Delicious Ways to Cool Off This Summer
By: Chef Cristian Feher
It's Florida. It's June. It's hot! Did you ever wonder how people lived in Florida before air conditioning? Just imagine, during the 1920's, 30's and even the 40's, what the inside of your house would feel like on a day like today. 90 degrees and 70% relative humidity. Your sheets would stick to you, the house would smell like mildew, and you'd be covered in a perpetual layer of sweat. I suppose the human body can get used to anything.. But with heat like this, it's just hard to fathom.
Aside from the technological marvel that is your air conditioning unit, here are some delicious ideas to keep you cool.
Ditch the ice cubes! There are tastier ways to cool your drinks. Have you tried berries? Adding frozen berries to your drink not only cools it off, but adds a subtle layer of flavor. I love club soda with frozen berries! I also really like to put frozen watermelon cubes in my club soda, the taste is fantastic.
Alcoholic beverages can also benefit from the frosty addition of frozen fruits. Try putting frozen citrus quarters in your mug of beer. Or frozen grapes in your wine and champagne. One of my favorites is beer with frozen blueberries.
Hydrate! Air conditioners work on the law of evaporation, and so does your body. When your sweat evaporates, it cools you. That's why you feel hot and sticky on a very humid day - because the air has so much water in it that your sweat can't really evaporate very quickly and you stay hot. Damn, I got scientific, didn't I. The point is that you need to have lots of water in order to have lots of sweat in order to cool off quickly.
Melons; like watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew (just to name a few) are made up mostly of water. In fact, fruits and vegetables have a much, much higher water content than carbohydrates and protein. So, the thing to do on a hot day is to load up on fruits, vegetables and salads.
To make a really simple fruit salad, cut up your favorite fruits into a bowl - I like to use pineapple, grapes, watermelon and berries - add some fresh chopped mint for a cool, refreshing flavor, and if you're feeling festive, you can even add a little liqueur like coconut rum or Drambuie.
A fresh salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and zucchini will ensure that you're munching on the veggies with the highest water content. Add to that salt and citrus juice and you've created a hydrating salad with electrolytes!
Hot spice is cool! Spicy food cools you off. I'm sure you may be thinking that the last thing you want to eat on a hot day is a spicy bowl of chili, curry, or a spicy Mexican burrito. And I agree. However, the reason those foods would raise your body temperature is not because they have hot peppers in them, it's because they're fatty, oily, and rich. Fat is fuel. And your body is a furnace. If you add fat to the furnace, it heats up. Simple.
Hot peppers make you sweat, and sweat cools you off, if you mix that hot spice with foods low in fat and carbohydrates. Mixing hot peppers, hot sauce, or cayenne into foods like salads, veggie and meat stir-fries, light soups, and cold soups (like gazpacho), will cool you off.
One of my favorite summer cool-off dishes is spicy seafood ceviche. Also, spicy sushi (if not loaded with oily, sugary sauces) would fit the bill. A dish of assorted raw sashimi with hot chilies would be under this category as well. And if you want to keep it simple, even a shrimp cocktail with horseradish and a little ketchup, and a cucumber salad on the side will be a refreshing snack on a hot summer day. Just remember to make is spicy and cut the fat, and you've created an air conditioned meal!
Do you have your own food ideas for keeping cool in hot weather? If so, I'd love to hear them. You can always drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.