By Tami Weiser
During the summer, with stifling weather outside and air conditioning’s chill indoors, heavy duty cooking can be an uncomfortable challenge. It feels like its just too hot to cook most days. To the rescue come recipes that are perfect for those overheated and over cooled days. These recipes use some simple tricks to make these dishes easy as well, showcasing alternative ways to make instant couscous or using precooked, defrosted shrimp to make a ceviche.
These recipes are more than fast and easy. They are vividly colored, perfect to wake up an appetite. They also work well for lunch or dinner. They are delicious and deserve a spot in your repertoire in many a season, but they are especially lovely when it’s too hot to cook.
Instant couscous has so much going for it, but when it’s too damn hot to even turn on the flame under a pot, it’s incredibly handy. Simply use boiling water (okay, stock is best, if you have it and are willing to microwave it) and let it sit for a few minutes, covered to allow the liquid to be fully absorbed. Give it a good stir, and you are ready to enjoy. It’s a terrific base grain for a salad. This couscous salad recipe featuring peppers and olives, is a great example of easy and quick cooking on a stifling day. Feel free to add leftover veggies and cooked proteins you may have on hand, but enjoy making this dish simply, just as written.
In my fridge are always a few items, store-bought or homemade, that are indispensable in the summer. Pesto is one of them. So are pre-cooked cannellini beans and jars of oil-packed, line-caught tuna, all ready for a can opener to help make it all easy. This recipe features crowd-favorite bitter greens like radicchio and arugula, which really stand up proudly to the hearty beans.
Spanish gazpacho is a tomato-based summer classic, and even if you’ve never thought of making or eating a cold soup before, if you’ve made a smoothie, you can make great gazpacho. Try swirling in some cream, almond milk or yogurt, just before serving. Serve with pre-cooked shrimp, some crusty bread and you’ve got a meal in a flash.
Pro-tip: I often make my gazpacho with yellow tomatoes, which are a little more gentle on my stomach, but the classic is a delicious way to join the world of cold soups.
This dish is infused with Thai flavors, like toasted peanuts, and uses the subtle punch of smoked tofu. In many parts of the world, where it is hot and humid almost all year, folks eat very spicy-hot food on the most oppressive, thick-aired days. The idea is that the heat makes you sweat, which cools you off. Add spice carefully, though, and see what you enjoy and what you can tolerate. In the world of personalized nutrition, spicy-heat levels can and should be adjusted by your taste buds and how it makes you feel, after all.
No reason to break out the big ol’ pasta pot, or even call out for Chinese delivery to get your sesame noodle fix. Spiralized or finely cut cucumbers, make this a uniquely light and charming version of a classic. In many ways, this recipe defines healthy and delicious eating, is easy to trick out to your precise needs and desires, and, as an added bonus, it’s a crowd favorite for folks of any age.
Summer rolls, filled with cold, crisp and crunchy veggies is a party food favorite for good reason. Serve it along with a dipping sauce (that you may just want to eat with a spoon) is great for casual eating and entertaining. All with no cooking! This recipe uses cooked vermicelli, a traditional filling along with the veggies, but I’ve made summer veggie rolls with low carb shirataki “noodles” with great success.
A delicious chia seed dressing tops this fresh strawberry salad, enriched with both oats and pecans. It’s a texturally interesting salad, that’s chock full of fiber, but really, this salad is all about summer, sweet, juicy strawberries. It’s healthy, inexpensive, easy to adapt and involves no stove or pots and pans.
Fresh corn, scraped right off the cobs, pairs up with it’s fair weather friend, zucchini for a tasty no-cook dish. Deliciously light with a creamy goat cheese crumble is a natural, seasonal pairing. One taste and you will know why.
Try this creative and gorgeous take on the famed Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches. It’s a complete vegan dinner, but feel free to add some pre-cooked seafood or pulled pork for even more protein and also syncs authentically with the flavors. Rice noodles don’t involve cooking, but you do need some boiling water for them to rehydrate in, but really, no real cooking is necessary in this innovative recipe.
Shrimp ceviche can be made literally hundreds of ways. It’s been wildly popular in Central and South America for well over a century. Ceviche is a technique. Fish or seafood, usually raw, is cut into small pieces, and soaked in a vinegary brine along with some peppers and onions. The acid doesn’t exactly cook the fish, but it does change its color (it’s no longer translucent and becomes rather white-ish) and more importantly, it denatures the protein, so it’s, arguably, easier to digest and inaguable, tastes gh. This recipe uses a clever hack, great if you are avoiding raw fish, or if you simply want a meal in a flash, by utilizing precooked and defrosted shrimp.