Simple Strategies for No-Fuss, No-Cook Summer Meals

by Stacy Basko, NJ Flavor

This story is republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement related to COVID-19 coverage. Link to story:

When it’s hot outside, the last thing you want to do is turn on the stove, but how many times can you get away with gazpacho? Try using premade ingredients and peak summer produce to make mealtime a breeze. Here are some simple strategies for tasty, no-cook, summer eats.

Super-Size a Charcuterie and Cheese Board: Offering a wide choice of ingredients turns this appetizer into a meal. Nestle different deli meats and cheese next to jarred roasted peppers and rounds of tomato on a large cutting board. Add more sliced vegetables, sprigs of fresh herbs, and as many condiments as will fit on the table.

Tuck small bowls of olives, pickles and pesto next to the breadbasket. Pair with a glass of wine for the adults and flavored seltzers for the kids and dinner almost feels like a party.

Pro tip: buy two loaves of bread and make a panzanella bread salad the next day.

Fancy Cold Sandwiches.

Sandwiches that go above and beyond make an easy summer dinner. Try a family-sized muffaletta or Sicilian tuna on ciabatta. Avocado toast with spicy kimchi tastes good any time of day. Sardine tartines, herbed white bean crostini or shrimp salad croissants, or a combination, also work.

To change things up, use a tortilla or lettuce leaves to make a wrap. And yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to have PB&J for dinner, at least once in a while.

Rotisserie Chicken is Your Friend.

When there’s a rack of roasted birds ready at the grocery store, there’s no need to even look at the oven. Top a Greek salad with sliced breast meat or shred and toss it with salsa for quick chicken tacos. Save the drumsticks for the kids and serve with a side of sliced cucumbers and peaches. If anything’s left, make chicken salad for tomorrow’s lunch.

Bonus: Toss the bones in the freezer and simmer a batch of stock when it’s cool enough to turn on the stove.

The Deli Counter is Cool.

Another way to build your no-cook dinner is in the deli section of the grocery store. The cold cases are filled with premade items that will allow you to simply open a package (or the microwave door) instead of standing over a hot pan.

Try fried chicken with macaroni salad on a bed of iceberg, hummus loaded into a veg-packed pita, a tray of peeled shrimp with cocktail sauce and a bagged green salad on the side. Sometimes there’s even sushi, edamame or a seaweed salad ready to be plated and enjoyed.

Produce so Good it Doesn’t Need to be Cooked.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are at their peak, so enjoy while the season lasts. Zip corn from the cob and stir into a cumin-y black bean salad. Toss fresh green beans with chickpeas, cherry tomatoes and whatever salad dressing is waiting in the fridge.

Dress cucumbers in jarred Thai peanut sauce and serve on a bed of basil, cilantro and shredded carrots. Slice fat Jersey tomatoes and layer with mozzarella and basil for a classic Italian caprese. Get it all while you can.

And the No-Cook Dinner Winner Is … Doubling down on take-out. Order two dinners from your favorite restaurant, one for tonight and one for tomorrow, avoiding the stove two days in a row. Get dinner done twice while you support a small local business struggling in the wake of the pandemic.

Don’t Forget Dessert. Finish with a boozy granita and drippy ice cream cones for the kids. Enjoy!

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