Cooling foods for a hot summer

My friend and vegan activist Debby van Velzen PMed me yesterday hysterically that in two days it’s going to be 30 degrees in Amsterdam and that she is urgently looking for an article about cooling foods. Now, I live in a country where people are born with a bike chair stuck to their buttocks, rain and wind hitting their struggling to cycle faces with eyes full of hope that once they have reached their next destination they can enjoy the comfort of complaining about the weather as a means for warming up and breaking the ice. So when it becomes so warm all of a sudden all these otherwise your daily routine rituals are gone, there’s nothing more to complain about and as all new situations and changes in life, for better or worse, it feels slightly uncomfortable.  And as the weather prognosis for the next 50 years is saying that it’s going to get warmer and warmer in this freezing to the core of your bones weather-like country, it seems like a good investment to check out what the folks in the warm countries do to cool down and write a blog about it.

Traditionally in the far east foods were looked upon in terms of yin (feminine, wet, expanded) and yang (masculine, dry, contracted) and how these two energies influence our body and among many other aspects our temperature. Well balanced yin type of foods are the ones that can contribute to a better cooling down effect on the body. These will include fresh vegetables and fruits that are seasonally and locally grown.

As logical as it sounds nature fits itself to our needs, bodies, location and climate and provides us with the best “clothes” to dress up the inside of our bodies.  In the Jewish tradition in these days of early summer we are celebrating Shavuot which is a holiday in which the farmers are bringing their first grown veggies to the Holy Temple to show off and of course offer it to God. Last week I went to the Noordermarkt in Amsterdam and had tears in my eyes for all these amazing freshly harvested new produce that is offered by the local farmers.

There is nothing more delightful in living in Amsterdam then going to the Noordermarkt on Saturday. I love to go to there in the winter time when it’s magical and snowing and to buy all these forgotten ancient Dutch roots and pumpkins in yellow, orange and black colors to make long cooked dishes, using fire and oil (All yang elements). In contrast today (June), you will find plenty of greens in all sizes, shapes and flavors, cucumbers, radishes, mushrooms and more (All yin elements).

Cooking should correspond with nature. In the summer it can be more watery and wet, lighter, more colorful, creative and playful. Tastes can be more sour and bitter which is not difficult considering the amount of greens that are available. You can use a lot of lemon, herbs and spices (yes, they are cooling down by stimulating sweat). Choose for plant based foods because animal foods stimulate hit and have a contracting effect. In the winter I use longer cooking styles to stimulate hit but in the summer I want to cook quickly and go out to the nice weather, to meet my neighbors and friends and to share my foods with them.

Quickly made salads, pressed salads (see recipe), quick sauteed dishes, quick boiling, quick steaming are all yin cooking styles.  You can make your soups more light, watery and sour in taste. Your pastas and stews can be cooked with more vegetables. You can eat more fresh vegetables, fruits and fruit salad. Use less salt. Especially mushrooms are a great quality of yin cooling food. It is very light and grows quickly up and outward. This is the kind of energy you want to have in the summer.

Where ever you live, please go to your local organic market or natural food store and enjoy the wonderful gifts our nature, farmers and season has to offer!

Here is an extremely easy to make recipe which you can make year round but is especially refreshing for the warm days. It makes a delightful side dish. Pressing makes the vegetables more digestible and tasty. Pointed cabbage is a lighter, softer and sweeter variety of cabbage. Once you tried it, you’d love it, and then it’s very hard to go back and use normal cabbage.

Pressed salad with cucumber-radish-pointed cabbage

1 big cucumber sliced into thin slices, pits removed

10 radishes sliced into thin slices

1/2 pointed cabbage sliced very thinly

4 pinches of salt


2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp mirin (Japanese rice wine)

3 pinches of salt

2 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp roasted sesame seeds

Mix the radish and pointed cabbage with 4 pinches of salt. Massage and press till liquid is out and the vegetables become flexible and transparent. Mix with the cucumber and put under pressure (in a salad press or by placing a plate with a weight on top of the salad) for half an hour or more.

Remove pressure. Discard liquids. Whisk the ingredients for the sauce. Mix with the vegetables and serve.



I think Debby might have known deep inside of her that she doesn’t really have a reason to complain about the 30 degrees upcoming Dutch hit disaster so she quickly and smoothly turned the conversation into her upcoming disaster OMG-I’m-turning-30 birthday party and didn’t forget to decorate it with some touches of bitterness and complain about how old she’s getting. But as a matter of fact writing this article seems to draw a more optimistic picture of an otherwise gloom reality,  and that is to say that while the weather is turning warmer and warmer and we are getting older and older,  these wonderful vegan foods keep us very cool and even cooler and as  the years pass by you become soooooo hot or even hotter. Congratulations Debby!

Amazing photos: Wouter van der Wolk.