This is my housewife dress.
I’m not a fan of summer. I know, blasphemy, especially in Chicago, where restaurant patios are like exhaust-scented seasonal churches, clusters of Zinfandel drinking caprese salad eaters the congregation. When the temperature can’t be bothered to come down out of the rafters, the last thing in the world I want to do is sit halfway into Randolph Street traffic and eat. Even with my tongue pressed to my apartment’s twenty-year-old air conditioner, the last thing I want to do is eat. I can’t be the only one. Well, I might be the only one in flagrante delicto with an appliance, but I’m sure other Chicagoans wonder what to eat to beat the heat.
Personally, I like a good gazpacho. Regrettably, the fanciest food preparation tool I own is a slotted spoon and even that confuses me. It’s stored inches from the stove so I’m always grabbing it to stir soup and then feeling shocked when I can’t use it to taste the soup. I don’t own a vegetable mill (which sounds like something James Taylor would write a song about). I do have a blender with no top, but I’ve been banned from using it as a result of a terrible margarita/ceiling fan mishap. But yesterday, I found myself craving gazpacho, so I improvised.
Spontaneous Gazpacho Recipe:
One cucumber, chopped as small as your dull knife will allow.
Two medium size tomatoes also chopped.
One can Campbell’s Tomato Juice
One tub Pico De Gallo from Edgewater Produce (No other will suffice so if you’re reading this from Toronto, you’ll have to make a road trip.)
Dump into Tupperware because you don’t own a bowl
As is often the case with my concoctions, I ate the improvised Gazpacho with gusto, while my significant other looked queasy. Which is totally ridiculous because when SO and I were in New York and the heat index was 115 degrees I had to watch her consume a Philly cheese steak and fries and also one of those pizza slices the size of an occasional table. All outside.
Inspired by my recipe’s success, I asked Our Town readers to contribute their favorite summer dishes.
Micki LeSueur (who sounds like a made up French mouse but is actually a local writer you’ll be hearing more about in my next blog) was super helpful, even supplying a role for my dog in the food making process. She wrote: “Get peaches from the farmer's market. Have the dog remove the pits and place the peaches flesh side down on the grill. Grill until the peaches soften and impressive-looking grill lines appear. Turn skin side down. Add a little butter, some brown sugar and cinnamon to the cavities from the pits. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Invite me for dinner.”
Reader Freddie Levin contributed the following: “Buy canned kidney and/or white beans. Drain the liquid from the can. Cut up celery and avocado into small pieces. Dress with olive oil and lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Look smug because it's Vegan and that makes you better than everyone else.”
And because contrary to what you may now be thinking I do print responses from readers whose last names don’t begin with the letter “L,” below please find Chicago lawyer Aaron Gole’s recipe. While it’s pretty clear Aaron overestimated my cooking skills, his dish sounds so scrumptious I’m providing it even though it requires a vegetable mill. It’s totally professional looking and even includes actual measurements and the word “colander.”
PASTA WITH TOMATOES AND FRESH HERBS
one 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with their juices
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon salt
1 pound penne pasta
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/3 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/3 cup fresh thyme leaves
4 fresh sage leaves
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 large clove garlic, peeled and trimmed
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Working with a food mill fitted with the fine disc, puree the tomatoes into a medium saucepan. Add the olive oil, red pepper flakes and salt. Place over medium heat and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has thickened, about 20 to 25 minutes.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
3. While the water is coming to a boil and the pasta is cooking, prepare the herb mixture. Combine the basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, sage, pine nuts and garlic on a large cutting board and using a chef’s knife chop the mixture.
4. Drain the pasta through a colander and transfer to a large heated bowl.
5. Add the herb mixture and generous grating of fresh Parmesan cheese. Toss gently to combine.
6. Add enough of the sauce to coat the pasta evenly. Toss again.
7. Divide the pasta among plates and grate additional cheese over each serving.
Aaron just sent me the following reassuring e-mail: “Don't worry about the whole food mill thing. You can just buy 1 large can of crushed tomatoes for the sauce. Organic, preferably.”
I’m actually still kind of worried. But only because pine nuts confound me.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," is forthcoming from Counter Point Press. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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