The current wave of high heat and humidity peaked yesterday in Montreal. When it gets so insufferably hot, I require new strategies to continue to eat and drink in a civilized manner.
Plan B is always flee to an air-conditioned restaurant, but since I am currently paying for two balconies which by the grace of God are shaded from the sun, dining outside where you can catch an occasional breeze is the best plan of attack. (Especially during those prolonged heat waves when night after night of eating out is not financially viable.)
So as a result, I have practically perfected the following tricks.
I hope they work as well for you as they have for me.
HOW TO COOK AND EAT WELL IN THE SUMMERTIME HEAT
- Follow the forecasts: This is not to strike fear in your heart but to find the silver lining. Forecasts may feature temperatures well into the 30s, but every forecasted high has its low. Even if a forecasted low only dips down to the mid twenties, chances are it's going to happen in moments after dawn, when the air temperature routinely dips due to some scientific phenomenon that I can't explain. But knowledge and wisdom are two separate things so it is the wise cook who heads into the kitchen early. Be like the baker. Sanely turn on the oven when your kitchen doesn't already feel like one. (Yes, this means that dinner will be ready a bit early than usual but you don't have to eat it hot out of the kitchen, which brings me step 2...)
- Prepare cold dishes: This is a no-brainer. Not only does no one want to eat hot food during a heatwave, cold dinners are part and parcel of cooking ahead. So refrigerate your dinner. Let it cool on the counter for about half an hour and then wrap it up for cold storage. Some food works better than others chilled but you can't go wrong when all you want is a meal that helps to cool you down. I made this bean mash recipe, and a dish called Aubergine Continental, and marinated grilled chicken (just throw on the oil, mustard powder, dried onion, red pepper flakes, soy sauce, and whatever else for however long you want -- I don't subscribe to the idea of a perfect marinade -- and then slap it on the stove). Just before we sat down I served it all on local lettuce leaves, making the prepared meals look even fresher and more appetizing.
- Place chillable reds in the freezer: This step is even easier when you have savvy guests like Gordon, who always show up with just the right chillable selection. Though my prepared dinners were from the southern French school of cooking, and despite the fact that a light and spicy Rhône red is always a good candidate for chilling, we ended up opening a Loire red called Château Gaillard (Touraine-Mesland 2004) -- you can click on the image for more on currently available vintages -- and then followed it with the Dominio del Arenal Utiel-Requena 2005, a red from western Spain whose D.O. (Denomination of Origin) takes its name from regional towns located near Valencia. It had equally elegant fruit as the Touraine-Mesland did and joined in perfectly mid-way through dinner. Perhaps at first it was a bit cold from its time in the freezer but on this particular day it got up to a suitable 16 degrees before you could finish your first glass.