The other morning I woke at the usual time — a quarter past crack of dawn. I seem to have become a farmer as I near 50, and have some deep-seated instinctual need to rise with the chickens (though a chicken in my neighborhood is usually wrapped in yellow and blue Perdue plastic). Anyway, I woke at the increasingly common ungodly hour, dressed in the ever-so-fetching baggy shorts and ace-bandage-esque, boob-giggle-preventing yoga top, laced up the Nikes and trotted out the door for my daily six-mile constitutional. But when I moved beyond the cocoon of cool in my building and into the world outside, the world outside had been stolen and replaced with a wall of thick, steamy hot YECH. Seems I overlooked my invitation to the annual “SWEET GEEZUS IT’S FRIGGIN HOT” preview to what we Gothamites call summer. Or stinkin’ summer. Or fetid, humid, ridiculously hot, eau-de-dog-wee stinky Schvitz City. And while I’m on a rant, might I point out that the countless news reports of how FRIGGIN’ HOT it is are NOT helping. Face it, we really don’t give a crap at the actual number or the oh so obnoxious “relative temperature,” which is usually somewhere around seventh circle of hell degrees. We KNOW it’s BLOODY HOT!
I’m sure some of you are probably think thinking, “Oh, stop your whining woman. O.K., so it’s hot." And if that some is you, allow me to usher you into what hot humid blast of summer means in the big city. First, the air’s density increases to the point that you can actually see it. I mean SEE the air, or the hazy brownish-green gray muck that passes for it. As you can imagine, breathing this stuff is a wee bit challenging, since you don’t exactly breathe it. It’s more like chewing. Then there’s the sidewalk effect. It’s a scientific fact (I read it somewhere) that everything that hits it or has hit the concrete in the past, oh, 15 years or so, suddenly rises to the surface and stews. So when those well-meaning building folk hose down the sidewalks in the early A.M., you get this kind of 15-year-old sidewalk soup. And if it happens to be a garbage day, oh well then you are in for a treat kids!
So back to the other morning. Having woken up to the apparent kidnapping of my very lovely late spring city and finding it replaced with Little Calcutta, I bravely stumbled out into the quagmire to get my exercise in. I should have stumbled right back into the sanctity of the AC. Yes, I am one of those crazy people you see running, biking, walking arms intently pumping on 90+degree days. “Sweating is good for the body,” we think. “It purges the toxins.” If only we’d realize that when the city is as wicked as it’s been the past two days, nobody needs our sweaty toxins added to the schvitz-stew. I should know better, truly. Liquid people aren’t pretty. Liquid people are cranky, ripe and can explode at any moment. You can actually witness the transformation. We start out nice, kind members of society, but with each step the blech seeps in and the sweat, garlic, makeup and milk of human kindness seep out as we transform into the hot, mean and sticky equivalent of the Hulk. Please do not to confront us at this point, trust me. Just move quickly to the nearest available climate-controlled safe house and wait it out. We’ll convert from sweat to sweet selves eventually. That is, as soon as the heat wave breaks.
With the advent of sweltering summer in our midst, my thoughts turn to popsicles. Remember when you were little and any fight, cranky mood, or scraped knee could be cured by the sound of jingling bells and that familiar white truck moving slowly down the block, trailed by a pack of excited kids just itching to get hold of it’s bounty of sticky cold pops? Just because we are grownups doesn’t mean these magical frozen offering can’t brighten up our busy, and recently hot stinky lives. All you need is a blender, a few ingredients and popsicle molds (or Dixie cups and sticks), and salvation is within reach. Here are three of my favorites, two courtesy of epicurious.com and one from my kitchen. Use your imagination and I’m sure you can come up with a few more. (And if you do, let me know – we could ALL use some frozen therapy on a stick!)
Balsamic Strawberries Ice Pops
Makes five rocket mold popsicles
I LOVE the combination of good balsamic vinegar and strawberries. This is my version in frozen form!
2 cups sliced strawberries, and a heaping ½ cup diced (about ¼”) strawberries
2 TBSP sugar, plus ½ tsp for the diced berries
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar, and if you have some aged good stuff, use that
½ tsp vanilla extract
Mix the sliced strawberries, balsamic vinegar, salt and 2 TBSP sugar together and put in the blender. Set aside. Add the ½ tsp sugar to the diced strawberries and set aside. Let both mixtures macerate for an hour.
Puree the strawberry balsamic mixture in the blender. Let it go on high for a few minutes – you want to grind up the strawberry seeds as much as possible. When the mixture is smooth, put into a 2-cup measuring cup and mix in the diced strawberries. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until solid. Calories: approx. 60 per pop.
Honeydew Lime Popsicles
Adapted from a recipe from Gourmet, July 2004
One of my favorite things to do with ripe honeydew is squeeze some lime over and sprinkle with a little coarse salt. I found these online and they are the frozen popsicle version of that. The number of pops you get will depend on the size of your molds. I get 6-8 pops out of this recipe.
¼ cup sugar (superfine works well here since it won’t be cooked)
¼ cup water
4 cups cubed honeydew melon (from about a 3 ½ lb honeydew)
2/3 cups fresh lime juice
Some coarse salt for sprinkling
Dissolve sugar in water by stirring (if you are using superfine) or heating and cooling (if you are using regular sugar). Puree half of the melon and half of lime juice in a blender until smooth. Add syrup, salt and remaining melon and lime juice and puree smooth. Force puree through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-quart glass measure or bowl, pressing on solids and then discarding them.
Pour mixture into molds and freeze until slushy, about 2 hours. Insert sticks, then freeze until completely hardened, about 6 hours. Calories: 35-45 per pop, depending on size.
Lemon-Buttermilk Ice Pops
From Bon Appetit, July 2002
Makes 8 pops
¾ cups superfine sugar
5 TBSP fresh lemon juice
2 TBSP finely grated lemon zest
Pinch of salt
1 2/3 cups buttermilk
Whisk sugar, lemon juice, zest and salt in a 4-cup measuring cup until sugar dissolves. Whisk in buttermilk. Divide mixture among 8 ice pop molds (each about ¼ to 1/3 cup capacity.) Cover and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours and up to 5 days. Calories: 115 per pop.