Chill out this summer with Lauren Chattman's Cool Kitchen, a no-oven, no-stove approach to savory summertime meals. Ms. Chattman, who apprenticed at the famed four-star Restaurant Daniel in New York City and was pastry chef at Nick and Toni's, a trendy spot in ever-trendy East Hampton, knows what it means to sweat over a hot stove. The idea of preparing food without firing up the appliances led to these recipes 125 to be exact, including soups, starters, salads, sandwiches, salsas, sauces, and fruit desserts that are quick, refreshing, and surprisingly simple. What could be quicker than tossing peanuts or macadamias with Chinese five-spice powder for a pre-meal munchie, or stuffing plump prunes with whole almonds and bits of bittersweet chocolate for an after dinner delight? "Cold Avocado-Tequila Soup" or a citrusy salad of "Crabmeat and Oranges over Frisee" are both festive and fast. Ms. Chattman's ideas for sandwiches, the original no-cook meal, are inspired: "Tuna and Salsa Verde Sandwiches" on crusty rolls, her take on an Italian classic, makes tuna fish salad seem drab; a bagel and cream cheese pales beside "Herbed Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes on a Bagel"; and "Walnut Butter and Apricot Jam Sandwiches" takes that static standby, PB&andJ, to new heights. The salsas, sauces, and dressings are super ways to save time and dress up almost anything. These 25 raw preparations can expand your gastronomic repertoire and make the ordinary sing. "Arugula Pesto" puts pizzazz in pasta, pizza, and bruschetta and perks up a store-bought roast chicken. "Indonesian Peanut Sauce" adds an exotic touch to veggies or cold shrimp and can turn a bowl of noodles into a healthy alternative to oriental takeout. Although this is a "no-cooker," there are tips on foolproof methods, which involve a minimum of stove time, for poaching salmon and chicken breasts, and making basics that sauced with a garlicky, green "Basil Aioli" or spiked with "Hot Mustard and Sesame Dressing" take on brilliant new personalities.
You might expect a pastry chef to balk at no-bake desserts, but Lauren Chattman now opts for fresh fruit (emphasis on fresh) combined with a few other ingredients to satisfy the sweet tooth. "Fresh Figs, Walnuts, and Mascarpone" dusted with cocoa, "Peaches with Ginger Cream," and "Blueberries and Strawberries in Sparkling Wine" are among fabulous finales fit for any menu.
So, this summer when it sizzles, turn off the heat, turn up the taste, and keep your cool. Reviewed by Sybil Pratt.