Fortunately, it’s July, which means we can take full advantage of summer produce. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, corn, melons, plums, nectarines, peaches, herbs, and leafy greens are either here or about to arrive. And that equals wicked variety, massive nutritional value, and low, low prices. Excellent.
So, without further ado: 18 no-cook meal ideas. And I'm sure there are some I missed. Readers, what would you add to this list? What did I forget? (For now, we’re looking for ideas, not specific recipes. That’s next week.)
Rather than rifle through entrees, why not focus on the hors d’oeuvre chapter of your favorite cookbook? Perhaps some proscuitto-wrapped cantaloupe would sate your salty-sweet craving. Maybe Greek Salad Skewers can fill your grumbly stomach cavity. And who’s ever turned down a mozzarella and tomato stack? No one, my friends. No one.
Come August, the prospect of a mayonnaise-slathered tuna sandwich isn’t exactly appetizing. But with a little lemon juice, a few herbs, and a dollop of olive oil, canned seafood like tuna, salmon, and sardines can be kept light and fresh as the day it was pulled mercilessly from the sea. Try this Alton Brown recipe and see.
Ceviche and tartare
We mentioned marinating seafood in citrus juice in our Ways to Cook Without an Oven piece, and the idea hasn’t become any less viable over the last two weeks. If you have a few extra bucks, grab a lemon, some quality shrimp, and start soaking.
You’ve heard of Gazpacho, the tomato-and-cucumber-based concoction Lisa Simpson pushes on barbecues, but did you know there are hundreds of fruit and veggie soups requiring only a food processor and a basket of produce? A Google search for “cold soup recipes” yielded 1,230,000 results. Get browsing.
Crostini / bruschetta
While most recipes in this genre call for toasted bread, you can fudge it with a super-crusty baguette, a little rubbed garlic, and some olive oil. Honestly, the additional toppings are usually so tasty, no one will complain. (P.S. If you’ve ever wondered what the difference was, check this post from Foodblogga.)
Sorbet, granita, simple whipped creams, various balls (hee), frozen pies, no-bake cheesecakes, ice cream treats, trifles … I could go on, but I’m all drooly now. So I’ll let the Kitchn and their 25 No-Bake Summer Desserts roundup take over.
Dips and spreads
Hummus, tapenades, and pestos are not just stunningly simple to make at home. They’re inexpensive, highly edible with pita chips or crudite, and eminently spreadable on sandwiches or wraps. Plus, you don’t even need a food processor. Just grab your potato masher and dub the dips “rustic.”
Fruit and fruit salad
Pedestrian cantaloupe-n-honeydew salads may understandably cause some egregious eye-rolling. But, as previously discussed, with warm weather comes a tremendous variety of in-season fruits. Whether they’re eaten whole or chopped and mixed in some sublime concoction, there are few healthier, less expensive options for summer.
Two avocados + 1/3rd a red onion + a small tomato + one lime’s worth of juice + a handful of chopped cilantro + salt and pepper = a dip that’ll be devoured in ten minutes.
With a little vinegar and oil, vegetables are surprisingly simple to marinate yourself, as demonstrated in these Zucchini, Mushroom, and Cucumber Salads. If you’re not in the mood, a jar of roasted red peppers will do the trick just as well.
You CSA people know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout. When the thermometer reads like a radio dial, there’s nothing quite like stuffing your face with a pile of leaves. If you can accent those greens with additional veggies - tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, what have you – all the better. And healthier.
Of course, non-stop lettuce marathons can become tiring after a while. So why not spruce up your dinner with a bean or bread salad? There are gazillions of options online, but I particularly enjoy this Black-Eyed Pea dish from Martha Stewart and Moosewood’s Summer Panzanella.
What simple condiment can top chips, be stuffed in a burrito, and perk up chicken breast? If you said “chocolate” … ew. If you said “salsa,” you win! Cheap, low in fat and calories, and high in various nutrients, salsa is the superfood that keeps on giving. (Especially if you’re a tad prone to indigestion.)
A pal of mine had his bachelor party a few weeks ago, meaning three ladyfriends and I were left without our various menfolk. So? We had a ladies’ barbecue. We assembled lots of crudite, a few bowls of fruit, assorted olives, many jars of Trader Joe’s dip, some fine cheeses, and several kinds of crackers, breads, and pita chips. And we ate it. And it was AWESOME. (Note: the wine helped.)
Sandwiches, wraps, and pitas
(Hey! Another personal anecdote!) The last few Mondays, Husband-Elect and I dined on prosciutto, skim-milk mozzarella, roasted red peppers, and incredible olive bread procured from a nearby grocery store. We dubbed it “Favorite Sandwich,” and it’s just the thing for sweltering summer nights. You might be tempted to relegate similar cold sandwiches and wraps to lunchtime, but take it from me: don’t.
What was your first reaction to the word “slaw”? Was it like mine? Was it “Ew! Cole slaw. Gross. I always give that to my brother. He’ll eat anything except rusty hubcaps. And even then, if you slather it with enough mustard, it’s a possibility.” But I digress. The world of slaws extends well beyond mayo-soaked iceberg lettuce. Let Leigh’s Jicama Mango Slaw be your inspiration, and then slice and julienne your way to glory.
Smoothies, lassis, parfaits, and enhanced yogurts
Remember this post about your favorite smoothies, where you gave 30 stupendous suggestions for tricking out your yogurt drinks? Man, those were the good ol’ days. But seriously, folks. Trumped-up yogurts are filling, frequently nutritious, and infinitely customizable.
Though I’ve never attempted it myself, various online sources swear you can soak noodles in very hot tap water to a satisfying al dente doneness. It takes a little longer than boiling, but if you’re dead set against oven use, it’s an option.
If you’d like to incorporate cooked foods without using your own kitchen, think of using prepared and pre-cooked from supermarkets, restaurants, big box stores, and other large, pointy buildings where you might acquire edibles. For example:
- Hit up your local Chinese joint for a pint of white or brown rice.
- Grab a rotisserie chicken at CostCo.
- Find a salad bar and stock up on a variety of veggies.
And that’s it. Readers, what would you add? I’d love to hear.
If this post tickles your fancy, you might also want to peruse:
- 10 Ways to Eat Less Meat
- 156 Cheap, Healthy Recipe Ideas for Ten Common Leftover Herbs
- Cheap, Healthy Zucchini and Eggplant: 134 Recipes