Easy summer batch meals
July 9, 2022 5:01 AM   Subscribe

I’m looking for ideas for summer meals or components that can be made in a batch and eaten over the course of the week for easy dinners with no or minimal cooking in the moment. Things like: a big salad that holds up over days, potato or egg salads, a batch of deviled eggs, cold soups … what recipes do you love for this? Bonus points for deliciousness, ease, use of summer ingredients of New England, minimal cooking.
posted by spindrifter to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
I love making a huge batch of shredded chicken with whatever spices you have on hand, and mixing it up throughout the week - salads, wraps, easy stir fries, tacos. It freezes and reheats perfectly. If you have an instant pot it's a matter of minutes for two weeks of varied food. But even if you don't, one slow-cooker sesh will do you.
posted by idlethink at 5:09 AM on July 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

Mason jar salads are great for this.

Take some big mason jars. Layer dressing, then protein (shredded rotisserie chicken works great for this, as does defrosted frozen cooked shrimp), then other ingredients based on how soggy they get (so, like, cheese, then beans, then carrots, then cucumbers, then lettuce is always last).

Screw on lids and stash in the fridge.

When you're hungry, grab a jar, give it a jolly shake, and dump it in a bowl.
posted by champers at 5:19 AM on July 9, 2022 [4 favorites]

A favorite make-ahead salad of mine is blanched corn, cut off the cob (can be done in batches when corn is plentiful and cheap, and then frozen. Blanching on the cob preserves the flavor and texture when thawed). This is tossed with bite-sized chunks of bell peppers and cherry tomatoes. If you can find small-enough cherry tomatoes to use whole the salad lasts longer in the fridge, but I like to use halved tomatoes if the salad will be used within 2 or 3 days, as it adds juice and flavor.

Salt and pepper the salad and pour over a scant amount of a balsamic vinegar salad dressing. Refrigerate. This salad is definitely better after marinating overnight. Just before serving, or the morning you prep your lunch you can add fresh herbs of your choice and sliced green onion if you wish. The herbs and onion don't do too well marinating and should be added shorty before eating. Add some fresh mozzarella on the side and perhaps a chunk of good bread and you have a wonderful meal that took less than 5 minutes to plate.

I've made this on a Sunday and eaten it without noticeable sogginess on Wednesday, but it's a favorite and often is eaten up before mid-week.
posted by citygirl at 5:58 AM on July 9, 2022 [6 favorites]

This pasta salad. I add paprika and Penney’s Justice to the dressing, and you can swap in whatever vegetables you have around that sound good. I do recommend using ditalini and dicing the vegetables to about the pasta size.

Also, ramen salad (no cooking required)
posted by songs about trains at 6:14 AM on July 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

This lentil salad with zucchini and burrata is one of my favorites for this. It does require some cooking, but I find the recipe is structured so that it goes really quickly. It’s also a 10/10 hit at every potluck, where everyone asks for the recipe. I usually keep the dressing and cheese stored separately from the lentil-veggie mix, then grab a bit of each component to assemble a serving when I’m ready to eat. Oh and the individual burrata in each serving is decadent but also kind of fussy (and expensive), so for potlucks or to save a few bucks, I’ll sub in a healthy dollop of good ricotta instead. Either way, top with a generous sprinkle of flaky salt.

Another summer squash one is this fried zucchini pasta salad. Cooking this one takes a little longer - requires frying individual zucchini slices - but the results are highly delicious and store very well in the fridge. I imagine it’d keep for a week, but I’ve never gotten the chance to test that since it tends to disappear so quickly.
posted by moonbeam at 6:19 AM on July 9, 2022 [4 favorites]

Soba noodles are great for this. You can make a big batch of the noodles and keep them in the fridge. Add whatever protein you want - tofu, chicken, shrimp, pork, etc. I’m pescatarian, but I’ll make a few frozen un-chicken patties in the toaster oven and it’s kind of like a katsu. Plenty of veggies work great in this - raw bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, scallions, cabbage, some of those pre-packaged slaws (like with cabbage, broccoli, carrots, and shredded Brussels sprouts) make it extra easy. I also really like making a batch of blanched broccoli or green beans. I use the Memmi noodle soup base from Kikkoman because it’s not too hard to find in stores and it’s what my Japanese American grandma used. There are plenty of other options and recipes for making your own sauce.
posted by leastlikelycowgirl at 6:38 AM on July 9, 2022 [6 favorites]

another great cold noodle dish that I'm making batches of this summer is cold curry udon. you can make a batch of soup and keep it in the fridge for a week, then all you need to do is cook some noodles and add some fresh vegetables or protein. the soup requires minimal time at the stove, less if you use a dashi powder or other premade stock, and frozen udon noodles only take 1 minute in boiling water to cook.
posted by okonomichiyaki at 6:50 AM on July 9, 2022

Improvised riffs on a buttermilk-based cold soup are my mainstay at the moment. Blend buttermilk and cold tomato juice or V-8 to proportions you want , a splash of vinegar and some lemon juice, plus olive oil, if you like it a bit more luxurious. Season well - plus herbs de provence are good in this. Process with absolutely any veggies you got from the market -- any combination of cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, peppers, fresh dill and basil, onions, celery, etc. Serve with a sprinkle of chopped cucumber and red onion for crunch, and add a hunk of good bread with cheese to make it a meal.
posted by nantucket at 7:29 AM on July 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have been really into barley/farro (either works) salad this summer. I'll make up a batch of whichever grain, then once it's cooled mix with cucumbers, tomatoes, black olives, and finely chopped red onion. That's enough really, but if I have feta cheese on hand, that adds a nice bit of flavor. Then to dress it I use olive oil + apple cider vinegar (lemon juice can also work). Salt and pepper to taste. The barley/farro is nice as it's quite toothsome even after it's been sitting in the the fridge for a few days.
posted by coffeecat at 7:36 AM on July 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Potato salad made with oil and vinegar instead of mayo keeps really well. Add whatever vegetables you want, onion, celery, bell pepper, cooked asparagus, canned chickpeas. I've found that tomatoes don't do as well in salads overnight or over days. Add them when you eat.
posted by mareli at 8:09 AM on July 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

A vote for bean salad! Cans of kidney, white, chickpea, and one other (I don’t like black beans but they are an option), with cherry tomatoes, chopped pitted olives, herbs (1 tbsp each finely chopped parsley and basil, plus some chives and fresh thyme), maybe some fresh green beans, and a lot of really good vinaigrette. It keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days and goes with everything, or can be the main dish.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:37 AM on July 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

These cold sesame noodles have been my summer jam. I’ve tried a lot of recipes for sesame noodles, but this one is by far the best! It holds up really well in the fridge.
posted by cakelite at 9:05 AM on July 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Rather than batch cooking conventionally, try microwave cooking. It is faster, superior to stove cooking and baking (with the right browning pan), and will not generate excess heat, carbon monoxide, or NOx fumes that can harm your lungs. I recommend the MicroPro grill browning pan.
posted by metatuesday at 10:09 AM on July 9, 2022

This bean and radicchio salad is just chopping and mixing. It holds up great in the fridge.

Chickpea salad for sandwiches is good for days in the fridge.
posted by esoterrica at 10:17 AM on July 9, 2022

Another ramen salad.
Found in a synagogue community cookbook, modernized a bit. Technically called "Nutty Cole Slaw" I always lovingly refered to it as "Crunchy Crap" when asking my mom to make it.
It's great to bring to potlucks, but you can also make a big bowl of it and pour on dressing and ramen to individual portions when you're ready to eat.

Nutty Cole Slaw

8oz green cabbage, shredded
8oz red cabbage, shredded
4 oz carrots, shredded
(Obviously, this is salad, none of these amounts matter. And you could definitely buy a bag of precut Cole slaw, but I think the fresh shredded tastes a lot better)
1 can water chestnuts, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
1 large can mandarin oranges
8 Tbl slivered almonds
2 Tbl sesame seeds
8 green onions chopped
Brown almonds and sesame seeds in butter/oil or toast dry. Cool.
Mix with rest of ingredients

¾ c neutral oil.
4 Tbl sugar
6 Tbl rice vinegar
2 tsp salt or to taste
1 tsp pepper
At the time of serving, break 2 packages of top ramen noodles on top. Pour on dressing.
posted by atomicstone at 10:30 AM on July 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

Salad wraps. Make a batch of any boneless protein in bite-sized pieces or slices (seared tuna cubes; grilled chicken breast; stir-fried seitan; gammon; pork belly; I've even done completely off-the-wall things like italian sausage); make a big batch of a coleslaw-like salad mix (I like shredded cabbage, carrot and radish / daikon; you can use any kind of salad ingredients, but coleslaw keeps well in a pre-cut and pre-mixed state); get some kind of tortilla-like wrap (I buy them in bulk and freeze them, and keep one defrosted package in the fridge at a time); get some sauces (nothing too liquid, and ideally one creamy thing like mayo or hummus).

Once that is all prepped and available in the fridge, when I want to eat one I just heat up a wrap (in a pan or in the microwave), put in all the fillings, and that's it. A reasonably balanced meal, and extremely delicious. Get extra large wraps if you want to maximise the filling:wrapper ratio. You can heat up the protein filling if you like it hot; if you do that I recommend not letting it touch the wrap directly in case it tears a hole.
posted by confluency at 10:32 AM on July 9, 2022

Green goddess herbal dressing (Penzey's base; store bought is fine; entirely D-I-Y) mixed with canned, drained salmon (or tuna); works as sandwich or wrap filling, on crackers or toast or celery, as a crudité dip, in bell pepper halves, mixed with pasta or rice or salad greens...
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:19 AM on July 9, 2022


There's usually a bowl sitting in my fridge all summer. I usually make chicken, but in New England you could make CRAB or LOBSTAH larb and honest to god now I need to move to New England.

Also I like Mexican corn salad. I don't have a recipe but basically corn, cilantro, red onion, lime juice, cotija cheese, cumin....
posted by cyndigo at 1:17 PM on July 9, 2022

A undressed salad with diced carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers with the seeds removed, chickpeas, and whole tomatoes will last for days in the fridge. Just add dressing, and cut tomatoes if your tomatoes are too big to use whole, and it's good to go as a hearty, vegetable laden side dish or light main.
posted by mollweide at 1:38 PM on July 9, 2022

This is one of our go to summer dishes:

- Israeli/Pearl couscous
- Crumbled feta (let couscous cool a little if you like pieces of feta to stay pieces)
- Whatever fresh herb is available, chopped fine: cilantro in spring, then dill in late sprint/early summer, then basil in summer
- dice up some fresh ripe tomatoes
- dice up a cuke

Then sauté whatever veg you have around:
- Onions sliced large (Garlic optional)
- Bell peppers, zukes, etc.

And then a few handfuls of frozen peas and corn from deep in the freezer.

Lots of salt and pepper and lemon to taste. (Lemon is best with cilantro or dill version. For basil, use could use extra virgin olive oil instead)

Tasty hot when first made, and as a cold salad for days after, but it rarely last very long in our house as it can be also used as a side dish for any meal.
posted by gwint at 6:42 PM on July 9, 2022

You want the Blanchard's Orzo Salad with Chili-Lime Vinaigrette. SO EASY. SO DELICIOUS. It's from the cookbook At Blanchard's Table . The page where it appears in our copy is crinkled, sticky, and stained - which is how you know we make it ALL. THE. TIME. in double batches, especially in the summer. The whole cookbook is great; the only place I can find the specific recipe online is here:
https://www.therightrecipe.org/archives/253 The recipe is forgiving but don't leave any ingredient out. The combo is where the magic happens.
posted by nkknkk at 3:17 PM on July 10, 2022

Moosewood Vegetarian Chili is perfect for this, I like to eat it cold and it's great in the summer especially.

Warm tofu chop salad with peanut dressing from. this book is quickly becoming another favorite and, despite it's name, I eat it cold too. It's very well balanced and filling. I can't find the recipe online, but if you don't have the book available at your library memail me and I can share the recipe. This book has a ton of the type of recipes you're looking for. A lot of them do include tofu just in case that's not your thing.
posted by Eyelash at 3:13 AM on July 11, 2022

Response by poster: I’m beyond excited to try all of these!! Thanks, everyone!
posted by spindrifter at 5:32 AM on July 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

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