by Penny Reeder
I know how challenging these mid-August weeks of haze, heat and humidity can be. You feel like a limp noodle, sapped of energy, trying to remember what it used to feel like when you felt comfortable! Let me provide some easy and delicious refreshments for you and your guide dog, and you won’t even have to turn on a burner or the oven!
First, however, on my guide dog Willow’s behalf, I just want to remind you that the title of “dog days,” which some insensitive humans have labeled this hottest part of summer, actually has nothing to do with dogs! Earth-bound dogs are just as uncomfortable as we people are. (Hence the homemade Frosty Paws recipe below.)
Ancient Greeks and Romans noticed that the star Sirius, also known as the dog star, Canis Major in the Orion constellation, began to rise during the hottest part of the summer, and so they called these days the Dog Days of Summer!
Help your dog weather this weather with your own version of homemade Frosty Paws! In your blender, combine 1 large (32 ounces) container of plain or vanilla yogurt, a ripe (or over-ripe banana), 2 (heaping) tablespoons of peanut butter, and 3 tablespoons of honey. Whirl it around until it’s all smooth and satiny, then pour into ice cube trays, freeze for at least a couple of hours, then remove the cubes to a freezer-safe container, and serve, one cube at a time please, to happy waggy-tailed pups!
And, for you, and everyone you know who loves to eat, make gazpacho! This recipe is based on one from Jose Andres, our local treasured chef and humanitarian. Jose, in turn, gives credit to his wife, Patricia. No matter whom you thank for this delicious cold soup – and why not thank all of us? – you’re sure to enjoy its refreshing deliciousness from the moment ripe tomatoes come onto the scene, well into the fall.
Again, no need to turn on the stove, and you don’t even have to peel the tomatoes! In blender container, combine:
- 2 pounds ripe red tomatoes (about 10 plum tomatoes, cores cut out, and tomatoes quartered);
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded and roughly chopped;
- 1 cucumber, peeled if not organic, and cut into chunks;
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced; and
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar.
Blend until the mixture becomes a thick liquid. Taste for acidity. If it’s tasting too bland, add a little more sherry vinegar. (Don’t substitute any other kind of vinegar. Gazpacho is a Spanish creation, and much of its deliciousness comes from the sherry vinegar.)
Add 3/4 cup good-quality olive oil, and season with salt. Blend again until smooth, taste again for seasoning and acidity.
Now, pour it into a pitcher, and store in your fridge. Jose suggests pouring the soup through a strainer placed atop your pitcher, but, honestly, I have never felt the need to do this. It’s up to you, though.
Now, prepare your garnishes: In a tablespoon of hot olive oil, fry 2 or 3 slices of good-quality white bread. When toasty, break the bread into rough quarters to make croutons. Put four of these into the bottom of four soup bowls.
Add several chunks of cucumber to the bowls, and, if you like, drizzle them with olive oil (just a drop or so).
Now add a chive or two to each bowl, or the top of a green onion, broken into several pieces.
Add 3 or 4 cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half and sprinkled with salt.
Now, pour in the chilled soup, and garnish the top of each bowl with one more drizzle of olive oil.
Come to the table, lift your spoons, and, guaranteed, soon you’ll forget all about the unpleasantness of these dog days of summer!