Summertime and the cooking is easy... right?
June 27, 2011 9:46 PM   Subscribe

Fast, fresh summer weeknight dinners that don't involve a grill. Hit me with your best shot.

Recipes and strategies for fast and easy to make dinners - I've read the threads, and there are tons, with all kinds of great advice. But it's summer, and my partner has tons of time to shop and easy access to better and more varied produce and meat than we've ever had before. Which means I'm looking for your best non pantry or pre-prepared food weeknight dinner hacks. Unusual pairings or uncommon cuisines are totally cool... we can track down ingredients, we just want the actual prep+cooking work to not take too long.

So, hit me with your best quick-to-make summer dinners for two (or more) people without a grill who want to eat like the season's going out of style in the Bay Area. Actually, slow recipes that are low-maintenance are fine too, but low and slow doesn't usually strike me as the way to go this season. But if you feel like proving me wrong, we love stews and soups and spicy things.
posted by deludingmyself to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
I find Beth's recipes on Budget Bytes to be fairly fast, easy and tasty. Total time is usually about 30min or less. Here's a summer special: Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad and other recipes tagged as 'quick'.
posted by lucia_engel at 9:57 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

In about a half hour tonight, I made and ate this (and had plenty for leftovers):

- Slice the kernels from two ears of corn
- Drop the cobs into a pot of water, bring to a boil
- When the water is boiling, add whole wheat pasta shells

- a handful of pickled red onions (plain red onions would be fine too, but I always keep a jar on hand of red onions in red wine vinegar)
- a fresh jalapeno pepper
- a few sundried tomatoes
- a few slices of nectarine
- a chunk of feta cheese
- a few bits of parsley

When the pasta is cooked, discard the cobs, pour off most (but not all) of the water, stir in all the diced bits, add black pepper. You can serve hot or cold. You could also use the corn relish on fish or chicken instead of pasta, or just eat it as a side salad.
posted by judith at 10:15 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

(re-reading this recipe, I suppose it is not entirely clear that one adds the corn kernels with the diced bits, but yes, do that!)
posted by judith at 10:16 PM on June 27, 2011

Best answer: Right about now I'm getting wild Alaskan sockeye salmon for under $10/lb. That's summer writ large. I tend to grill it, myself, but if you put a fillet* in a well-oiled pan on medium-high heat for about 5-minutes a side (or until opaque), starting skin-down... hell, that plus oven-roasted asparagus and an ear of corn or head of broccoli works for just about every other night. Stone fruit of your choosing for dessert. I'm partial to plums.

* best if marinated for a few hours in a mixture of neutral oil, soy, vinegar or citrus juice, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, brown sugar... you know, your sweet-hot asian marinade.
posted by mumkin at 10:29 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Stir-fry! My favorite method: chop up ~1lb of chicken and combine in a bag with a few tablespoons of cornstarch, a few tablespoons of soy sauce, and some garlic powder. Sit the bag in the fridge for a half hour. Take the chicken out and fry until cooked with a little bit of olive oil, then set aside in a bowl. Use the same pan to fry whatever veggies you have handy in whatever order you want- last night, we had snow peas, broccoli, carrots, and onion. Add the chicken back in, then pour in chicken stock, just enough to half-cover the veggies and chicken. Add seasoning to taste- we usually put in soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, and some more garlic powder. Let cook for a few minutes, then thicken if needed with a cornstarch/water slurry. It's delicious over fried rice and makes even better leftovers the next day.
posted by kro at 11:37 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ceviche - seafood "cooked" cold in citrus juice. While the seafood is "cooking" in its marinade, you can quickly throw together whatever seasonal vegies you like to accompany it. Corn and sweet potato / yucca are traditional, but really anything light & fresh will do.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:17 AM on June 28, 2011

If you can pick up miscellaneous mixed cooked seafood, it's fantastic cold mixed up with mango, avocado, lime juice and sour cream or fromage frais.

Cheap offcuts of smoked salmon (or expensive bits for that matter) are great with pasta, sour cream and lemon juice. Serve with peas and/or beans.

Spicy lamb meatballs with tzatziki and salad in pitta breads.
posted by emilyw at 4:10 AM on June 28, 2011

Pad Thai is very quick to come together once you get the hang of it. This recipe is pretty much my approach.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 4:42 AM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: Gnocchi with Zucchini Ribbons and Parsley Brown Butter: This takes us a little longer than the listed 25 minutes (we use a vegetable peeler to make the ribbons), but it's so good!
Tomato Corn Pie: This is not a quick recipe, but the active time is only 20 minutes or so, and when tomatoes and corn are in season, it's amazing. We use our food processor to make the crust.
posted by amarynth at 5:40 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, here's something I had at the Trader Joe's sample counter once, that has become a staple for our family--no cooking at all.

Chunky Gazpacho
--One large container fresh (uncooked type) chunky salsa [or you can chop tomatoes, onions and peppers if you prefer, I usually do]
--One can chickpeas, drained
--One avocado, diced
--One cucumber, peeled/seeded/diced
--Thin it with a little V-8 type vegetable juice or tomato juice

I often add a handful of cilantro and some fresh or thawed corn kernels, and finish it with a little lime juice.

The result is something like a very chunky pico de gallo, holds up pretty well for a couple days as a leftover, and is a big hit at potlucks.
posted by padraigin at 6:25 AM on June 28, 2011

I am a big fan of fresh and easy. I'm also a really big fan of avoiding processed foods and all corn syrup. None of these are complicated.... but i don't often keep track of measurements and just mess around till i like the taste. Please excuse the not so clear directions.

A few weeks ago I made Salmon cakes (which were great), but I found a zucchini recipe last night and tried it out. The zucchinis are really good right now around me, so it was awesome. This is vegetarian, basically kosher and you can make it gluten free relatively easy. Yay for having a billion friends with dietary restrictions!

Crab-free crabcakes
I baked them, at 400 for 15 min on both sides and then broiled them for two min to get them real crispy, after spraying them with a little canola oil. You can speed it up by just pan-frying them. I also traded the bread crumbs for matzo meal, just because we still have a mountain of the stuff in the freezer- it still worked great.

a nice tartar sauce:

combine mayo, a little lemon juice, a little mustard, some pimentos and diced artichoke hearts and mix well.

Watermelon arugula salad:
chop watermelon to cubes (about 3/4" or less- any bigger and it's hard to eat)
mix in with arugula ( torn or chopped to manageable size)
toss with grated feta and red wine vinaigrette.

steamed asparagus tossed with a little raspberry dressing goes great with it. (microwave steaming is the best thing I have ever freakin' discovered.)
posted by Blisterlips at 6:32 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This Vietnamese corn dish was my big discovery last summer. It's crazy good, and perfect next to a simple piece of meat or fish.
posted by neroli at 6:50 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you don't regularly eat tofu, this may sound absolutely lunatic - but it's actually really good.

1 package tofu (if you don't usually eat tofu, get a plain brand - I get "House" from our local pan-Asian grocery. If you like tofu, get a fancier brand, maybe organic like White Wave - this has a stronger taste.)

Grape tomatoes
Spinach, fresh or frozen
Purple onion
Mayo, dijon/stoneground mustard
Chili powder
Cayenne (optional)

Drain the tofu. Put it into a dish between two thick layers of paper towels and put something heavy (a big can of tomatoes will do) on top. Press for at least 20 minutes. This firms up the tofu.

Chop up perhaps 1/3 of the onion and 4-6 cloves of garlic. Chop 10-15 tomatoes into thirds or quarters. Mince the garlic. Wash or defrost your spinach - I usually use about 1/2 cup frozen.

In a bowl, mix all the vegetables plus about 2 T mayo and 4 T mustard. (You can change this ratio - I like mine more mustard-y than mayo-y). Add paprika, chili powder, cayenne and pepper to taste.

Now chop the tofu - I usually cut it in half horizontally then into cubes - about nine cuts along the long side and five along the short. Mix into the dressing and let rest for fifteen or twenty minutes.

I usually eat this with some crackers or a little thinly sliced rye. If you mush the tofu up, it can be a sandwich filling.
posted by Frowner at 7:29 AM on June 28, 2011

Filet of trout or salmon cooked ahead of time and chilled or cooked when you need it (20-30 minutes in the oven at 400 depending on thickness)

Cut up and combine:

fresh pineapple
fresh strawberries
red onion
(you can also add mango)
& serve overtop the fish

Serve with rice
posted by Cuke at 8:41 AM on June 28, 2011

My go-to no-grill summertime meal is Vietnamese Spring Rolls. I don't follow a recipe (that link is just one that has a photo that looks like my rolls), but use whatever delicious produce I have on hand -- usually, cucumber, carrot, fresh cilantro, fresh basil or mint, lettuce -- along with shrimp (usually the pre-cooked frozen kind, sliced in half long-wise to make them thinner) and sometimes baked tofu, sometimes bean thread noodles. The rice wrappers are available at any "world foods" market, and I got a package of 20 for like $1.59. For the sauce, you can follow a recipe to be fancy, or just mix peanut butter and hoisin sauce together and thin it with warm water. So good.
posted by chowflap at 9:43 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: These peanut sesame noodles are my favourite summer meal.
posted by SoftRain at 12:09 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The site food52 is an offshoot from the New York Times cookbook and they have an amazing archive of recipes and do a good job of posting season-appropriate recipes.

For example, this recipe for Okonomiyaki (a type of Japanese pancake) is amazing and here in the Northeast was well timed with the fresh cabbage and scallions that are being harvested now.
posted by jeremias at 5:05 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Best answers go, somewhat arbitrarily, to things I haven't thought about and/or websites I haven't seen, with bonus points to neroli for an awesome Vietnamese corn shrimp scallion chili salad... thing, because we've never tried to cook Vietnamese food and that sounds pretty sweet.

Now I'm going to go home and eat some pesto.
posted by deludingmyself at 5:34 PM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: Spicy steak kebabs

You'll need

Some steak
Pita bread

For the marinade (enough for 2 small or one large steak - 2 people)
1 TBSP dark Soy
1 TBSP Sesame oil
1 TBSP Lemon juice (or lime)
1 med clove crushed garlic
As much finely sliced chili as you can take (I use a small one sans seeds)
I heaped tea spoon brown sugar
Salt and pepper and occasionally paprika, Lea and perrins and/or tobasco as well.
Mix it all up and put in your sliced steak and let it marinate. 4 hours is best, 5 minutes works as well.

Toast pita

Cut lettuce, tomato and peppers so they'll fit inside your pita along with the steak and lots of thin slices of raw, strong onion (it actually makes this dish). While you are doing this fry the steak in a HOT pan with a tbsp of oil for a couple of minutes - or how you like it.

Serve steak in a bowl (should be lots of dipping sauce in the bottom) next to plate of bread and salad and assemble by hand.

After practice prep takes 5 minutes, cooking 4 minutes and eating is fun and messy.
posted by fatmouse at 8:30 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Gnocchi with Zucchini Ribbons and Parsley Brown Butter: This takes us a little longer than the listed 25 minutes (we use a vegetable peeler to make the ribbons), but it's so good!

You could make a quicker variation of that, make sure the zucchini ribbons are really thin and then just toss them in with the gnocchi or if you're doing this with pasta that cooks longer, after the pasta for the last few minutes (you do need to turn up the heat to max or that will cool the water too much), drain and just serve with oil & parmesan. Or pesto.

Same thing with pasta with green beans & pesto, nice quick summer pasta dish. I'm looking at recipes in English for this, and oh don't hate me but first hits are a choice between a Disney website, which is actually exactly the recipe I have in mind, and Nigella Lawson's recipe (with potatoes too, full traditional version). I would skip the "make your own pesto" part though.
posted by bitteschoen at 3:43 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nom. The Vietnamese corn salad dish is crazy good. A definite summertime winner. Thanks, neroli!
posted by mumkin at 12:29 AM on July 3, 2011

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