfer five or six other recipes since my old posts usually reference another recipe from the old site.
The other great benefit of developing and writing recipes for so long is that even for me something old becomes new again, like this basil cashew pesto. If you didn’t know pesto can be made with anything other than pine nuts, now you do. I’ve even been known to use pistachios and walnuts. I didn’t do a big planting in the garden this year, limiting myself to some essential herbs, and relying on the perennials already established, so have been enjoying blueberries, rhubarb and currants, too. The basil, however, has been plentiful.
My only regret in deciding not to plant a full garden this year is not being able to pluck fresh zucchini flowers to fill with ricotta and fry for an easy lunch. Otherwise, I’m really glad I was able to recognize that the responsibility of a garden would add more stress than enjoyment to my life currently. I’m hopeful I’ll have the required energy and enthusiasm to plant a full garden next summer.
In the news: Did you read about the train passengers in Japan who helped push a 32 ton train to rescue a woman who fell between the 8-inch gap? She emerged unharmed, and the whole ordeal only caused an 8-minute delay. I found that amazing on both a human level, and as a New Yorker who’s spent a lot of time dealing with metro delays.
What I’m watching: Last night while preparing this arugula, corn & peach salad, I started watching Russian Doll on Netflix. I knew nothing of the show’s premise but you quickly get that its inspiration comes from the movie Groundhog Day. Five episodes later, I found myself thinking about how that stuck feeling perfectly encapsulates the deep grief from a sudden loss. Two weeks from today will mark eleven years since Michael died, more than 4,000 days.
There have been stretches where everything seems good, heading in an upwards, forward trajectory, and then you find yourself crashing right back to the beginning of it all. The closer you think you are to finally making it through, the harder that reality hits you when faced with it again, and again.
I found myself wondering what he would think of this older version of myself. The only Jennifer he ever knew was younger, thinner, and full of so much more energy and life. A Jennifer not affected by a decade of single parenting, or trying to learn how to parent a child with depression and on the spectrum, or having lived through a pandemic which simultaneously aged and stunted the growth of so many of us. I wanted to grow old with him. Instead I just feel myself growing old.
To balance these deeper things on my mind, I’m also trying to get into more healthful (for me) routines of stretching, some light weight work and meditation. It would be ignorant and futile to think the darker thoughts can just be cast away. A better approach is to find ways to at least keep the scales of life in balance.
Most importantly, I try to remind myself that these moments are just that–moments. It’s hard to keep that in mind when they’re happening but today I’m determined to spend some time in the hammock and just focus on doing nothing which is actually a conscious choice to do something, prioritizing my mental health.
On the topic of recipes you can enjoy without turning on the oven, or at most just bringing a pot of water to a boil or firing up the grill, may I suggest this no-cook tomato sauce, a Mikey-favorite ginger-tamari marinated flank steak, this no-churn, no cook maple vanilla ice cream and an easy no-cook caramel sauce. If you’re enjoying fresh corn on the cob this weekend, and using just the kernels for a recipe, save those cobs to make this broth (you can freeze the cobs to make the broth on a cooler day).
I hope the weekend has been kind and offered moments of peace for you. Be well, and remember to be kind. –xo, j.
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