Sunday, August 5, 2012


Cool summer melon.
The sun is blazing down; cicadas are buzzing in the olive trees; the grass is turning brown. It’s August in southern Spain, where daytime temps regularly soar over 90ºF and occasionally over 100º. After a sticky day of house cleaning, I need a dip in the pool and a cool drink to revive myself.   

Aahh, that’s better.

It’s just too hot to cook. I don’t turn on the oven at all from the end of May until mid-September. My cooking becomes minimalist. Here are some of my summer survival techniques:

  • Use the microwave more.  Try this: diced zucchini, chopped tomato and olive oil; microwave on high for 3 minutes; stir, microwave 3 minutes more. Add salt after microwaving, with pepper and chopped basil.
  • Cook outside on the grill.  
  • Cook early in the morning before the sun has hotted up the kitchen.
  •  Cook several foods in one pot. I boil small potatoes, romano green beans and a few eggs. Ready in the fridge, they make a salad combo or sides with grilled foods. 
  • Use canned and jarred food in the pantry. Garbanzos + pre-cooked potatoes, green beans and eggs, chopped onion, olive oil, mustard, vinegar is a main-dish salad. Canned mussels in escabeche with cooked potatoes, olive oil, lemon juice.
  • Let somebody else cook it (rotisserie chicken from the supermarket).
  • Use quick-cooking foods, such as boneless chicken breast, shrimp, fish fillets. A flip in the skillet and done. Serve with sauce.
  • Make no-cook sauces, alioli (garlic mayonnaise); romesco with peppers and almonds; piquillo. For the piquillo sauce, which also serves as a party dip, blend a can of drained piquillo peppers with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, cumin, and Sherry vinegar.
  • Don’t cook. Pick tomatoes in the garden, slice and serve with extra virgin olive oil. Pick tomatoes in the garden and make gazpacho (recipe here). 
  • Eat fruit. Right now it’s glorious melon, morning, noon and night. Melon, raspberries and nectarines with yogurt for breakfast. Cool melon soup for lunch (see that recipe here), melon with hand-sliced serrano ham as a starter for dinner or an aperitif. Nutty, salty, chewy ham is sensational with sweet and juicy melon.
Sweet melon with ham, summertime delight.

"Toad's skin" melon.

The most widely grown melon in Spain is the piel de sapo, or "toad's skin," so-called because of its rough, green skin. The pale yellow flesh is wonderfully sweet. Those grown in La Mancha, central Spain, have a Protected Geographic Designation. 

Serve ham and melon on picks as a tapa for a drinks party. It goes well with chilled fino, dry Sherry.

Melon with serrano ham makes a quick starter for a summer meal. Hand-sliced ham should be room temperature, the melon must be well-chilled.

 Melons ripen in hot, hot August days.


  1. Your opening quote and true in every sense of the word, then you mentioned the melon. This reminded me my neighbour went back to UK just yesterday and we were provided with our usual doggy bag. This one contained half a fresh melon.

    Cubes of melon with ground ginger and brown sugar here I come.

    1. Melon and ginger sounds nice. Maybe grated fresh ginger?

  2. Love the post, Janet! It's even hot here on the mountain, but here I am, stuck indoors making....tomato puree! Enjoy the melon, looks fab with the ham.

    1. You'll be glad in the winter to have those jars of pureed August sunshine! My tomatoes are not doing great. Started a second planting.