Ten years ago, I’d probably have told you that I didn’t need a cookbook devoted to “Good Food for Hot Days,” the name, in part, of Portland food stylist and recipe developer Vanessa Seder’s new book. I live in Northern New England, after all. How many hot days are there?

Get ready for the dog days of summer with a cool new cookbook. Cover courtesy of Rizzoli

But climate change has changed my thinking. Last summer, Portland recorded its hottest summer on record; given recent weather history, I don’t have much faith that record will hold for long. Short of buying an air conditioner (and hastening climate change by running it), I like the idea of cooling myself down from the inside out.

My gloomy thoughts aside, “Eat Cool: Good Food for Hot Days. 100 Easy, Satisfying, and Refreshing Recipes that Won’t Heat up Your Kitchen” (Rizzoli, 2021, $39.95) is a big, handsome book – Seder’s second – filled with bright colors and vibrantly flavored, gorgeously styled food. Its sophisticated global recipes feel very modern.

The cover image of Melon and Cucumber Breakfast Salad captures Seder’s catholic food tastes and stylish eye, which are evident throughout. (Another Portland resident, Stacey Cramp, shot the photographs.) The melon-cucumber combination is a little unusual, as is the idea of salad for breakfast. And the dish – a study in pale green cucumber, Creamsicle-colored melon, delicate yellow edible flowers, and ridged mint leaves – is eye-catching and sure to stimulate a heat-attenuated appetite. The salad is, Seder writes, “a first-rate option when you wake up and it’s already hot as blazes.”

“Eat Cool” may be best for the home cook with a wide-ranging pantry and palate, and some degree of ambition. Recipes call for hondashi granules, truffle salt, microgreens, umeboshi vinegar and plums, Marcona almonds and Himalayan pink sea salt. Home cooks will learn to make cured egg yolks and cream cheese foam, though Seder also offers simple ways to dress up rotisserie chicken, imaginative takes on deviled eggs, and instructions for putting together a chic no-cook feast of tinned oysters, kippers, sardines and other tinned seafood.

Vanessa Seder, in her Cape Elizabeth studio, in 2018. Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Seder grew up in L.A., and it shows. She’s at home with a huge range of culinary influences – Asian (Thai Celery Salad with Shrimp, Peanuts, Chiles and Cilantro; Cold Tofu in Dashi with Radish, Scallions, Sesame, and Bonito), Mexican (Chamomile, Strawberry, and Nectarine Paletas), Middle Eastern (Yogurt Soup with Chickpeas, Dill, Mint, Golden Raisins, Coriander, and Sumac) and Mediterranean (White Gazpacho). She reaches for almond milk regularly, and hasn’t met a vegetable she doesn’t love. If recipes could glow with good health (Raw Cashew, Sun-Dried Tomato, Beet and Basil Rounds), this collection would.

Which is not to say that Seder is above the occasional indulgence. Malted Chocolate Icebox Cake, for one, calls for 2 cups of malt balls, 2 cups of homemade ricotta, 2 cups of heavy cream and two packs of chocolate wafer cookies. And though right at this moment I am home alone and it’s not my birthday and I am not celebrating my second COVID shot and I have not just run a marathon, temptation calls.

I shall resist (at least for now). And good news: With its big, zippy flavors and slick, easy-slurping noodles, Cold Korean-Style Vegetable Noodles with Gochujang and Kimchi aren’t too shabby.

Cold Korean-Style Vegetable Noodle with Gochujang and Kimchi Photography by Stacey Cramp

Cold Korean-Style Vegetable Noodles with Gochujang and Kimchi

From “Eat Cool: Good Food for Hot Days” by Vanessa Seder. Combined with the kimchi topping, this flavor-forward dish can pack some heat. It calls for a fair bit of chopping and grating, so allow time to make the dish. I found I needed barely two-thirds of the sauce to dress the noodles – add the sauce gradually, tossing and tasting as you go.

Serves 4

Active time: 30 minutes. Total time: 30 minutes

6 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
6 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, divided
1 cup peeled and grated Anjou pear (from 1 or 2 firm but ripe pears)
1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup gochujang
2 tablespoons sweet white miso
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
2 teaspoons sugar
1½ teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar
5 tablespoons canola oil, divided
7 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
3 scallions, thinly sliced, white, light green and dark parts divided
2 large carrots, peeled and grated, using a serrated vegetable peeler
1 bunch lacinato kale (about 10 ounces), stems removed, leaves thinly sliced
1 cup kimchi
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Run under cold water to stop the cooking process, then drain well and use your hands to squeeze out any excess water. Transfer to a large bowl and toss the noodles with 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place the pear, ginger, garlic, gochujang, miso, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, vinegar, 3 tablespoons remaining sesame oil, and 2 tablespoons of the canola oil in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining canola oil and 1 teaspoon of the remaining sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shiitakes and cook until the whites of the mushrooms are golden, about 4 minutes.

Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining canola oil, 1 teaspoon of the remaining sesame oil, and the scallion whites and light green parts to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp tender, about 3 minutes. Pour the carrot mixture into the reserved noodles in the bowl.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil to the skillet. add the kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until just wilted, about 3 minutes. Add to the bowl with the vegetables and noodles along with the cucumber and sauce and toss to combine well.

Drain the noodles among 4 bowls. Top each with some of the kimchi, scallion greens, and toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

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