During the hottest summer days, even toasting a slice of bread seems to make the kitchen hotter. During the dog days of summer, I do everything I can to avoid extra heat, especially when it comes to mealtime.
Purchasing prepared food is an obvious answer: picking up fried chicken from your favorite roadside shop is a treat and pairing it with some potato salad from your favorite deli makes it a meal. Grilling outdoors is another answer, except it is torture for the person mannng the grill!
There are plenty of options for making dinners at home without the use of heat, either by selecting ingredients that don’t require cooking in the first place or by using items that have been cooked elsewhere. Select a rotisserie chicken from the deli or ask the folks in the seafood department to steam a lobster or some shrimp for you to take home. Imported tuna packed in olive oil is a huge treat as is jumbo lump crabmeat, ready to use straight from the container. Ceviche (fish that is ‘cooked’ in a citrusy marinade) is another great option for a ‘no-cook’ dinner. Fresh sweet local corn is a delight and doesn’t need to be cooked, along with other garden treats like snow peas and tomatoes. And don’t forget canned beans which add fiber and great texture to salads.
‘No-cook’ meals and takeout meals share one challenge: because a meal may take less time to prepare or seem more casual, there’s a tendency to throw it on the table and wolf it down without enjoying it. Be sure to take time to make these hot weather meals an occasion. Set the table, serve a special drink and make sure everyone sits down to enjoy the meal together. Try doing something fun like serving the drinks in mason jars or using bright fabric napkins to ground a lighter meal in the summertime.
This summer, I plan to have a plan: to make ‘no-cook’ meals regularly and serve them with the same care that I would a meal that I had cooked for hours. I’ve included recipes for a refreshing cocktail and some refreshing dinner ideas to add to your repertoire.
Ceviche (serves 4)
We ate lots of ceviche in South America last summer and enjoyed many different versions of it. Making ceviche
requires a face-to-face conversation with the fishmonger. Tell him exactly what you are making to get the freshest
fish for the most delicious ceviche.
1 pound red snapper, halibut, scallops (or freshest available white fish)
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 sweet onion, sliced
2 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
For serving: sliced avocado, leaf lettuce
Dice the fish into half inch pieces. In a glass bowl, combine the fish and lime juice and stir well. Cover and
refrigerate, stirring every 30 minutes for a total of three hours, until the fish is opaque.
Drain the fish and place in a clean glass bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients, and season to taste with salt
and pepper. Serve on lettuce with avocado as a starter or main dish.
Sangria (makes 4-6)
I would never guess that ginger ale would be an ingredient in Sangria, but my Spanish neighbors drink something like this all summer! It’s light and refreshing, and of course lower in alcohol.
1 bottle sauvignon Blanc
2 kiwis, peeled and sliced
1 cup raspberries or blackberries
1 lime, washed and sliced into wedges
2 cups diet or regular ginger ale
Combine wine and fruit. Fill a glass with ice. Fill glass 2/3 full with wine/fruit combination and splash with ginger ale. Enjoy!
Mexican Cobb Salad (flexible servings!)
I love a good Cobb salad – chicken, avocados, bacon, blue cheese and hard-boiled eggs with greens. This is a riff on that – to get you thinking of other chopped salad themes. This looks great layered in a clear bowl and tossed at the table.
Mixed salad greens
Fresh corn cut from the cob (no cooking necessary)
Canned black beans, drained and rinsed
Cubed avocado, tossed with lime juice
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese or Queso Fresco
Shredded chicken from a purchased rotisserie chicken
1 chipotle pepper (from a can – freeze the rest!)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
Combine dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste.
In a clear bowl, start with salad greens, and then layer with the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle with dressing and toss well. Garnish with lightly-crushed tortilla chips.
4 cups prepared shredded cole slaw mix
1 cup prepared shredded cabbage
1 sweet red bell pepper, sliced
1 bag shelled edamame, thawed
4 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoon soy sauce
3 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger root
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 pound steamed shrimp, peeled and cooled (or substitute 2-3 cups chopped chicken from a rotisserie chicken or leftovers) Combine dressing ingredients in a jar, and shake until they are combined well. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine salad ingredients. Toss with half of the dressing. Top with shrimp, cilantro and peanuts. Drizzle remaining dressing on top.