There could not have been a more perfect evening to explore Vanessa Seder’s new cook book, Eat Cool: Good Food for Hot Days. The temperature had been in the 90s all week, and the only relief in sight was the thought of this dinner. Dishes had been assigned to the guests a few weeks earlier, and they all sounded refreshing, not too challenging to prepare and most importantly, cooling.
Vanessa is a Portland-based recipe developer, food stylist and cookbook author. Eat Cool was published this past March, when hot days were barely a thought. But she’d had been living with the idea of cooling food and drink for the past year while working on the book. She researched cuisines from hot climates around the world, testing ideas, flavors and ingredients. The result is a collection of recipes culled and interpreted into a book full of “climate savvy culinary wisdom”, designed to “keep your body from overheating.” It’s a book for all levels of cooking skills, with some super easy to assemble dishes like the Room Temperature Haricots Verts with Sesame and Black Truffle (page 43, Eat Cool), which turned out to be my assignment. Other recipes, like the Poke Bowls require several steps and techniques, and were wisely given to Shannon Mahoney, a SKORDO Marketing + Stores team member and chef.
On that steamy night, we gathered at the home of Evelyn Smith, SKORDO Stores Director. SKORDO co-founder Anne Weiss jumped in to help Evie and the guest of honor, Vanessa Seder, arrived with all the components for the Glass Noodle Salad with Pork, Cucumber, Lemongrass, + Birdseye Chiles (page 79, Eat Cool). Check out the noodle recipe here! Food photographer Lauren Lear immediately took out her camera to document it all.
Evie had put together charcuterie platters that also included an array of vegan items from S + P Plant Based Cooking. The addictively delicious vegan feta “cheese” paired with Wicked HAWT Habanero Jam from Peck’s of Maine and served with Mill Cove Baking Co. crackers was a favorite. Earlier, she had set a table in a shady corner of her yard, a charming vignette with fresh flowers, bright turquoise chairs and mismatched cloth napkins under strings of fairy lights. Each place setting held a printed menu of the dishes, designed by Sarah Demers. We sipped on Pineapple Turmeric Shrubs (page 192, Eat Cool) made by Anne, full of tropical flavor and cooled with Infused Flower Power Ice Cubes (page 208, Eat Cool). The shrub base is made with fresh fruit, vinegar and sugar then topped with sparkling water or (Prosecco!), a truly refreshing creation.
It was fun to watch Shannon efficiently tackle her assigned dish (page 126, Eat Cool). The components of the poke bowls include lightly pickled bok choy, seasoned hijiki seaweed, marinated shiitake mushrooms and fresh tuna. None of these items are difficult to make, but they are more time-consuming. With her culinary experience, Shannon was able to put the dish together beautifully, serving it with sushi rice on a large platter. She gave the poke a generous sprinkle of SKORDO Togarashi Blend before setting it down as an impressive centerpiece of the buffet table.
We filled our plates with the Eat Cool offerings, our wine glasses with chilled rosé and sat together for the kind of conversation and fun we’d all been missing over the past year or so. We capped off the evening with bowls of Candied Ginger, Cardamom and Saffron Ice Cream (page 162, Eat Cool), topped with sliced plums, made by Evie. As the evening came to a close, we toasted each other for coming together and to Vanessa for creating the inspiration. I swear I felt so much cooler.
Vanessa topped off the evening by signing a stack of Eat Cool Cookbooks for you all. Grab a signed copy here, and enjoy an evening with Eat Cool at your home!
Guest blog written by local food writer and previous SKORDO Team Member Karen Watterson. Check out Karen's food blog Sweet on Maine for delicious Maine dessert stories, recipes, and inspiration. Photography credit to Lauren Lear.
Pretty! From the people to the food! 💙