Summery Meals Without (Much) Cooking

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Splendidly Satisfying Entree Salads

When hot weather arrives, meals at our house center more on the fridge than the range. I mainly cook early in the morning, especially things like grains and beans, which make great salad starters. Soaked overnight, they cook faster and are more easily digested to boot. An overflowing garden or good local farmers market makes it easy to come up with a variety of plant-based meals that are tasty and satisfying. A few simple substitutions can even make them vegan, with no loss of flavor, texture, or beauty.

When the heat is on, everyone gets thirsty so it’s wise to have plenty of cooling drinks on hand. I make cold brewed barley tea, a classic field worker’s favorite, by tucking a tea sachet into a jug, filling it with cold water and chilling it overnight to develop its fullest flavor. Though it has no caffeine, barley tea tastes as robust as a cup of coffee and is a lot more refreshing. It’s also good hot, for those who need warming up, and it brews in about 10 minutes when you use boiling water. I’ve tried making my own barley tea, but most of the time I buy the House brand (from Korea), which comes in generous sachets that make a quart each.

Lemon Tree, Very Pretty

I was recently gifted a large and heavily laden lemon tree by dear friends moving to Montana, not exactly citrus country. Delighted by the unexpected bounty, I’ve been leaning into the lemon even more than usual. Here’s a refreshing and sparkling version of lemonade made with a simple syrup infused with a hint of mint:

Fizzy Minted Lemonade

1 cup cane sugar
1 cup spearmint sprigs
2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 quarts plain sparkling water (such as Talking Rain)

In a small saucepan, combine sugar with 2 cups water, bring to a simmer and stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, add 1/2 cup spearmint sprigs, cover and steep for 10 minutes, then strain into a pitcher or large jar. Add lemon juice and sparkling water to taste. Serve cold, garnished with fresh mint leaves. Makes about 2 quarts.

Vegetarian (Mostly) Entree Salads

Here are some simple summery salads that taste as if you spent a lot more time on them than you really need to. I love recipes that earn more credit than I deserve! I always make some version of the first one for the Fourth of July, changing up ingredients but keeping the intriguing contrasts of flavor, color and texture.

Fabulous Summer Salad

Slivers of red cabbage, Walla-walla Sweet onions, and blueberries marry surprisingly well in this invigorating salad, which goes well with anything you care to serve. Lemon Shallot Dressing adds a pleasantly piquant note. Vegans can exchange the hardboiled eggs for chickpeas and add a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast to the dressing for extra protein.

Red, White and Blueberry Salad

4 cups young salad greens
2 cups red cabbage, finely shredded
1 cup cilantro OR flat Italian parsley, stemmed
1 cup basil, stemmed and shredded
1 Walla-walla Sweet onion, halved and finely sliced
4 hard boiled eggs, cut in wedges
OR 1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 pint blueberries, stemmed
1 cup coarsely grated asiago or pecorino cheese
1/2 cup Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette

In a serving bowl, toss all ingredients and serve. Serves 8.

Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette

1 large organic lemon, juiced, rind finely grated
1 teaspoon finely grated shallot
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup olive or avocado oil
pinch of smoked paprika
1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)

In a jar, combine all ingredients and shake well to emulsify. Adjust seasoning to taste. Makes about 1/2 cup.

Smoked Salmon Salad With Pesto Dressing

This rich, hearty salad tastes like summer itself. Add halved cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, and a handful of pumpkin needs for extra crunch.

Sumptuous Salmon Salad

2 cups cooked brown rice (or your favorite kind)
1 cup basil pesto
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 cup thinly sliced sweet or red onion
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
2 cups fillet beans, thinly sliced on diagonal
1 cup chopped sweet peppers
8 ounces soft smoked salmon, skinned and flaked
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped chives

In large serving bowl, combine first three ingredients, thinning with a splash of water as needed. Add onion, olives, fillet beans, peppers and salmon and gently toss to coat. Adjust seasoning and serve at room temperature, garnished with chives. Serves 6-8.

Garden Potato Salad

This hearty potato salad is a family favorite, and tastes lovely warm or chilled. Vegetarians can leave out the bacon of course….

Picnic Favorite Potato Salad With Bacon (Or Not)

8 cups chopped yellow skin potatoes (1-inch dice)
1/3 cup cider or rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup avocado or olive oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 sweet red pepper, seeded and chopped
6 slices lean pepperback bacon, chopped
2 large onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 large bunch kale, stems trimmed, cut in fine ribbons

In a saucepan, cover potatoes with water and 1/4 teaspoon salt, bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer until fork tender (about 12-15 minutes). Drain potatoes, sprinkle lightly with 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1/8 teaspoon salt, set aside. In a jar, blend oil with remaining vinegar, celery and red pepper, set aside. While potatoes cook, fry bacon in a heavy pan over medium high heat, stirring often. When crisp, remove bacon to a paper towel to drain. Add onions to pan and cook, stirring often, until tender and golden (3-4 minutes). Add kale and cook until barely limp (2-3 minutes). Pour oil and vinegar mixture into onion pan, stir to blend, then combine with potatoes in a serving bowl, gently tossing to coat. Serve warm or chilled, garnished with bacon. Serves at least one.


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