Ah, the dog days of summer. The average humidity puts my hair in a ponytail 99% of the time and while it looks beautiful outside, I can’t stand the heat. Which means I’m staying out of the kitchen (sort of).
I barely cook this time of year – that is, I barely do anything that requires turning on my oven or stovetop if I can help it. I was reminded by this last night when — after two failed evenings in a row of trying to get it to start — we said our quiet goodbyes to our trusty grill and defaulted to grilling our dinner on the stovetop. Not the same!
If you’re feeling like me and you’re done with the hot stuff for a while, here are some of my go-to favorite summer dishes that require minimal cooking and/or grilling only.
- Gazpacho – Cut, blend and cool. That’s all that really goes into this dish. I make different kinds but two of my favorites are the classic tomato and a delicious watermelon version. For Watermelon Gazpacho, I recommend this recipe from Bon Appetit. One small watermelon does the trick. For Tomato Gazpacho: I use a really old recipe from the 80s that goes a little something like this:
- Boil 2-3 ripe tomatoes for a minute or two until the skins start to peel. Cool and peel off skins. Cut up tomatoes and add to a powerful blender. Add one chopped cucumber, one green pepper, one vidalia onion and one small jar of pimentos. Blend!
- Mix in about 8 – 12 oz of tomato juice and blend again until mixed.
- Pour blended soup into a large bowl and whisk in 1/3 cup Olive Oil and 1/3 cup Red Wine Vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Remember: salt brings out the tomato flavor!). Add more tomato juice, as desired. Top with toasted garlic croutons, avocado, and chopped cucumber, pepper and onion.
- Burrata + [Insert Summer Produce] – You can find burrata at Whole Foods or specialty grocery stores. It’s like fresh mozzarella but has a ricotta-like, creamy texture in the middle. We eat it with tomatoes, peaches, arugula — you name it. It’s great with grilled vegetables, fruit or on top of a pizza. Drizzle with some olive oil and balsamic and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. It also surprisingly lasts a little while in the fridge so it’s an easy item to keep on hand for a side dish in a hurry.
- Grilled Vegetables – Mix up a variety of items you’ve bought at the farmers market – zucchini, squash, spring onions, carrots, etc. Toss in olive oil and salt and pepper and grill until slightly charred. We like to make sandwiches with them on baguette smeared with goat cheese and basil but they are great on their own or with pasta, etc.
- Corn & Avocado Salad – Ina Garten is my favorite TV chef. Her recipes translate beautifully and are widely loved by crowds. This salad is yet another crowd pleaser of hers and lasts well for a few days in the fridge, too. I skip the first step about cooking the corn and just shave the kernels raw off the cob. I think it’d be delicious if you grilled them first, too. We usually serve this with some kind of BBQ or grilled meat.
- BLATs – As a kid I used to really turn my nose up to BLTs but as an adult, I’ve really grown to love it as a summer stand by. For about five years I’ve been tinkering with my BLT recipe and after much trial-and-error, we have decided this recipe is the perfect BLT:
- Lightly toast two slices of your favorite sandwich bread. Nothing fancy and nothing too thick – i.e., skip baguettes, ciabatta, etc. They’ll overwhelm the sandwich. We like Arnold multigrain or oatnut bread.
- Mix 1/3 cup of chopped fresh basil, 1/4 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper and 1/3 cup of mayo. Once blended (by hand is fine), smear both pieces of bread with the basil mayo.
- Add 1/4 sliced avocado to one side of the bread followed by 1-2 pieces of fresh bibb lettuce and a few slices of DELICIOUS tomato. Heirloom is best.
- Ok now this is important: Find the THICKEST bacon you can find. Ask your butcher to cut it for you 1/2″ thick if you can. This is what really makes the sandwich for us. I recently found my local grocer sells Peter Luger’s thick cut bacon. This stuff is AMAZING. Cut the bacon in half and cook up. Each sandwich only needs one slice – cut into two strips – (but go crazy and add two slices [four strips] if you feel like it). Hint: I don’t de-grease the bacon with paper towels. I take it straight from the pan and place it on top of the tomato. The drippings almost “dress” the tomato and lettuce.
- Top with second slice of bread, cut sandwich in half and enjoy.