Too Hot To Touch Hero Chef Max Lunden Shares An Exotic Summertime Recipe

Craving a respite from your boring dinner routine? Today chef Max Lunden, the hero of Louisa Edwards' new contemporary romance Too Hot To Touch, shares an exotic — and refreshing — summer recipe to help spice up your evening.

Namaste, boys and girls! My name is Max Lunden. I’ve traveled the world, tasted a lot of exotic dishes, and learned to cook some crazy stuff…but nothing I saw out there in the wilds of South America or the mountains of Japan prepared me for what happened when I finally went back home to New York.

Not only did my family need my help to enter the Rising Star Chef competition—and let’s not even get into my issues with my family! Hello, there was a good reason I left home in the first place—but not everyone at my parents’ restaurant was excited to see me.

For example, Jules Cavanaugh, the tough, talented, tomboyish-yet-secretly-vulnerable executive chef of Lunden’s Tavern. And let me tell you, it took every ounce of Zen serenity and meditative breathing techniques I’d learned in my travels to keep me patient enough to break down the walls around Jules’s heart. 

I didn’t just do yoga poses and breathe at her, though! I used every trick in my cookbook, including seducing her with some of the delicious, unusual flavor combinations I discovered all over the world.

This one is perfect for the heat wave we’ve got going on right now, because it’s inspired by one of the hottest places on earth: India! It’s a version of raita, the famously refreshing cucumber-yogurt condiment served on the side of most traditional Indian meals.

My version is more of a salad, and I added cherry tomatoes for a sweet-tart counterpoint. I also decided to replace the yogurt sauce with a creamy vinaigrette. But while my recipe pulls in influences from other places I visited abroad, like France, it keeps to the cool, bright spirit of raita.

Indian Cucumber Salad

For the salad:

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (I like a mix of yellow and red—and for a trick on halving them quickly, gather them into a single layer on a cutting board, then put a plate over them to hold them still and, holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, slice through the whole pint at once)
½ medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped into ½-inch cubes (to seed, just slice it down the middle lengthwise, and run a spoon down the center of the cuke to scrape out the seeds and pulp)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

For the dressing (makes about 1 cup; you’ll have extra):
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon of pepper
1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin
3/4 cup of olive oil, or to taste

Combine the yolk, vinegar, mustard, shallot, salt, pepper, and cumin in a blender or small food processor, and blend until smooth. With motor running, add the oil in a slow stream, blending until thick and creamy. Add extra oil for a thicker dressing, tasting as you go to see if you need more acid or salt to balance the flavor. When it tastes good to you, toss the salad ingredients in a bowl, and drizzle enough dressing to coat the vegetables. Serve cold to combat the heat of summer!

To get more of Max Lunden and read about him winning over his heroine with food, you can take a taste of the story with this excerpt and then pick up your own copy of Louisa Edwards' Rising Star Chef trilogy starter Too Hot to Touch, in stores now!