There are a lot of stereotypes about Spain that are simply not true. Don Pantalones is not a matador (though I’d love to see him in a pair of those tight, spangly britches). None of my friends are particularly good at dancing flamenco. The rain does not fall mainly in the plain.

But one thing that you’ve heard about Spain is extremely true. It’s hotter than the hinges of hell in the summer. And while gazpacho is truly one of summer’s most perfect foods, there are lots of other ways to deal with the heat. Two of my favorites follow.

The first is my version of  Mr. Pants’ auntie’s recipe for zucchini soup, which can be served chilled or hot; it’s also a very good remedy for the zucchini inundation that my gardening friends are surely suffering right about now. We usually have this for dinner, with bread and a few slices of ham and cheese.

Maruja’s crema de calabacín, Rubi style

  • Two medium zucchini, scrubbed and cut into biggish chunks
  • Three cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half (we like it garlicky around here; you may not)
  • Three wedges Laughing Cow cheese
  • Two tablespoons very good olive oil (preferably Spanish, natch)
  • Quarter cup veggie or chicken broth
  • Sea salt to taste

It’s a snap to make:

  1. Put the zucchini and garlic into a sauce pan; add about 1/2 cup water, cover, and boil until the zucchini is quite soft. Drain well.
  2. Unwrap the cheese wedges and pop them into the saucepan. Add the oil. Purée with a handmixer, or in a food processor. At this point, the crema will be quite thick.
  3. Add broth until the crema is at a consistency that you like. Mix well. Taste, and add salt as needed. (It’s important not to add the salt until this point, as both the cheese and the broth include salt, and you don’t want to overdo it.) Remember that chilled soups usually want a little more salt than hot ones.
  4. Chill well. I like this with slices of bread that have been toasted and drizzled with a little olive oil.

Serves 2, but easy to multiply


The second is for a beverage that we consume by the gallon during the hottest days of the summer. In Madrid, it’s known as a clara, but in other parts of Spain, it’s generally just called “cerveza con gaseosa/limón.” It’s so easy that it barely merits the name recipe: in a chilled glass, combine equal parts beer and fizzy lemonade. (In the States, I usually make this with 7-Up, but if you can find real fizzy lemonade, such as Lorina, use that. It’s much tastier. And use the right beer — something lager-style, like Heineken, is the closest to a Spanish beer.)

A couple of notes about eating and drinking in Spain:

Spaniards barely eat breakfast. The standard for adults is a café con leche, with galletas María, which are sort of like graham crackers, or toast. (Some people dispense with the galletas, and just have coffee – healthy!) But lunch, usually served at 3:00, more than makes up for the lack of breakfast.  It’s generally three courses — a starter, a main course, and dessert — with bread and wine. Dinner is not such a grand affair — it’s eaten late (at our house, at about 10:00), and is usually something light. We might have tortilla de patata, soup, or even just yogurt and fruit. It’s more nibbling than dining. And of course, between the main meals, there’s more nibbling — el aperitivo before lunch, with a glass or wine or beer, and a tapa or two; la merienda in the late afternoon or early evening, which might be a sandwich or a pastry, and something to drink. Nobody goes hungry here!

As for drinks, you may have noticed that my suggestion above is not sangría, although it’s delicious. In fact, Spaniards consume more beer than wine — about 50 liters per capita per year, versus 19 liters per capita per year. Spain is also Europe’s biggest consumer of alcohol-free beer — note that a clara made with it will taste just as good. And if you really want a glass of wine during hot weather, let me suggest a well-chilled verdejo. It’s my favorite!

So, dear ones, what’s your favorite cooling antidote to a blazing summer? Can I have a taste?

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