From Too Many Chefs -

July 19, 2006
Canicule Cooking: Gazpacho and Pita pockets

gaspacho.jpgHere in Paris we are in the middle of a canicule, or major heat wave. As the temperature today soared as high as 38 degrees Celsius (100 F) offices sent workers home earlier, motorists were begged not to drive in the city and the local city crêche set up paddling pools in the garden. In Chicago, this would be just a normal if somewhat irritatingly hot summer day. Here, it's a cause for crisis alert (level 2 according to the city hall). Barrett has often scoffed at my reaction to heat or cold extremes here in Paris, implying I've become something of a wimp after a dozen years in a temperate climate. Well, he may be right. Or maybe it's the fact that I live in a place which is totally unprepared for extreme weather because it's usually temperate. Do you think?? It's a lot easier to be phlegmatic about 100 degree heat when your office and probably at least one room in your home is air-conditioned. At the very least, I know that the bar at the corner of your street will always be air-conditioned in Chicago. (Trust me, I visited a lot of them in my wild and reckless youth...and even in my slightly doddering approaching middle age...)

Here, we have fans. And those Evian spray bottles. The boy likes the two when they are combined and I can't blame him.

As for just don't want to go there. The barbecue, which seemed such a charming summer idea a week ago, fills you with dread. It's right next to the window to the living room. Yay, 400 F heat right next to our main living space. So I haven't been cooking much.

And what does the intelligent cook do when she doesn't want to cook and nor does she want to starve? Well, this cook is lucky enough to live in Paris, where there are quite a few options. For example, I can purchase a lovely organic rotisserie chicken at the market on Saturday. We love roast chicken but I refuse to make it when the temperature outside seems to be reaching the heat of an oven. And then there are vegetables: ripe tomatoes and deep red peppers, succulent cucumbers and spicy peppers. So I made dinner without turning on a single heating element, perfect in this hot weather.

Both Barrett and Justin have posted their recipes for Gazpacho so it's a bit redundent to post mine here. But I will. Mine has cucumbers and no ice cubes, so obviously it's waaaayyy different from theirs. And we had the chicken for lunch on Saturday, but the remains (mostly dark meat) were mixed last night with a 1/4 cup mayonnaise, a small handful of fresh oregano, a heaping teaspoon of grain mustard, a pinch of salt, a dash of red wine vinegar and a half a roasted pepper and made a lovely stuffing for a pita pocket. No cooking. And to accompany, cold, bursting with vitamins and flavour gazpacho.

Meg's Amazing Gazpacho (makes 4-6 bowls)

8 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/2 a long cucumber (about two cups, chopped)
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 jalepeno pepper, chopped
4 spring onions, sliced finely
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
2-3 Tbs red wine vinegar
1/2 cup really nice olive oil
2 pinches of salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro/coriander, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 slice of stale bread, soaked in a bit of water and then drained
garnish: hot pepper oil and garlicky croutons

Put half the tomatoes and garlic and 1/4 the cucumber, pepper jalepeno and onions in a food processor. Add half of the vinegar, olive oil, salt, coriander, basil and bread. Repeat. Store the soup in the refrigerator for at least two hours and then serve with the remaining ingredients as garnish.

On a hot evening you may actually find that the spicy soup that makes you sweat is a good thing. At the slightest breeze, you'll cool off more quickly.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at July 19, 2006 2:12 PM

I've been told that a hot (as in temperature hot) beverage will cool you off. I don't particularly believe this, but it has been asserted.

I haven't tried a fruity gazpacho, but if the heat wave here returns (where we hit 100F), I may try to make some.

Posted by barrett on July 19, 2006 at 5:28 PM

Meg, my Parisienne girlfriend has been telling me about the extreme heat -- along with the "fun" of the Metro during these times. Ahem. Anyway, this sounds like a wonderful recipe and I plan to try it next week. Go ahead and feel sorry for me as we had no power here in our Chicagoland home for 30 hours until this morning from a lightning storm Monday night. OK -- don't feel sorry, I was just being silly. Thanks to you all for some really great recipes.

Posted by Lu on July 19, 2006 at 7:19 PM

Do you deliver?

Posted by David on July 20, 2006 at 6:26 AM

Barrett, I think that belief is strong in the tea-drinking Britannic isles, but I have to say that the Critic is more than happy to adopt the American tradition of iced tea in the hot summer.

Lu, it is indeed very unpleasant on the metro at the moment. Luckily, to get to work I take a bus and then only have three stops on the metro. I get off one stop before my destination most days because it's more pleasant to walk outdoors!

David, only to good friends and you qualify! However, there isn't much left...sniff...

Posted by Meg in Paris on July 20, 2006 at 7:17 AM

Meg, apparently it's an Indian thing as well. Of course who influenced whom in the Brit-Indian equation is a good question.

Posted by barrett on July 20, 2006 at 9:41 AM