An adult appetite in the heat of the summer reverts to a child's on an average day.
"I'm not hungry -- it's too hot, too sweaty, too sticky to eat," come deep-voiced whines. Seconds pass . . . "Well, ice cream sounds good . . . so does maybe a soda pop or a chocolate shake . . . Oh, you're going to McDonald's? I'll have a cheeseburger, a large fry. With extra ketchup."
Eating, on occasion, has less to do with our appetites than with our energy. Across this city, men and women in sweat-stained business suits are gasping. Kitchens turn to wastelands, dust gathers on stoves -- even microwaves are ignored.
Yet, success and corporate takeovers are not of milk shakes and frozen candy bars made. Summer is not a license to destroy your insides. The four food groups still have to be ingested, no matter how tedious that sounds.
Enter salads. Not a stove to warm up, not a grill to fire up, not even a blender to excite. Just crisp salad greens, cold vegetables, creamy cheeses, maybe a marinated fish or precooked meat and a potent dressing. It's enough to satiate the appetite with nutritional value but not overtax heat-frazzled nerves.
Below are some cool ideas for a hot, slimy, summer day.
Serve tuna salad in red, yellow and green bell peppers, halved lengthwise, and garnish with black olives and capers.
Whip up a chunky gazpacho with plenty of tomatoes and crunchy fresh vegetables and throw in cooked, peeled shrimp, which you can pick up at the market.
Try cooked, shelled shrimp mixed with mayonnaise, sour cream, curry powder, lemon juice, chives and pepper for a quick curried shrimp salad.
Open a can of salmon and add a can of boiled potatoes, chopped cucumbers, chopped celery, chopped onions and a mixture of half sour cream and mayonnaise with a bit of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Serve on crisp lettuce leaves and garnish with capers.
Make a turkey or chicken waldorf salad, mixing apples, celery, walnuts, mayonnaise and store-bought cooked poultry. Serve in hollowed-out tomatoes or papaya halves.
Combine cold sliced roast beef with chopped onion, canned anchovy fillets, capers, hard-cooked egg quarters with an oil and vinegar dressing to make a cold but cooked tartare salad.
Make a caesar salad with tuna in addition to the anchovies.
For tofu lovers, add peanuts, chopped celery, diced green pepper and a dressing of one part sugar, one part sesame oil and six parts light soy sauce to fresh bean curd cakes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and serve at room temperature.
Don't forget tabbouleh, a salad of bulgur, chopped tomatoes, scallions, herbs and dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.
So, if you're in the mood, give the recipe below a shot. If you're not in the mood, do yourself a favor. Go out to eat.
Express Lane: crab meat, tarragon vinegar, mayonnaise, onion, capers, chives, parsley, tarragon, pimentos (optional)
RAVIGOTE (6 servings)
1 1/2 pounds fresh lump or backfin crab meat, picked over well
1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 medium-sized yellow onion, minced
2 tablespoons capers, minced
1 tablespoon minced chives
1 teaspoon minced parsley
1 teaspoon minced tarragon
1 tablespoon slivered pimento (optional)
Mix crab meat and vinegar, cover and marinate in refrigerator 2 hours, turning now and then. Drain off vinegar and mix it with all but optional pimento, pour over crab, toss well, and arrange on lettuce or in avocado halves. Garnish with pimento and serve.
Adapted from "The New Doubleday Cookbook," by Jean Anderson & Elaine Hanna, (New York, 1985)