If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Cake . . . on the Hood of My Car


If my summer were a cookbook, it would be called What to Expect When You’re Expecting— Expecting Company, That Is, and It’s a Heat Wave.

Yes, welcome to life in the global warming oven.  We are on at least heat wave #3 of the summer here in usually temperate Portland, and I’ve had a potluck to attend or guests to host for all of them.  And while the hot weather makes me want to eat ice cream three meals a day, I know I really shouldn’t.

Especially not when “eating” means “bringing to a potluck where it will sit out in the sun.”

So what has been on the menu?  Lots, and I figured I’d share it in case you can’t stand the heat but still need to be in the kitchen.

Before we get too far along, remember, I am not generally somebody who follows recipes, so that means my offerings are going to be rather slapdash.

Occasion #1:  potluck 4th of July block party

Recipe #1: Watermelon Soup

Chop a seedless organic watermelon into chunks, removing the rind.  Puree in a blender with organic fat-free yogurt, plus juice (I used a cranberry blend that’s 100% juice and happened to be lurking in the back of our fridge), plus ground cinnamon and ground ginger.  Pour into a large bowl (it may take several blenders full to puree it all).  Mix in seedless grapes that have been quartered.  Chill.  Forget to garnish with mint before serving and enjoying.  Later, enjoy re-refrigerated leftovers with a shot of liqueur and think “I am a culinary genius!  When is Meryl Streep playing me????”

Occasion #2:  dinner party to which I promised to bring dessert

Recipe#2: Tofu chocolate mousse*

*adapted from The Complete Soy Cookbook by Paulette Mitchell (adapted means she has a great recipe but I am a chocolate fiend, so I up the cocoa powder and triple the recipe because seriously, has anyone ever made too much chocolate mousse?)

Combine 3 packages of firm shelf stable tofu (i.e., not the stuff that’s packed in water and refrigerated), 1 cup maple syrup, 1.25 cups cocoa powder, 1 Tablespoon vanilla and cinnamon to taste in a food processor.  Whir like mad.  Refrigerator before you eat it all yourself.

Occasion #3:  clients over for drinks in the backyard when it is 104 degrees

Recipes #3-#4: Cold soup

The laziest way to impress someone with cold soup:  pour several containers of shelf stable tomato soup into a large pot or bowl and chill. As you ladle each serving into a cup or bowl, garnish with tzatziki, which being lazy you bought in the deli section of the same market where you bought the soup 30 minutes before the guests arrived.

A slightly less lazy and more healthy way:  eyeball organic produce languishing in your fridge, google “raw food broccoli” and find this recipe.  Use way more garlic than it calls for, and also that shallot that, like your broccoli, has been languishing.

Occasion #4:  weekend at a friend’s house on the river

Recipes#5-#6: Herring Spread and Cabbage Salad

What kind of person always has a couple cans of herring in the cupboard?  The kind who can make this dish, so long as she picks up a couple of containers of cream cheese to go with.  Put ingredients in that trusty food processor.  Don’t add cocoa though, that would be gross.  A bissel horseradish, however, couldn’t hurt.  Or dill, if you’ll be with WASPs.  Refrigerate before departing the sweltering city, and keep on ice in the cooler as you drive to the slightly less sweltering country.

Upon arrival, shred 1.5 heads of cabbage (i.e. all that will fit in the host’s largest bowl, and if you have 1 green and 1 purple head, it looks great).  Mix in wasabi mayonnaise (available at Trader Joe’s and transported unopened so it wouldn’t go bad), raisins, and caraway seeds.  Don’t bother refrigerating; it’s so good you’ll just eat it now.

The weather’s supposed to break tomorrow, but just in case it doesn’t . . . what have you been serving on the sultriest days of summer?

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3 Responses to “If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Cake . . . on the Hood of My Car”

  1. Avigail Says:

    those are great suggestions, Lois. Raw food is the way to go — spring rolls with peanut sauce, salad and, if you need to cook an eggplant, grill it outside, in the shade!

  2. Leah Koenig Says:

    thanks Lois! curious – why does the tofu in your chocolate mousse need to be shelf-stable? will the other stuff not work?

  3. Shmethicist Says:

    The shelf stable tofu has a different consistency than the refrigerated in water kind, and when you are trying to blend to a smooth consistency, substituting one for the other doesn’t really have the same effect.

    Note that in addition to its other charms, the mousse is pareve, and vegan. So provided you find hekshered ingredients, it has a range of audience appeal.

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