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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Summer Menu Changes

Summer Menu Changes

It is officially summer and it is officially very hot, but only if you are standing directly in the sun. My place has air conditioning but like most Spaniards, I don't bother turning it on—not yet, anyway. I sleep well with just a quietly oscillating fan pointed in my general direction; instead of being a shock to the system, a dive in the Mediterranean is a welcome relief from the heat; tomatoes are riper and fatter than ever; cold beer tastes better; bike rides are shorter and sweatier; and the summer menu is now in full swing.

Forget about using the oven. Even cooking on top of the stove is to be avoided at all costs, at least during the day. I don't even turn it on to make coffee in the afternoon, switching instead to a favorite beverage that is the national summertime drink in Greece but unknown here in Spain: the frappé. Spaniards will mix ice with their coffee during the summer months but that is a very imperfect substitute for an ice-cold frappé.

In a cocktail shaker add ½ cup of milk to a cup of water. Add ice, Nescafé instant coffee and sugar. Shake vigorously and pour into a tall glass. Drink it with a straw.

A frappé is foamy and sweet and perfect on a summer afternoon. Unfortunately, they don't drink them in Spain so I have to make them myself at home. When I lived in Greece I would have to say that drinking a frappé at some little café on an island was about as close as I have ever come to perfection in this life. Now that the afternoon temperatures are soaring I try to get to that same place whenever I am at home to make a frappé for myself—I don´t believe I heaven but I know how to get there.

I made my first huge batch of gazpacho yesterday. Once I have my first taste of gazpacho in the summer I can't get enough. I will have a glass two or three times a day. I hope it's good for me but when it comes to my vices, I really don't care.

I rarely drink any sort of alcohol before evening, and it's much too hot to drink wine in the afternoon, but it's hard to turn down a glass of sangría. Sangria is something rather unique to Spain. I never came across anything similar in Greece, Italy, or France, but I may be wrong. There are as many different recipes for sangria as there are people making it. The important thing is that it be served cold and that some sort of red wine makes it into your glass accompanied by fruit. The rest is up to personal interpretation.

Preferably in a ceramic pitcher, add red wine, a bit of Spanish brandy, lemon and orange juice along with slices of both fruits, any other sliced fruit that sounds good to you, sugar, cinnamon stick, and top off with something like 7UP. Serve very chilled.

I subsist on cold salads this time of year. I made something yesterday with olives, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, onions, red and green peppers, navy beans...I think you get the idea. I basically cleaned out my refrigerator and cupboards, threw it into a bowl, and dished it on to a plate.

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