Monday, June 30, 2014

If you can't stand the heat...

Quite a few summers ago, my sister and I took a trip to Spain. We spent a few days in Madrid and then wound our way down to Cordoba, where we also intended to spend a few days.   It is safe to say that I did not understand the phrase, "a wall of heat" until I arrived in Cordoba. We stepped off the train and into what could only be described as "a wall of dry heat". It was 40 degrees Celsius and just past midday. The hostel we were staying at was beautiful, but it had no air-conditioning, only an slow-moving ineffectual fan, that moved the hot air around our small room. The only bearable time of day was between 3 and 6 am. We did not like Cordoba. Something about the heat turned everything flat and dull and almost oppressive. Maimonides was everywhere, but there were no Jews. The Meziquita, the Roman bridge, the great city that was once a shining star for the three monotheistic faiths, felt like nothing but a tourist trap. The next day we fled to Seville where we learned how the locals deal with the heat and the reason for the preponderance of public fountains in the city. There is nothing quite like sticking your bare feet into a cold fountain on hot day.

I mention Cordoba because the weather in Jerusalem the past few days has been positively Cordobian. Walking outside is like moving through a furnace. The heat is its own entity.There is no fighting it. You just have to give in. On Friday, I walked out of my apartment with every intention of shopping at the wonderful, cheap green-grocer just a 12 minute walk away. But then, I took one step and said, nope, not happening. I went to the expensive green-grocer around the corner. I did not buy a melon, or anything other than the bare essentials. I walked home as quickly as possible, which is to say not very. The melon is important. The melon is important because without it I could not make Mark Bittman's Tomato-Melon Gazpacho, which is my go-to summer soup. But I needed cold soup. In fact, still now, all I want to eat, forever and ever, until the heat breaks, is cold soup. I had no melon, nor did I have cucumbers or peppers with which to make regular gazpacho. What I did have though was carrots- in abundance- because I had been meaning to write about Kim Boyce's Carrot Muffins from Good to the Grain, which are spectacular, but really, asking anybody to turn on their oven in this weather is just cruel, so I did not write about about them. Chilled carrot soup it was. After a bit of research, I decided I wanted something just a little gingery and sweet, but nothing that would overwhelm the carrot flavor, so I went with a recipe from Food and Wine Magazine, that was pretty much nothing more than onion, carrot, ginger, water and a little sweetener and acid.  It was perfect. Just what I wanted. Just what I want, until the heat is gone.

Chilled Carrot Ginger Soup

Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 pounds of carrots, sliced
2 1/2 cups water or stock
2 inch long knobs of ginger, peeled
2-3 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
salt and freshly ground pepper.

1. In a medium sized pot, warm the coconut oil until melted. Add the onion and cook about 5-10 minutes, until translucent. Add the carrots, water (or stock) and ginger. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer about 25 minutes until the carrots are tender. Remove from heat.

2. When the soup has cooled a bit, remove the ginger and add the lemon juice, honey salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth (a hand blender is useful for this). If the soup is too thick, you can add a bit of water to thin it down. Chill. Serve cold.

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