The weather is oppressive, sizzling, stifling. At the end of the day, a cook doesn’t feel much like cooking, and the cook’s brood is flushed and cranky. A cold beer and a mediocre takeout pizza won’t improve things much, but they are an option. If company’s coming, however, that may be perceived as less than hospitable.
What you want instead is a fine cold supper.
Perhaps the term “cold supper” is misleading. Sometimes that means a meal that is less than wonderful, a sad buffet of the week’s refrigerated leftovers or a deli platter with a couple of tubs of potato salad.
That is not what I mean at all. What I propose is a delectable supper that happens to be cold.
Let’s say you have invited friends for a nice dinner on the weekend, just as the temperature spikes beyond belief. The solution: Prepare almost everything in advance, even the day before the dinner. (And do it in the morning, before the heat sets in.) Have one dish that can be assembled at the last minute with fresh ingredients, and as your guests arrive, stay away from the stove altogether.
With that goal in mind, here is a menu that is not only delicious, but also rather easy to pull off.
First course: cold raw sea scallops, served in the manner of carpaccio. You’ll need large ultrafresh sea scallops, but just two ounces per person. Ask your fishmonger for dry-packed day-boat or diver scallops.
To serve alongside, I suggest a salad of green beans and fennel, also room temperature, dressed with lemon and olive oil. Better yet, make it with an assortment of the green and yellow beans now piled high at the farmers’ market.
Dessert: frozen raspberry spuma, the Italian word for foam.
Of course, there are many ways to approach the elegant cold supper concept. It could be cold fried chicken and coleslaw, or cold poached salmon and cucumbers. However you choose to beat the heat, do it with style.
Cold Pork Roast With Fennel and Green Bean Salad
For the roast:
1 boneless pork loin roast, about 4 pounds
8 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fennel fronds, plus extra fronds for garnish
2 teaspoons fennel seed, crushed in a mortar or spice mill
1 teaspoon fennel pollen (optional)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons roughly chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons roughly chopped sage
2 tablespoons roughly chopped marjoram
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (peperoncino)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the salad:
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound green beans, or a mixture of green beans, yellow beans and Romano beans, trimmed
2 heads fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
Season loin generously on all sides with salt (about 2 tablespoons). In a small bowl, combine garlic, fennel fronds, fennel seeds, fennel pollen (if using), lemon zest, rosemary, sage, marjoram, red pepper flakes, black pepper and olive oil. Pat mixture on loin. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate several hours (preferably overnight). Bring to room temperature before roasting.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place a rack in a roasting pan. Put loin on the rack and roast for about an hour, until a thermometer registers 130 degrees. Let cool to room temperature before serving. If desired, after cooling you can wrap and refrigerate loin for up to 24 hours, then return to room temperature.
Prepare the salad: Put garlic and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and whisk in olive oil. Blanch beans in boiling salted water for 2 minutes, then drain and cool. Put beans and fennel in a salad bowl, season lightly with salt and toss with dressing. (Dress salad about 20 minutes before serving.)
To serve, cut roast into ¼-inch slices. Arrange on a platter and garnish with reserved fennel fronds. Pass the salad separately.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Sea Scallop Carpaccio
1 large shallot, peeled and sliced thin crosswise
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon) or kosher salt
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¾ pound large sea scallops
8 ounces small cherry tomatoes, halved
Pinch of red pepper flakes (peperoncino)
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
Handful of basil leaves
1 large lime, halved
Fruity extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Put sliced shallots in a small bowl and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt. Add vinegar and mix gently, keeping shallots submerged. Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes. (May be made 1 or 2 days in advance and refrigerated.) Remaining vinegar may be reserved for another use, such as salad dressing.
With a sharp knife, slice each scallop crosswise into very thin slices. Distribute slices among 6 chilled plates, laying them flat in a circular pattern. Arrange halved cherry tomatoes over each plate. Sprinkle scallop and tomatoes with salt, a little peperoncino, a few capers and some pickled shallot.
Garnish with torn or sliced basil leaves and some small basil leaves. Give each plate a squeeze of lime juice and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately.
Makes 6 appetizer servings.
12 ounces (about 1 pint or 2 cups) rasp- berries, plus 6 ounces more (½ pint or 1 cup) for garnish
¾ cup sugar
4 egg whites
Put raspberries in a small saucepan with ½ cup sugar over medium heat. Mash berries with a wooden spoon and simmer for 2 minutes. Strain through a fine-meshed wire sieve, pushing against berries to extract all juices. Discard seeds and solids. You should have 1 cup raspberry syrup. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a mixing bowl, combine egg whites with ¼ cup sugar. Set bowl over a pan of boiling water and, using a wire whisk, beat eggs and sugar just enough to dissolve sugar and until whites are warm to the touch, about 1 minute.
Remove bowl from heat. Beat egg whites vigorously until you have a fluffy meringue with shiny stiff peaks, about 3 minutes. (You may use electric beaters or stand mixer.)
Using a rubber spatula, quickly fold raspberry syrup into meringue. Transfer to a serving dish, cover and freeze for at least 2 hours. (You may freeze mixture up to 3 days in advance.)
To serve, garnish with berries and spoon raspberry spuma into small bowls.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.