Help me serve a great lunch, quickly.
July 18, 2009 7:38 PM   Subscribe

Great (summer-friendly) lunch menus. Difficulty: can be mostly or wholly made beforehand.

I know how to cook to impress for dinner or brunch guests, but what are some good recipes--that require minimal to no prep at the time of serving--for lunch?

--I can spend as much time as necessary prepping the day before, or the morning of.

--I'll be serving out of a kitchen, so food safety is not a concern and I'll have the ability to reheat, sautee quickly, etc. if need be. I'd like to not spend more than 15 minutes total preparing the meal right before serving it.

--I've got some cooking skills and an interest in doing something a bit more impressive/tasty than just sandwiches or basic pasta salad.
posted by availablelight to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
My first thought, before I saw your not-sandwiches preference, was a chicken salad sandwich (here's a wrap from Food Network).

You might think about making a soup - for the summer, a cold soup like gazpacho would work. I recently had gazpacho that was topped with a thick toasted slice of a hearty white bread and shredded crab. Delicious!
posted by pemberkins at 7:47 PM on July 18, 2009

I posted a superorgasmatron Country-Fried Tomatoes recipe to Metachat a while back...they're ridiculously easy to make and a total 'oh my god' food, as in, everyone who eats them says 'oh my god'. I would add to the instructions there - place the tomato slices on a paper towel for a few minutes to draw out some of the water before putting the pieces together. Great hot or cold, as a side or as the main course. Very appealing on the plate. Travels well, holds up well in fridge.
posted by iconomy at 8:00 PM on July 18, 2009 [4 favorites]

A frittata sounds ideal for your situation. They're easy to make, can use just about any combination of meats and/or veggies, and can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature. I sometimes make one on Sunday night for breakfast all week long, but they're just as good for lunch or dinner.

Pasta salad is another winner. We grilled some veggies on the BBQ to infuse summer flavors.

I'm getting hungry just thinking of these!
posted by nadise at 8:09 PM on July 18, 2009

For pre-meal snacks, cheese straws. I've made them as the recipe says, and with rosemary and garlic instead of red pepper, and with sheep's milk cheese and onion. Guaranteed, they will be eaten, and they'll keep for two days beforehand.

From the same blog (not mine, btw) Mediterranean Pepper Salad. The lightly pickled onions really make this one, and it's actually better the day after it's made.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 8:34 PM on July 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bonus: lunch guests put their own burritos together from the components you've prepared, so all you really have to do is set them out.

Minus: burritos are kind of messy to eat.

But, still. Burritos!!
posted by contessa at 8:39 PM on July 18, 2009

You could serve some chilled soup like gaspacho or borscht. Both can be made in advance and kept covered in the fridge until needed. You'd just need to swirl on some cream, add some herbs and season.
posted by fearthehat at 8:39 PM on July 18, 2009

Summer is the time to eat a shitload of cool vegetables and other light fare.

-Steam some snow peas and toss them in a sauce of your choice, anything from vinaigrette to something similar to curry.
-Cucumber, sliced as thin as possible, tossed in a small amount of red wine vinegar (just enough to coast it) and chilled.
-Sautee/grill a variety of vegetables in a small amount of olive oil plus salt and pepper so you'll always have some on hand to add to pasta or salad.
-Make a caesar salad base but replace asiago/parmesan with pepper jack, croutons (yeah, yeah) with tortilla strips, and the dressing with something spicy and/or smoky. Add grilled chicken and toss.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:40 PM on July 18, 2009


Yeah, I came to say "tacos", but you could do either/both quite easily.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:51 PM on July 18, 2009

If summertime isn't hot dog season, I don't when it is! Really, nearly everybody likes hot dogs, and if you have vegetarians coming, you can even get vegan dogs. You can grill 'em, steam 'em, boil 'em, roast 'em, or even cut 'em up and mash 'em in a plate o' beans!

I like to put out a hot chafing dish with 2 to 4 dogs per person, several bags of buns, a few kinds of mustard, onion relish, sweet pickle relish, ketchup (well, some people seem to like it on a hot dog), a bowl of grated cheese, and maybe even a crockpot of chili, and let everybody build their own. Sometimes, I even put out a toaster and some butter for those who like their buns toasted.

Serve with various chips, a good big bowl of coleslaw, maybe some potato salad or cottage cheese, and maybe a fruit salad, you've got a fairly low effort, delicious buffet for a few friends, or a horde!
posted by paulsc at 9:28 PM on July 18, 2009

Mediterranean Chicken Salad. The day before: Poach chicken breasts in broth; Shred into bite-size pieces; Marinate in olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, plenty of lemon juice, and a little red wine vinegar; Add cherry tomatoes, capers, kalamata olives; Cook green beans. An hour before serving: Mix green beans in. (Otherwise they turn brown.) Should be about half vegetables, half chicken.

Keftedes with Tzatziki. They're basically small, deep-fried meatballs with cinnamon, allspice, and mint. Freaking delicious. You can make them the day before (or even a week or two before and freeze them), refrigerate them overnight, and serve them at room temperature or hot, whatever's convenient.

Baby spinach salad with strawberries and sesame seeds. Dress with olive oil, salt, and balsamic vinegar. (This has to be done the day of, obviously, but you can use bagged spinach, so it's not too much to do.)

Orzo salad, with sauteed minced vegetables like red pepper, carrots, shallots, dressed in lemon-olive oil vinaigrette. Tastes better on day 2, after marinating overnight in the fridge. Let it warm to room temperature before serving, though, and taste for salt just before serving.

This has been my menu for summer lunches for a while now; I've done bridal showers and milestone birthdays with the menu, and the guests are always impressed and go back for seconds and thirds (especially of the meatballs).
posted by palliser at 10:11 PM on July 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


gimme some
posted by oinopaponton at 10:16 PM on July 18, 2009

I had a lovely dinner party serving quiches (spinach/mushroom/feta and bacon/onion/gruyere). You can pre-make the quiches (SUPER easy; use store bought crust; I found whole wheat frozen pie shells) and serve cold, hot or room temp. With a big green salad and bread it was great.
posted by macadamiaranch at 10:48 PM on July 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Tabouli salad and hummus are great make ahead dishes and are delicious & nutritious. Serve with pita & lemonade.
posted by torquemaniac at 11:31 PM on July 18, 2009

French Toast Casserole

I have made this, it is great. You can prepare it ahead.
posted by fifilaru at 11:57 PM on July 18, 2009

I like sundried tomato wraps filled with tzatziki, spinach, avocado, tomato, and red onion. Add some chicken for substance or leave it out for the veggie lovers. I always make a huge side of basmati rice when I have to feed a lot of people. They loves it.

Foccacia bread
is awesome and easy and all you need is some olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping (I sometimes add fresh basil and minced garlic to this).
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:26 AM on July 19, 2009

I know you said no sandwiches, but a cold steak sandwich on a subroll with carmelized onions and mango chutney is more impressive than your average sandwich and can be made entirely beforehand. Serve with fruit salad, bring out pitas and dip beforehand.
posted by katopotato at 6:13 AM on July 19, 2009

I make a really great couscous salad in this situation. It's really simple.

1 box of couscous (I use the Near East brand's parmesan, but any couscous would work. Just make sure to season it up properly, maybe mix in some parmesan if you don't use it)
1 8oz container or brick of feta cheese
1 large can (or handful) of pitted black olives, chopped roughly
1/2 red onion, chopped

Lots of vegetables. You can use anything you like in whatever quantities you like. My favorites:

halved cherry/grape tomatoes
broccoli that has been just barely cooked through
sweet bell peppers, chopped
roughly chopped parsley

Put it in the fridge overnight and it's ready to go! People love this salad.
posted by theantikitty at 8:54 AM on July 19, 2009

They're a bit retro, it's true, but I have yet to see devilled eggs not go over well. You can pretty them up nicely by piping the filling and adding garnishes, and the filling lends itself easily to fancy flavorings.
posted by sculpin at 10:12 AM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Israeli couscous salad (as in, salad made with Israeli-style couscous). Do it like a tabbouleh with mint, olive oil and lemon juice. Yummacious. Sliced ripe tomatoes with a quality mozzarella and basil leaves. Cucumber sandwiches with a good bread, thinly sliced cukes, a little good mayo and dill. Fruit soups. Simple quick homemade pickles. Cold grilled salmon. Simple fruit salads with large chunks of fruit, fresh mint, and maybe pomegranate seeds.

Invite me over?
posted by serazin at 10:39 AM on July 19, 2009

Homemade spread platter (hummus / tzatziki / guacamole) with pita bread? Heat up the pita bread just before serving.
posted by chalbe at 12:15 PM on July 20, 2009

What about salad nicoise? It's our go-to summer luncheon at our beach house, where we all sit on the deck and nobody wants to spend a glorious day cooking.

We do ours like a normal big huge salad with roasted red peppers, capers, green beans chopped to about 1", and a can of tuna chucked in. The vingetrette is on the side, so you can throw that in and toss at any time so the salad doesn't get bogged down.

We serve ours with french bread, a few kinds of cheese, and that's it. We always have pie for dessert :)
posted by DarlingBri at 3:01 PM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

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