Summer time, and the living is easy, but oh-so-hot. That's why your food has to cool you off a little. Can't you just taste the fruits of your labor, a lovely cold melon soup, served with chilled shrimp, those big ones—10 to 12 to a pound—and bakery fresh croissants? Best of all, you have to labor only a little bit to make your melon soup, thanks to the latest kitchen tool you've discovered you cannot live without—the immersion blender. That's immersion as in dipped into liquid, and blender, as in spun into a smoothness that cools the most heat-ravaged soul.
Weighing in at two pounds and costing around $30, the Braun Multiquick purees, blends and mixes with its 200-watt, 12,000-rpm motor—all in the flat-bottomed container you've put the ingredients into, so you don't have to wash any blender or food processor or any of their functional parts. Just be sure the flat-bottomed container, like a stock pot, is deep enough for the amount of ingredients you're blending, or you could end up with a new look on the backsplash and kitchen cabinets reminiscent of Jackson Pollock. And the immersion blender's detachable shaft is dishwasher-safe, thereby saving you labor.
Chilled Melon Soup (makes a quart)
2 lbs. Honeydew
2 lbs. Cantaloupe
2 T. honey
3 T. dry sherry or dry sherry vinegar
Juice of one lime
1 C. vegetable stock (This can be homemade, using white vegetables—no carrots because you don't want to muddy the color of your soup.) Substitute water if you don't have any stock.
Sea or kosher salt to taste
Fresh mint for garnish
Crème fraiche (optional)
Peel, seed and rough chop the melons. Place in a tall container large enough to give you plenty of room to work—like that stockpot, although this dish never goes near any heat. Dilute the honey with the vegetable stock or water. Pour this mixture into the pot with the melon. Put the immersion blender down into the mix and turn it on. (This is very important—think Jackson Pollock.) Puree the melon, moving the immersion blender around slowly, until it gains a smooth consistency. Turn off the immersion blender before you remove it from the pot. Stir in the dry sherry (or the dry sherry vinegar) and the lime juice. Pass this mixture through a strainer, to remove any pulp, then add salt to taste. Chill for 30 minutes, then pour into individual bowls and finish the velvety smooth soup with sprinkled chopped fresh mint. Add a dollop crème fraiche, if you like.
At a summer party, serve it chilled in shooter glasses as a sort of aperitif, minus the alcohol. Another variation does call for alcohol. Set aside a portion of the melon mixture unstrained; chill. In a tall glass, pour your personally preferred portion of vodka and stir in enough chilled melon mixture to fill the glass.
Strawberry Shortcake with Whipped Cream
Shortcake (makes 5 or 6 biscuits)
1 3/4 C. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
2 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
5 T. butter, frozen and grated
3/4 C. plus cream
Preheat oven at 375 degrees. Sift all dry ingredients into mixing bowl. Work butter into mixture by hand until it becomes mealy-looking. Pour cream in and mix by hand until it just comes together. Don't over-mix or over-work. Lightly roll out on a floured surface and cut into desired shape. Place on a butter- or cooking spray-coated cookie sheet or onto an Silpat silicone baking surface—this makes it easier since the baked goods pop right off. Bake at 375 degrees, 8 to 10 minutes.
1 carton of strawberries
Pinch of sea salt
1 T. sugar
1 t. balsamic vinegar
Wash and remove caps from strawberries. Quarter strawberries and place into a bowl with other ingredients and mix together. You want the sugar to touch all of the ingredients. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Take about a third of the mixture and most of the juice and put into a tall plastic or metal container and buzz with the immersion blender until smooth, to make a strawberry sauce. Take 1 cup of heavy cream and 2 t. of sugar, place into a tall container and buzz with the immersion blender till thickened into whipped cream.
Cut the shortcake biscuits in half, horizontally. On the bottom piece, place some of the reserved strawberries. Put the top of the shortcake on, then pour the strawberry sauce onto the top of the shortcake. Top with a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with powdered sugar and a sprig of mint.