Thursday, June 13, 2024

Hot, hot and even hotter: the challenge of summertime cooking

Canicula, Spanish for “the dog days of summer,” may be over, but that doesn’t mean the hot weather is.

Turn on the oven? No way. Stand at the stove with multiple burners blasting? Ugh! Yes, there’s takeout, but sooner or later, you’re going to have to feed yourself. Let’s look at some ways to do that easily, quickly and deliciously.

I’ve actually written quite a bit about the challenge of summertime cooking, most recently this gazpacho story. One of my favorite go-tos is pasta full of fresh veggies, and, of course, full-meal salads. I also find myself getting creative with leftovers, whether it’s using shredded chicken from Sunday night’s roast chicken, turning Basmati rice into an Asian stir-fry or marinating leftover veggies and making them into a salad.

Don’t even get me started on dessert! I definitely have a sweet tooth, and just because it’s hot outside doesn’t mean that goes away.

Ahhhh. mojito. So refreshing.

There’s no reason not to make yourself a mojito first thing; this classic Cuban cocktail is refreshing and easy to make — if you have fresh mint. Bartenders know not to muddle the mint too much or it will get bitter.

Another tip from the pros is to never use tonic water — the quinine will affect the taste. Seltzer or club soda is preferred.

I love eating Tortilla Española but have to admit I’ve never used a recipe; I just sort of wing it (and then wonder what went wrong). That stops now with the recipe below.

Among the several things I did wrong: the potatoes and onions should be slow-fried first; I didn’t beat the eggs enough or mix them with the potatoes/onions before putting them in the pan; and I only flipped the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle once — if even. All of these things are important parts of what makes an authentic Tortilla Española. Live and learn!

What we have here are recipes for a complete meal, with minimal cooking time and possibly leftovers as well. I’ve included an “adult beverage,” a classic dressing for a simple green salad, an easy hot entrée and a super-simple lime pudding that’s rather fabulous. Provecho!


  • 2 oz. white rum
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • ½ oz. simple syrup or agave syrup
  • 5 fresh mint leaves
  • Club soda
  • Mint leaf or sprig for garnish

Gently muddle lime juice, syrup and mint leaves. Shake all ingredients except club soda in a shaker tin with ice. Double strain (so no pieces of mint remain) into a Collins glass. Fill with ice and top with club soda

Classic Vinaigrette

  • 2 Tbsp. finely minced shallot/white onion
  • ½ – 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Combine shallot/onion, garlic, mustard, vinegar and water in large bowl. Whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly, then add salt, pepper. Add your salad greens to the ingredients. Toss well.

Alternatively, shake all ingredients vigorously in a jar or shaker until emulsified. Add salt and pepper. Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

Lime pudding
A sweet treat to beat the summer heat: fresh lime pudding!

Tortilla Española

This uses lots of olive oil, but it adds unbeatable flavor.

  • 8 large eggs
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups good quality olive oil
  • 1½ lbs. Yukon Gold or white potatoes, peeled, halved and thinly sliced crosswise
  • ¾ lb. yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup aioli or mayonnaise for serving

In large bowl, beat eggs vigorously with generous pinch of salt until frothy. Set aside.

In 10-inch nonstick or cast-iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add potatoes and onions; they should gently bubble in the oil. Regulate heat to maintain a gentle bubbling and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes/onions are meltingly tender, about 25 minutes.

Using a fine-mesh metal strainer over a heatproof bowl, drain potatoes/onions of excess oil. Reserve oil; set skillet aside to use again.

Transfer potatoes and onions to a bowl, season with salt and stir well. Beat set-aside eggs vigorously to refroth, then scrape potatoes/onions into eggs and stir to mix. Set aside 5 minutes.

Wipe out skillet. Add 3 Tbsp. of reserved frying oil. Set over medium-high heat until shimmering. Scrape egg mixture into skillet and cook, swirling and shaking pan rapidly, until bottom and sides begin to set, about 3 minutes. Using a heatproof spatula, press the edges in to begin forming the tortilla’s puck shape.

Continue cooking, adjusting heat to prevent bottom of tortilla from burning, until edges begin to set, about 3 minutes longer.

Working over a sink or counter, place a large overturned flat plate or lid on top of skillet, set hand on top (use a dish towel if it’s too hot), and, in one quick motion, invert tortilla onto it.

Add 1 more Tbsp. reserved oil to skillet and return to heat. Carefully slide tortilla back into skillet and continue to cook until second side begins to firm up, about 2 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to again press the sides in all around to form a rounded shape.

Continue cooking until lightly browned on second side but still tender in the center when pressed with a finger, about 2 minutes longer. If desired, flip tortilla 2–3 more times during these last minutes of cooking, which helps cook the center more evenly and reinforce the shape.

Carefully slide tortilla out of skillet onto a clean plate. Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving with aioli. Cut into wedges or into cubes for an hors d’oeuvre.

Leftovers can be refrigerated up to 3 days; serve at room temperature.

Lime Pudding

  • 7 eggs
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • ¾ cup fresh lime juice (about 13-15 limes)
  • 1 (250 ml) box media crema
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½-1 tsp. lime zest
  • Optional: lime zest or wheels

In a heavy-bottomed 3 qt. pot, whisk all ingredients. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Pour into shallow glass bowl or individual custard cups; chill at least 3 hours. Garnish with lime zest/wheels if desired.

Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expatsfeatured on CNBC and MarketWatch. She has lived in Mexico since 2006. You can find her on Facebook.


Have something to say? Paid Subscribers get all access to make & read comments.
Obnoxious man in a sombrero smoking a cigar

The American Know-It-All

We all know him, we all (barely) tolerate him, we should absolutely all ignore his advice.

I was only going to stay a year, but now it’s been 7!

Columnist Bel Woodhouse explains how a short stay in the Caribbean turned into a full blown love affair with Mexico.
An old woman tailor

Taxistas, Baristas and Tailors: Why making connections is easier in Mexico

Forming meaningful, yet casual, connections with people in Mexico is easily done and can make a huge difference to your quality of life.