Our summer workshop, “Bold and Cold,” at the Red Barn Farmstand in Haleiwa was super-cool for a number of reasons. First, I got to connect one of my clients, the Red Barn Farmstand, with LDEI Hawaii—it’s a great place for Dames to hold events or sell your products. Second, we got to introduce Dame Kai Cowell’s new cookbook (which I’m also delighted to have had a hand in helping to produce), Spices for Life, to the public. (Kai’s going to have a book signing event in November at Barnes & Noble, which will benefit LDEI Hawaii. More info on that, coming soon!) And third, and COOLest of all (and the point of the workshop, of course), was the focus on making refreshing cold soups and salads. I don’t know about the rest of you, but we only have air conditioning in the bedroom, so I’m swelteringly hot at home, and cold soup and salad are way up there on my list of things I want to be eating right now.
Kai and Dame Kathi Saks showed us all how to make two different cold soups and two salads, with dressings:
- Tangy Cucumber Soup (by Kai; it’s in her cookbook and she’s got the recipe posted on her beautiful new website)
- Thai-Spiced Watermelon Soup (by Kathi; see below for recipe)
- Baby Arugula and Watermelon Salad with Macadamia Nuts, Inamona and Chevre, with Exotic Curry Dressing (salad by Kathi, dressing by Kai)
- Watermelon Salad with Pickled Watermelon Rind, Feta and Serrano Pepper Vinaigrette (by Kathi; see the Red Barn Farmstand blog for the recipe)
As much produce as possible was sourced locally with the help of the Red Barn Farmstand. The goat cheese was obtained from Emma Bello at Sweet Land Farm. Dame Jenn Marr provided Lilikoi Perfect Puree for Kai’s dressing, and we also had Dame Whendi Grad’s Big Island Bees honey.
The recipe demonstrations were well-seasoned with tips on how to make the most of local produce and pointers on proper kitchen technique like…
Before you start chopping watermelon, slice off a flat base to stabilize it and prevent it from rolling around while you cut.
When adding items to a blender, add in liquid-y things first; it helps the blades grab on and spin better.
When chopping herbs, cut down and THROUGH (in a forward motion), not directly down—if you’re cutting down, that’s why your herbs end up looking black, all the edges have been bruised.
Also, when preparing salads, make your dressing FIRST. That way your salad won’t sit around wilting or getting soggy or mushy. Many dressings can also be made ahead of time, if you’re preparing for a party.
Kathi also pointed out a few facts about how temperature affects our taste, and that we need to keep in mind when preparing cold foods. Our mouths are designed to taste foods at a high temperature. If you make a hot food intending to eat it cold, you need to remember this and add more flavor; overload it so when it is served cold, it will taste the same way as it did hot. All the intense, tangy citrus and vinegar elements of these recipes really perk up the flavors of the cold dishes. The most important tip: Make sure that you taste your soups and dressings at the same temperature that you’ll be serving them at; if you try them warm, but will be serving them cold, they’ll taste completely different; you can always adjust at time of service.
Kathi showed us how to make Pickled Watermelon Rind for one of the salads, a great way to make use of your ENTIRE watermelon. No waste here!
Adding acid to the watermelon will change the color almost instantly. On the left is the seasoned watermelon puree Kathi made the night before. On the right is the fresh puree made during the demo. You can see the difference in color, and when she sloshed the containers, in texture, too. It’s also important to leave back a bit of the plain watermelon puree to adjust the flavor or spiciness of the soup if you need to at service.
All photos courtesy Dawn Sakamoto Paiva
Thai Spiced Watermelon Soup
by Kathi Saks
Serves 4 as a first course
- 5 cups coarsely chopped seedless watermelon (from 4 lb. melon)
- 3 stalks lemongrass
- 3 whole shallots, finely chopped
- 1 3-inch piece ginger, finely chopped
- 4 to 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 8 to 10 kaffir lime leaves, crushed
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 to 2 small Thai or Serrano chiles, finely chopped
- 2 to 4 whole limes, juiced
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Puree watermelon in a blender until smooth and transfer to a bowl (don’t wash blender).
Discard 1 to 2 outer leaves of lemongrass and trim root end. Thinly slice lower 5 to 6 inches of stalk and then mince, discarding remainder. Cook lemongrass, shallot, ginger, garlic and kaffir lime leaves in oil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat; stirring until aromatics are pale golden, about 5 minutes. Add about 1/3 of watermelon puree and simmer over moderate heat, stirring for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Remove watermelon mixture from heat, then transfer to blender along with the chile, lime juice and salt and blend until smooth. Be careful of hot liquids when blending. Add remaining watermelon puree and blend briefly. Season soup with more chile, lime juice and salt if desired, blending if necessary. Pour soup through a sieve into a bowl, pressing on and then discarding any solids.
Chill soup, uncovered, about 2 hours if serving cold or reheat in cleaned saucepan. Serve either hot or chilled, adding cilantro at time of service.