So Hot. So Hungry.

fancy water all for me
Have you seen the weather report for today and tomorrow? If not, let me sum it up: ahhhh!hothothot! I am not good with heat, and by "not good" I mean that I have a history of passing out when the mercury climbs. As I read the forecast for this week over the weekend, the wheels started to turn... How do I nearly completely avoid going outside? How do I eat well (i.e. seasonally, healthily) without turning on my stove or resorting to take out? Who ate all my popsicles?

I know the answer to that last question: dinner guests of mine that had the gall to accept and consume the popsicles I handed to them. Greedy. What kind of popsicles, you ask. Plum-Bourbon-Vanilla Pudding.

I carpooled with my parents from Lompoc to San Francisco the weekend of my brother's wedding. And before I completed the final leg of the journey (Lompoc back to LA), I wandered around my parents' backyard with a basket, picking a little of this and a little of that. I'll tell you more about the variety of produce I scored later. Right now, we're just concerned with the collection of small, ripe plums I took off our plum tree.

For most of my childhood, we all assumed that our fruit trees didn't create anything truly edible. We'd fill garbage bags with apples and truck them down to La Purisma Mission where we would feed them to the pigs (THAT was fun). Then came a turning point and we started to eat the plums from the plum tree, discovering they are not just edible, they are really good. The skin is so tart and filled with tannins that it makes your mouth pucker, but the flesh is soft and sweet and the most luscious deep red.

Back in LA, I skinned the plums, pinched out the pits and blended them with my hand blender until liquefied. Just in case some skin or pit had snuck into the puree, I strained it. Then came the fun part: I added 1/2 cup of vanilla pudding, 2 1/2 tablespoons of bourbon and 2 teaspoons of sugar to 3/4 cup of plum puree, stirred well and poured into popsicle molds. After a day or two in the freezer, I ran water over the mold, pulled out the popsicles and handed them to my guinea pigs. Consensus: nom. The first taste I got was the bourbon, which was fine by me, although I had hoped for an even amount of plum and booze flavor. As I made my way through the popsicle, the flavors did deepen and I tasted everything I put in them. My only complaint is that they were a smidge chalky, probably because I used a pudding mix (the one from Trader Joes isn't half bad). My guests didn't seem too bothered by the texture. I previously tried using greek yogurt to affect a creamier popsicle and it was terrible. Wayyyyyyy too tart after freezing. I had hoped that pudding would negate the non-freezing properties of the booze and add some creaminess. Both of those things happened.

Sadly, we can't live on popsicles (although we can try). So what else can be "cooked" without heat? Trader Joes sells cooked beluga lentils in a bag and these little guys have come in very handy for me. Dump a bag into a bowl, stir in some olive oil and vinegar, salt and pepper, maybe a little lemon juice... mustard... chopped shallots ... minced garlic. All of this is to taste, but you also want enough dressing to soak the lentils a bit and dress the greens you will eventually layer with the lentils. Let your lentils sit in dressing for 20 minutes or so and then plate up some clean, cool, mixed greens (I wouldn't recommend romaine). Spoon the lentils on top and I like to finish with crumbles of goats cheese (although feta could be good, too). Voila! This is a filling salad and it's delicious and it requires no heat.

So I have popsicles, I have lentil salad; the final weapon in my heat-surviving arsenal is cold bottled water. Except I don't like to buy bottled watered for a variety of reasons. So, I repurpose clear wine bottles. Dry vermouth bottles work well for this, because the kind I usually get has a screw top. Fancy glass lemonade bottles are nice too. After the bottle is empty, I soak it in water to remove the label (WD40 helps remove residual goop). Then I clean it really well and (carefully) pour boiling water in and over it and the screw top to sanitize the whole thing. Pour out the hot water, let the bottles cool (don't pour cold water into a super hot bottle, unless you like broken glass) and fill with filtered water. I usually keep several of these guys in the fridge and then I have lovely glass bottles of cold water whenever I want it.

Good luck with the heat, everyone!

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