Refreshing Summer Recipes

It’s August, and it’s hot. Depending where you live, or what’s happening with monsoons and rain, it may be hot and humid. Either way, most of us living in the US are right in the middle of Pitta season. The heat of the fire element and the moisture of the water element combine to create Pitta Doṣa, one of the three doṣas referred to in Āyurveda. As we are the microcosm within the macrocosm, what is happening outside is also happening within. The weather and other external factors directly affect our own body-mind-spirit.

At this point in the summer, the heat has been present in some degree for a while, which means the energy of that heat has been building up within each of us. You may find that you are a little more irritable and less patient, experiencing skin issues or other inflammation, tending toward looser bowel movements, or generally more tired. If you have been mindful of the heat, and utilizing practices to keep cool in body-mind-spirit, these symptoms may be minimal or not present all. Your unique constitution and elemental make-up will also play a role in how you are effected by the heat of summer. As like increases like, if your genetic make-up is composed mainly of the fire element with some water element (pitta doṣa) you will feel greater effects from the summer heat than someone who is composed mainly of ether and air (vāta doṣa) or water and earth (kapha doṣa).

Earlier in the summer, I wrote about keeping cool through diet and lifestyle. If you missed that article and would like to read it, please check it out here. For the purposes of this article, I thought I would use the space to give you some cooling, summer recipes to enjoy.

Cooling Cucumber & Mint Beverage:
2 cucumbers – peeled, sliced, and de-seeded
fresh mint – about a handful
2 cups coconut water or plain water
1 lime – squeezed

Blend the cucumbers, mint, and 1 cup of coconut or plain water. Add the rest of the water and lime juice and blend again.

Cucumber, mint, and lime together make a refreshing drink or side dish. For eating, you can simply peel and cut the cucumbers, chop some fresh mint leaves, and toss them in a bowl with a squeeze of lime. Cucumber is sweet, cooling, soft, and liquid, making it refreshing for summer. Mint adds a lovely sweet and cooling pungency. Citrus fruits are generally considered to be sour in taste, and are comprised of fire and water elements. However, unlike other citrus fruits, lime has a cooling and sweet post digestive effect on the body-mind-spirit, making it a cooling digestive aid for summer. Using coconut water will increase the cooling and sweet qualities of the beverage, however plain water is lovely as well.

Sweet Rice Delight:
1/2 cup white basmati rice
1 cup coconut milk (cow’s milk can be used)
1 cup water
1 tsp. ghee or coconut oil
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. whole fennel seeds
1/4 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
handful pecans or other nuts
handful raisins or dates
maple syrup or other sweetener if desired

Combine the rice, water, and coconut milk in a pot and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, adding all of the other ingredients. You may want to soak the nuts and raisins overnight to aid in their digestibility. Cook the rice until it is very soft, and much of the liquid is absorbed, but still quite moist. This will take about 30 minutes, depending on how hot the stove is. I prefer the rice to be very soft and a little soupy, almost like a pudding. You may need to add more water. This recipe does very well in a solar oven, for those of you who enjoy cooking with the sun! If using a solar oven, you can add everything to the pot in the beginning.

This sweet rice is nourishing and cooling. The sweet tastes of the rice, coconut, raisins or dates, and vanilla help to calm the nervous system and induce relaxation and a sense of joy. Cardamom, cinnamon, and fennel are sweet and pungent herbs, making them a digestive aid in addition to adding sweetness to the dish.

Hibiscus, Rose, Mint Sun Tea:
1 glass quart jar
2 Tblsp. hibiscus flowers
2 Tblsp. rose flowers
2Tblsp. mint leaves
sweetener of your choice; agave, honey, maple syrup, unrefined sugar

Place the herbs into the jar, and fill almost to the top, leaving about a half inch of space. Cover the jar and place it outside in the sun. It will steep for 2-4 hours depending on how strong you want the tea and how strong the sun is. Strain out the herbs and add sweetener according to your palate. If you are looking for a spicy kick, and do not feel that you have excess heat in the body-mind-spirit, you can add some fresh ginger root before steeping.

Hibiscus, with its deep magenta color, purifies the blood and heart, both physically and spiritually. Together, these herbs clear toxins and heat from the blood and help to reduce inflammation in the tissues. Hibiscus, rose, and mint are all cooling and sweet, with rose and hibiscus having an astringent quality to them. For those who shy away from adding sweetener, I suggest adding even a small amount for the medicinal qualities sweet brings to balance the fire element that dominants in the summer.

I encourage you to play with the above recipes, adding or leaving out ingredients as you see fit. While the ingredients themselves do serve a purpose, you know best what is right for you. Enjoy, play, express gratitude, and stay cool.