Chef Gilligan's summer treats: Watermelon lemonande and citrus mozerella salad
Tuesday is the official start of summer, although down here in Miami we have been in the upper 90’s all week so it already feels like the dog days of summer to us.
Everyone knows that the “dog days of summer” occur during the hottest and muggiest part of theseason but I was wondering where that saying comes from. Webster defines “dog days” as...
1: the period between early July and early September when the hot sultry weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere
2: a period of stagnation or inactivity
But where does the term come from? Why do we call the hot, sultry days of summer “dog days?”
In ancient times, when the night sky was unobscured by artificial lights and smog, different groups of peoples in different parts of the world drew images in the sky by “connecting the dots” of stars. The images drawn were dependent upon the culture: The Chinese saw different images than the Native Americans, who saw different pictures than the Europeans. These star pictures are now called constellations, and the constellations that are now mapped out in the sky come from our European ancestors.
They saw images of bears, (Ursa Major and Ursa Minor), twins, (Gemini), a bull, (Taurus), and others, including dogs, (Canis Major and Canis Minor).
The brightest of the stars in Canis Major (the big dog) is Sirius, which also happens to be the brightest star in the night sky. In fact, it is so bright that the ancient Romans thought that the earth received heat from it. Look for it in the southern sky (viewed from northern latitudes) during January.
In the summer, however, Sirius, the “dog star,” rises and sets with the sun. During late July Sirius is in conjunction with the sun, and the ancients believed that its heat added to the heat of the sun, creating a stretch of hot and sultry weather. They named this period of time, from 20 days before the conjunction to 20 days after, “dog days” after the Dog Star.
The conjunction of Sirius with the sun varies somewhat with latitude. And the “precession of the equinoxes” (a gradual drifting of the constellations over time) means that the constellations today are not in exactly the same place in the sky as they were in ancient Rome. Today, dog days occur during the period between July 3 and August 11. Although it is certainly the warmest period of the summer, the heat is not due to the added radiation from a far-away star, regardless of its brightness. No, the heat of summer is a direct result of the earth's tilt.
So now we know that let’s make some dishes to cool us down that doesn’t involve slaving over a hot stove shall we?
Celebrate the first day of summer with this refreshing drink.
I like to add a splash of gin to mine because that’s how I roll.
Juice from 9 lemons
1 ½ cups superfine sugar (you can use regular, but this dissolves quickly)
4 ½ cups water
2 cups watermelon puree (process seedless watermelon chunks in a blender until smooth)
2 lemons, sliced
Ice cubes (try using lemonade or the watermelon puree to make your ice cubs; that way you don’t water down the drink)
Combine lemon juice and sugar in a large pitcher and stir to dissolve sugar.
Slowly pour in water and continue stirring until ingredients are blended.
Taste, and add sugar if desired.
Refrigerate to chill, and just before service stir in the watermelon puree.
Use sliced lemons as garnish and serve over ice.
SUMMER CITRUS MOZZARELLA SALAD
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