I recently read an article about why people seem easily agitated in the summertime—it’s because we are. “Hotheaded” isn’t just a euphemism for being truly peeved, it actually is correlated to our environment. Dehydration, trouble sleeping in hotter rooms and staying inside to avoid the intense heat, all attribute to our shorter fuses. But what to do about it?
Alas, even if you can’t stand the heat, staying out of the kitchen isn’t really an option.
Going out to eat daily isn’t realistic, and putting on appropriate, “I wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen in this in public,” clothing back on to run to the grocery for take-out can feel like a monolithic undertaking.
To combat these first-world problems I pretty much rely on no-cook dishes for the whole of June, July and August. However, “no-cook” doesn’t mean boring—great summertime dishes can satisfy your taste for the exotic without ruining the cool in your kitchen.
Having a well-stocked kitchen can keep your no-cook dishes from becoming bland and repetitive. A few essential, versatile items will last a long time and make dinnertime a breeze.
Canned albacore tuna packed in olive oil (or water, if you’re watching calories)
Bottled roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts (all of these are great on salads, put on flatbread for a quick pizza, or blended up for dips)
Lemons and limes (these add that “fresh” taste to almost any dish)
Vermicelli rice noodles (you can find these at most groceries and Asian markets and they cook up in a flash)
Rotisserie chicken (make a habit of buying one when you go to the store)
Frozen, pre-steamed shrimp (to thaw, simply run under cold water for ten minutes)
Muhammara – roasted red pepper and walnut spread
Muhammara’s roots lie in Aleppo, Syria—a city that can trace its history back to 2600 BC. That history includes the Byzantines, Ottomans and Alexander the Great among its rulers and empires and also places it as the stop of the Western end of the Silk Road. Aleppo’s gastronomic identity is heavily rooted in the rich array of spices that have passed through over thousands of years, as well as its agriculturally rich surroundings.
Olive, nut and fruit orchards surround the city, thus making many of their dishes a sweet and salty mélange of flavors. So much so that in 2007 the city was awarded the French International Academy of Gastronomy’s cultural food prize. It was this dish that likely sealed the title for them. Like its well-known cousins hummus and baba ghanoush, muhammara makes a fantastic spread and a wonderful accompaniment to meats, bread and fishes. In Syria it’s considered a mezze (appetizer) and is practically a mandatory condiment on most dinner tables.
7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses*
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
*available at local health and specialty market stores. Or make your own (recipe below).
In a food processor add all ingredients except the olive oil, and blend until combined. Slowly add the olive oil in a thin stream until the ingredients are well blended. Transfer to a bowl and serve at room temperature. Great with pita bread, fish and basically anything.
Pomegranates are native to the Middle East and are essential to many recipes from the region. Pomegranate molasses has an enticing sweet and tart flavor that compliments many dishes. Put it in club soda or use it in mixed drinks. Use it in salad dressings or as a baste for cooking chicken or salmon.
2 cups pomegranate juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 splash lemon juice
Bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until it reduces to a thick syrup, about 40-50 minutes.
Thai Rice Salad with Peanut Dressing
Peanut sauce is a staple in Indonesian cuisine, popping up in dishes such as satay, Karedok and Gado-Gado. Anyone that has ever tried pad thai can tell you—the stuff is good. Peanuts were introduced to Indonesia by Portuguese and Spanish merchants, who had brought them from Mexico, in the 16th century. Soon they were a staple in many regional dishes where the peanuts’ hearty texture was supplemented with a unique twist: hitting it with garlic, ginger, shallots, rice wine and fish sauce. The individual variations of the sauce are countless, but one thing remains constant: peanut sauce cannot be escaped. Recently, the Netherlands has even gotten on board with the peanut sauce craze concocting an amazing dish they call Patat Oorlog (Dutch for War Chips)—basically french fries served with peanut sauce.
I love peanut sauce on salads—it’s a rich accompaniment that adds a bit of indulgence to an otherwise healthy meal.
1 cup HYPERLINK “http://www.food.com/library/rice-160″ white rice, uncooked
1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
2 cloves HYPERLINK “http://www.food.com/library/garlic-165″ garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
Whisk together all ingredients except for oil (if peanut butter is too thick you can warm it in the microwave for a few seconds to smooth it out). Slowly start to incorporate the oil until combined. You may refrigerate this mixture up to five days.
4 1/2 ounces of rice noodles
3 cups shredded cabbage (or if you prefer, you may serve with spring mix instead)
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup sliced bell peppers
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup snow peas
Chopped peanuts and lime wedges for garnish (optional)
Add in cooked rotisserie chicken, thawed cooked shrimp or pan-grilled tofu (optional)
Place noodles on plate. In a separate bowl, combine veggies with dressing and toss well to coat. Place atop noodles. Add your chosen protein on top and garnish with lime wedges and chopped peanuts
How to Cook Rice Noodles
Rice noodles are a fantastic quick fix. Put a kettle of water on to boil. In the meantime, place desired amount of rice noodles in a bowl. When the water is boiling, pour over noodles until covered. Cover bowl with lid and let sit for three minutes. Drain and serve. Don’t overcook or rice noodles will become mushy.
This salad was created centuries ago by thrifty Italian cooks who never let anything go to waste, whether that be a spring of herbs or a loaf of bread. Its exact timeframe can be traced back to the 16th century when Florentine’s famous painter and poet, Agnolo di Cosimo di Mariano Tori, better known as il Bronzino, wrote of its merits. Originally the dish was built around incorporating onions and oil with bread, but in the 20th century tomatoes were introduced to the region and soon they were the main attraction. Panzanella recipes nowadays vary from the rustic, to the gourmet and can include ingredients like garlic, capers, black olives and anchovies. Panzanella is a great summer salad recipe, as the crunchiness of the salad doesn’t come from the bread, but rather the crunch of the fresh onions and cucumbers. In Tuscany the bread for Panzanella is never toasted, but rather stale—meaning the “crouton” American version would be scoffed at.
Day-old bread loaf (like Ciabatta)
2 cucumbers, peeled
8 Roma tomatoes
15 basil leaves
1/2 red onion
Salt and Pepper to taste
Shred or chop the bread into small pieces (they will break down more once the oil is added) and add to bowl. Dice cucumbers and tomatoes and add to bread. Finely chop basil and red onion and add to bowl. Slowly drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar on to the bread mixture and toss (start out with 2 tablespoons vinegar, six tablespoons olive oil). Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
To add your own flair, try incorporating capers, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes instead of Roma, mozzarella, olives or anything else you fancy!
Vegan, No-Bake, Silken Chocolate Mousse Pie
Lastly, just because you’re not baking doesn’t mean you can’t have dessert! Thank be to vegans who come up with some of the most inventive (and relatively healthy) dessert recipes.
1 cup raw nuts (almonds, pecan or walnuts)
1 cup dates, pits removed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Place nuts and salt in food processor and pulse until combined and resembling river sand. Add the dates and pulse until well combined. Test the dough by taking a little out and rolling into a ball. If the dough remains in a ball it’s done. Remove dough and press into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan.
8-ounces dark chocolate
12.3 ounces (usually 1 box) of firm silken tofu
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons soy or almond milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon agave syrup
Melt chocolate in microwave. Place silken tofu in food processor (don’t drain it like you would firm tofu). Add cocoa, vanilla, soy milk, salt and melted chocolate. Blend until smooth. Add agave syrup and add more to taste. Spoon mixture on top of crust and refrigerate until chilled.