10 refreshing dishes that require little (or no) cooking
Nuts, cheese, olives, fruit and crackers go a long way toward a meal when it's the middle of summer.
Some of the best hot-weather meals I've had this year include a simple mix of sliced hard cheese, a handful of Marcona almonds or pecans, some grapes, figs or sliced peaches and some seedy crackers or slices of no-knead bread. Add a few thin slices of Spanish chorizo and a spoonful of honey, honeycomb and all, and call it lunch.
A plate of figs with dry-cured sausage might not be everyone's idea of a summer meal, though, so here are nine other ideas for putting together a refreshing meal when it's too hot to cook (much).
Pan-seared salmon is one of the fastest proteins you can cook at dinner time, and you can serve it with anything from coleslaw to buttered spaghetti. You can also use leftover salmon in an orzo or couscous salad that you can eat at room temperature for lunch.
Speaking of room-temperature salads, the Austin-based Farmhouse Delivery makes a corn and green chile dressing that will transform even the most boring mixture of grains and grilled vegetables into something special. The grocery delivery service sells the dressing by the bottle on its website, and the thick, sweet and tangy sauce also stars in Farmhouse's ready-to-eat chicken salad bowl that comes with red wine vinaigrette-marinated summer vegetables, seasoned chicken breast and fluffy quinoa.
If you're feeling creative in the kitchen, take a page from Eleven Madison Park and try your hand at making homemade crackers and carrot tartare, a vegan spin on the dish that's usually made with raw beef.
For another restaurant-inspired, cooling meal, consider picking up the ingredients for a smacked cucumber salad, a mix of cooling cukes and spicy Sriracha from the authors of "Double Awesome Chinese Food" that can be topped with peanuts, croutons or anything else that adds a crunch.
Grocery stores are selling a lot of those bagged coleslaw and chopped salad mixes these days, and I like many of them, but don't forget that you can save quite a bit of money by making chunky, hearty coleslaws at home, with or without mayonnaise. My favorite is a lime-sesame coleslaw with cilantro and peanuts.
Smoothies are another easy-to-buy summer food that is easy to make at home if you plan ahead. You can spend $8 on a single smoothie, which would buy enough ingredients to make a week's worth of them, but to sneak as many nutrients in as possible, cut back on the sugary yogurt and dairy. Instead, rely on protein- and fiber-dense ingredients, such as spinach, peanut butter and even cooked sweet potatoes.
If you like roasted beets, you'll love the cumin-spiced beet salad at TLV, the Israeli eatery at Fareground food hall downtown, which you could recreate at home with store-bought roasted beets and cilantro tossed in a cumin-and-garlic spiced vinaigrette.
If you like a fresh Caprese salad with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, you'll love an even softer form of mozzarella called burrata, which you can find at local cheese shops. Earlier this summer, I had the most delicious cheese plate at the Mueller restaurant Stella Public House that was centered on burrata, peaches and prosciutto, a dreamy trio that I'll be thinking of all winter long.
Smacked Cucumber Salad
This recipe infuses classic Chinese cucumber salad with a fresh, herby breath of spring. The smashing of the cucumber softens the edges and helps the pieces absorb more flavor; plus, it’s fun to whack things. We encourage you to play around with the ingredients; if you can find some green garlic or garlic scapes, they’re a wonderful seasonal substitute for the garlic cloves. If you don’t have mint, try parsley or cilantro, and there’s no reason you can’t up the quantities of the herbs. Feel free to sprinkle on some crunch of your choice — at the restaurant, we like ours with salted Virginia peanuts. And like most things, it’s excellent with some chunks of ripe avocado.
— Margaret Li, Irene Li and Andrew Li
For the sauce:
1 clove garlic, or 1 stalk green garlic, or 2 stalks garlic scapes, minced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
Leaves from 4 sprigs mint, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce (substitute tamari if gluten-free)
Pinch of kosher salt, or to taste
For the salad:
1 large English cucumber or 4 Kirby or Persian cucumbers
Additional herbs, diced scallions, peanuts, croutons or breadcrumbs, for garnish (optional)
Make the sauce: Combine all the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl or food processor and whisk or pulse to combine.
Cut the cucumber(s) in half lengthwise and lay flat on cutting board, seed-side down. Vigorously smack the pieces with the flat side of a cleaver or a rolling pin until they start to splinter open. Cut lengthwise down the spines and then crosswise into bite-size pieces. Toss with the dressing, add the salt and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. Taste and add more salt, if needed. Serve with your choice of garnishes. Serves 2 to 4.
— From "Double Awesome Chinese Food: Irresistible and Totally Achievable Recipes from Our Chinese-American Kitchen" by Margaret Li, Irene Li and Andrew Li (Roost Books, $35)
Carrot Tartare With Crispy Capers and Super-Seeded Rosemary Crackers
This is a spin on chef Daniel Humm's carrot tartare served at his famed New York City restaurant Eleven Madison Park, where the carrots are ground tableside. This version isn't quite that fancy, but it gives you an idea of how to transform root vegetables into a tartare-like dish, without any meat. "Don't sleep on the crackers," says Liz Moody, author of "Healthier Together." "You'll be blown away by how easy it is to make flavorful, crispy crackers at home, and likely never buy them from the store again. If you're cooking with a partner, put one of you on cracker duty while the other takes care of the tartare."
— Addie Broyles
For the crackers:
1/4 cup whole flax seeds
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the tartare:
Fine-grain sea salt
4 cups roughly chopped carrots (from 6 medium carrots)
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 cup peeled, minced apple (from 1 small apple; any crisp variety works, but I like Fuji and Granny Smith)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons avocado oil
1/4 cup capers, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 shallot, minced
Olive oil, for drizzling
Make the crackers: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, onion powder, rosemary, salt, pepper and 1/2 cup of water in a medium bowl, and stir to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes until the chia seeds become gelatinous, then transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until a seedy, pasty dough forms, about 1 minute.
Scoop the cracker dough into the center of the prepared baking sheet. Cover the dough with another piece of parchment. Use a rolling pin (or a wine bottle) to roll out the dough until it’s as thin as possible without tearing. Remove the top piece of parchment paper and place the whole large cracker in the oven, uncovered. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the baking sheet from the oven. Use two spatulas to carefully flip the whole cracker (don’t worry if it breaks; you’ll be breaking it up later anyway) and return to the oven to bake for 15 minutes more, or until just beginning to brown at the edges. Break into pieces using your hands or transfer to a cutting board and cut with a knife for more precise squares. Eat as is, or, if you want them super crispy, reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees and return the crackers to the oven for another 30 minutes.
While the crackers are baking, make the tartare: Fill a medium pot halfway with water. Add a small palmful of salt. Add the carrots, bring to a boil over medium-high and cook until just fork-tender, about 10 minutes. While the carrots are cooking, prepare a large bowl of ice water. When the carrots finish cooking, drain them and immediately transfer them to the ice bath.
Meanwhile, place the chia seeds in a small bowl and stir in 1/4 cup of water. Let the mixture sit for at least 10 minutes, until the chia seeds become gelatinous. Place the apples in a separate small bowl. Pour in the apple cider vinegar, toss to coat the apples completely, then let the apples sit for at least 10 minutes to infuse.
Heat the avocado oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the capers and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Drain the carrots, transfer to a food processor, and pulse until minced. Transfer to a medium bowl and mix in the dill, mustard, shallot, soaked chia seeds, and apple cider vinegar-infused apples.
To serve, press the tartare into a 1-cup measuring cup or a small ramekin until tightly packed. Place a small plate over the cup and invert. Tap the cup gently until the tartare slides out. Drizzle generously with olive oil and top with the capers. Serve with the crackers on the side. Serves 2.
— From "Healthier Together: Recipes for Two — Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Relationships: A Cookbook" by Liz Moody (Clarkson Potter, $25)
WELCOME TO HEAT WEEK
When you live in Austin, extreme heat's a given. This week, we're bringing you a series of stories about all the ways high temperatures affect our way of life beyond the weather forecast.
Essential safety tips for hot weather: stay hydrated; watch for the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke; and never leave kids or pets in the car. If you or someone you encounter seems to be experiencing health problems related to the heat, take immediate action to cool down and call 911. For more tips, go to austintexas.gov.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Family Eldercare's annual Summer Fan Drive delivers fans to seniors, adults with disabilities and families with children who need heat relief and meet the drive's eligibility requirements. Find donation and volunteer information at summerfandrive.org.