When it’s time to decide what’s for dinner amid the sweltering days of July, sometimes it seems like there’s no way to cool down.
But there is. Naturally.
To beat the heat, Ayurvedic medicine, that ancient Indian body-balancing system, advocates eating foods that are alkaline. They reduce inflammation in the body and act as your personal air conditioning unit.
So what foods are alkaline? Most fruits and vegetables, especially locally grown ones. Subtropical produce can take the heat as it grows yet cool you down as you eat it. You don’t have to remember (or pronounce) ayurveda, or even alkaline, just think mild, sweet-tart and bitter.
• Mild: Enjoy summer produce mild in flavor but high in water content, like zucchini, summer squash and celery. Melons like watermelon, cantaloupe and their kin the cucumber are also alkaline. This led my husband to make a cucumber martini. Nice try, but an icy martini or a cold beer isn’t cooling. Or alkaline. Like meat, dairy, coffee and processed white sugar and flour, alcohol is acidic and inflammatory. Keep the cucumber, lose the booze. Drink water – lots.
• Sweet and tart: Summer fruitlike grapes, with their sweet flesh and tart skins, and local goodies including mangoes, antioxidant-rich mulberries and all manner of citrus, have that juicy, sweet-tart zing going. Lemons, limes and grapefruit have that acidic sizzle on the tongue, yet create a more alkaline balance in your body. Think of lemonade on a brutally hot day. Summer fruits are fun and refreshing to eat even as they cleanse and cool the body.
• Bitter: The astringency – that pleasantly puckery sensation – in robust green vegetables acts as a natural cooling agent. Brassicas like broccoli and cauliflower and greens including dandelion and collards are also natural detoxers, decluttering your liver, keeping you feeling light and fresh. Ditch the southern propensity to cook collards with a hunk of pig and simmer them till they’re gray.
In honor of World Cup, enjoy collards the Brazilian way, shredded and tossed with lemon. Known as couve a mineira, it’s served throughout Brazil, with a variation or two, but always simple and vibrant.
Couve a Mineira
Collard greens and lemons, two natural coolants, come together in this vibrant salad found throughout Brazil. I have a real fondness for this dish, which is as simple to make as it is dazzling to eat. While many Brazilian recipes call for giving the greens a quick sauté, these are shredded, raw and “cooked” only with the acid from the lemon juice. Enjoy as a salad, as a condiment, paired with beans, whole grains or grilled vegetables or as a filling for tortillas.
2 bunches collard greens
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 juicy lemons)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Wash the collards well. Blot dry. Slice out the thick central stems and discard (or reserve them to make broth later). Stack the collard leaves and roll them up width-wise, forming a tight collard cigar. Using your sharpest knife, slice across as thinly as possible, forming skinny ribbons, or to use the proper culinary term, chiffonade. Alternately, shred the collards in a food processor using a shredding disc. You’ll have about 4 cups of greens. Congratulations, you’ve accomplished the toughest part of the recipe.
Scoop the collards into a large bowl. Add the minced garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Toss to combine. Season with sea salt and pepper. Enjoy. Couve a mineira keeps tightly covered and refrigerated for up to two days. Makes 6 servings.
Per serving: 103 calories (44 percent from fat), 4.5 g fat (0.6 g saturated, 3.3 g monounsaturated), 0 cholesterol, 4 g protein, 9 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 2 mg sodium.