I love summer. I love the relaxed vibe, and the warm nights on the patio. I love walking through neighborhoods that are alive late into the evening, because the daylight lasts a little longer, and because the children are allowed up a little bit later, and because everyone wants to drink every last drop of the weather and the dampness in the air. I love long days at the pool and hiking along mountain streams, getting on my bike and riding farther than I planned because it happens to be a perfect afternoon with a bit of a breeze.
Summer meals are meant to be as simple and informal as the season itself. They need to come quickly together at the end of a long day, and feel refreshing and light. Great bread, good cheese, a handful of fruit, and you have a summer meal. A piece of crusty bread and a thick wedge of brie, some locally grown peaches and a bowl of crisp greens lightly dressed with lemon: It’s a beautiful and low-key spread that begs to be shared with good company, with serious enjoyment of food and not a hint of pretension.
If, however, you wish to prepare a more traditional summer meal, it’s not hard to find inspiration. The following four no-cook dinners are not only refreshingly easy and light, they are quick. In only a few minutes, you can have a dinner on the table with all the flavors of Colorado summer.
1. Vegetarian Spring Rolls
Don’t let the idea of preparing your own spring rolls scare you away! It might take a couple of tries to get the hang of it, but once you do, they assemble easily. My children love helping me roll them, and if you don’t mind some imperfection, it makes for a fun time in the kitchen. Spring rolls are also forgiving in that you can substitute whatever fresh produce you can find, and whatever herbs you have growing in your garden. You can serve it with the peanut sauce listed below, or you can just serve it with some soy sauce on the side.
- Fillings: Cucumber sticks, shredded carrots, bell pepper slices, sliced avocado, purple cabbage, bibb lettuce, enoki mushrooms, tofu slices, basil, mint. (Choose whatever you like.)
- Rice paper wrappers. (NOTE: These are not Chinese Egg Roll Wrappers. You'll find rice paper at well stocked health food stores, most specialty grocers or in any Asian grocery store.)
- Rice vermicelli
- Soak your rice noodles in hot water. You don’t need boiling water. Regular, hot tap water will work just fine. Submerge the noodles for about 3-5 minutes, until they are tender. Remove them from the pot when done and shake off any excess water, then set them aside.
- Wet a clean tea towel, ring it out and lay it flat on your counter top.
- Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Transfer the water to a large bowl and let it cool for a few minutes. Drop a wrapper into the water, and let it soak for 30 seconds – any longer and it will begin to get too soft and tear. It should be transparent and pliable. Remove wrapper from the water and gently shake it to remove any excess water. Lay the wrapper flat on your tea towel. Be careful, because the wrappers will be a bit sticky, so try to keep them as flat as possible while you work, until you are ready to seal them.
- Place your ingredients in the top third of the wrapper. Try not to overload it. Add some of the rice noodles and three or four other filling options.
- Tightly fold the top of the wrapper over the ingredients, and then fold-in each side. Continue rolling the wrapper onto itself to form the roll. Continue with remaining ingredients and rice papers.
2. Peanut Soba Noodles with Tofu and Vegetables
This recipe uses soba noodles made from buckwheat, but you can substitute whole wheat spaghetti just as easily. I used broccoli in this recipe, but you can substitute any vegetables of greens. Feel free to use frozen edamame in place of the tofu, too!
- 12 oz. package soba noodles
- 1/2 cup of smooth peanut butter (look for brands without added sugar or stabilizers)
- 6 tablespoons of soy sauce of tamari (GF)
- 1/4 cup of warm water
- 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped small
- 4 cloves of minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil
- 5 tablespoons of honey or agave
- 1 cup of broccoli florets
- 1 package of firm tofu, cut into cubes
- In a large pot of boiling water, cook the soba until it is al dente or just tender. Drain and rinse noodles. Set aside to cool.
- In a blender or jar, add peanut butter, soy sauce or tamari, water, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil, agave syrup or honey. Blend sauce until it’s smooth and creamy. This might take a few minutes.
- Place noodles in a large bowl. Pour peanut sauce over noodles, tossing well so that noodles are well coated with sauce. Add broccoli and tofu.
3. Arugula, Apple and Chickpea Salad Wrap
Sandwiches are the original "no-cook" meal, and when you take a giant salad, and turn it into a wrap, it is a complete and filling meal all on its own.
- Two big handfuls of arugula
- One tart apple, cut into large cubes (I like Granny Smith)
- 1 can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons of tahini
- 1 lemon
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast
- Black pepper
- 1 package of whole wheat tortillas
- Place arugula and apple in a large mixing bowl.
- Place chickpeas in a smaller bowl, and lightly smash them, leaving large pieces. Add tahini, squeeze of lemon, salt and cheese, and combine well.
- Add chickpea mixture to the apples and arugula, and toss with the black pepper.
- Lay the tortilla out on a piece of parchment paper. Pile about half the salad greens down the center of one of the tortillas. Fold the side-flaps inward and then roll the tortilla up like a burrito, tucking the greens inward and compressing them as you go. The more greens you can coerce into your roll, the better. Fold the parchment around the salad wrap and secure with a piece of masking tape or loose rubber band.
- You can eat these now or, if you wish, save them for later. They actually get better after sitting for a bit, though these wraps are best eaten within a few hours.
4. Summer Ceviche
Ceviche is a traditional Latin American dish, where fish is "cooked" using the acid from citrus juice. The key to ceviche is finding the freshest possible seafood, and eating the dish the same day you purchase your fish.
- 2/3 cup of fresh squeezed lime juice
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tablespoon of packed cilantro leaves
- 1 seeded and diced chile (I generally use jalapeño, but if that’s too hot, you can easily substitute an Anaheim or, if you want it really spice, go for habanero)
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- Sea salt
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and shredded
- 1 ear of corn, husked
- 1 lb. of flounder or other solid white fish (fluke or sole work well, too)
- Set a fine-mesh sieve over a small bowl. Purée first 4 ingredients and 4 large ice cubes in a blender until smooth. Add onion; pulse 3–4 times. Strain liquid into a medium bowl. Cover and chill.
- Generally, I leave the sweet potato and corn raw, but you can blanch it if you wish. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and submerge potato and corn for two minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and let cool completely. (Skip this step if you wish to leave them raw.)
- Place fish, liquid mixture and 4 large ice cubes in bowl; stir well. Let marinate for 2 minutes; remove ice. Fish should be opaque and flaky. Fold in potato and corn; season with salt.
Professional cyclist racing with Team Novo Nordisk, Becky is a mom of two and active proponent of better nutrition in schools who lives with her family in Longmont, Colo.