It’s meteorologically impossible to pinpoint the exact temperature at which the idea of cooking – that is, using some form of heat to prepare a meal – becomes completely unpalatable. By this point in the season, though, it’s clear that summer’s cumulative sizzle can zap the enthusiasm for the kitchen. Dinner may need making each night, but it’s nice when it doesn’t bring on a deep sweat.
The goal is to develop non-cooking preparations that are at once attractive, inspiring and satisfying. The inspiring part demands some thought. Anybody can toss together a PB&J, but a meal should be more than just bread and condiments. Create a play on Sunday lox by pairing smoked salmon with caper ricotta and peppery quick pickles.
“Marinating” or wilting vegetables is one trick to these no-cook preparations. Another is employing meaty ingredients that need no heat. Pair full-flavored smoked mozzarella with stale pita bread and greens.
For dessert, give traditional peaches and cream an Italian twist by fortifying the cream with mascarpone and fresh rosemary. Arrange the cream and sliced peaches on store-bought pizzelle and then, as with the rest of these dishes, head somewhere cool to feast.
These are a cross between tea sandwiches and a Sunday morning bagel and lox. The ricotta is a little sweeter than cream cheese, and the sharpness of the pickles is a fine counterpoint. Grind the pepper coarsely for the pickles, so it adds some texture.
Smoked Salmon Sandwiches With Quick Pickles
Makes 4 sandwiches
1/2 English cucumber (about 1/2 pound), cut into 1/4-inch rounds
Coarsely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 cup ricotta (preferably whole milk)
1/4 cup thinly sliced chives
2 tablespoons capers, chopped
Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon (2 to 3 teaspoons)
8 thick slices crusty pumpernickel bread
4 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
Combine the cucumber, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper in a medium bowl and let the mixture marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally. Add the vinegar, toss to combine and let the mixture rest for 5 minutes.
While the cucumber is marinating, combine the ricotta, chives, capers and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble the sandwiches, spread the ricotta mixture equally on one side of each slice of bread. Top four of the slices with the salmon, then with the cucumber. Top with the remaining bread slices, cut the sandwiches in half, and serve.
Nutrition information: Ingredients are too varied for a meaningful analysis.
In this play on the Mediterranean bread salad fattoush, stale pita bread gets revived by juicy tomatoes, a briny mix of olives and pepperoncini, and a sharp vinaigrette.
Herbed Pita Bread Salad
8 to 10 side-dish servings
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved (use different colors for visual interest)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or more to taste
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or more to taste
1/2 cup olive oil, or more to taste
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
1/4 cup chopped pepperoncini
2 whole-wheat pitas, left out overnight to go stale, then broken up into 1-inch pieces
1 large head Boston lettuce, cored, cut into 2-inch pieces, rinsed and spun dry
6 ounces smoked mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
12 leaves basil, torn into large pieces
3 tablespoons chopped parsley, preferably flat-leaf
Place the tomatoes in a large bowl, toss with the salt, and let them sit for 10 minutes to pull out their juices.
Whisk together the vinegar and olive oil in a medium bowl and add about 3/4 of it to the tomatoes along with the olives and pepperoncini. Toss to combine. Add the pita, toss and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes.
Add the lettuce, mozzarella, basil and parsley; toss to thoroughly combine.
Taste, and add more of the dressing mixture or salt as needed. Serve immediately.
Nutrition per serving (based on 10): 180 calories, 5 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 14 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 550 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar.
In their most basic form, panini are simply sandwiches to Italians. The whole griddle/press thing isn’t required, particularly on days when it’s 100 degrees outside. In this case, look for great, crusty bread to provide the desired crunch.
You’ll probably have leftover aioli, which can be used as a sandwich spread or as an accompaniment for fish, meat or vegetables.
Salami, Fennel and Arugula Panini
For the aioli:
1 jarred roasted pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
For the sandwich
1/2 bulb fennel (about 1/2 pound), trimmed, cored and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
3 cups arugula (about 2 ounces)
3/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano curls (use a peeler)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
8 slices olive bread
1/2 pound thinly sliced salami
For the aioli: Drain the red pepper in a strainer or colander, use a paper towel to pat it as dry as possible and coarsely chop it. The yield is about 1/2 cup. Process it in a food processor until the pepper is finely chopped. Add the mayonnaise and garlic, and process until smooth. Fold in the thyme, and season lightly with salt and pepper.
For the sandwich: Place the fennel in a large bowl, spinkle it with 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and let it sit for 5 minutes, so it starts to wilt. Add the arugula and cheese curls; then add the oil, vinegar and another light sprinkling of salt.
Spread aioli on 1 side of each slice of bread. Top 4 slices of the bread with equal amounts of the salami, then with a mound of the fennel-arugula mixture. Top with the remaining bread, cut each sandwich in half, and serve.
Nutrition informatoin: Ingredients are too varied for a meaningful analysis.
This is an Italian twist on the classic American peaches and cream. Fresh rosemary and mascarpone flavor the cream, while store-bought pizzelle – Italian waffle cookies – serve as crispy, elegant platforms for the sliced peaches.
Peaches With Rosemary-Mascarpone Whipped Cream
2 teaspoons coarsely chopped rosemary, plus rosemary sprigs for garnish
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 1/4 pounds peaches (about 3), pitted and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1/2 cup mascarpone
Combine the rosemary and cream in a small bowl or other container, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and preferably 4.
Place the peaches in a medium bowl, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar, toss well and let the mixture sit at room temperature for 5 minutes.
Combine the mascarpone, salt and the remaining 2 teaspoons of brown sugar in a medium bowl, stirring to mix thoroughly.
Pour the cream through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer, discarding the chopped rosemary.
Beat the cream at high speed until it forms soft peaks. Gently fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.
To assemble, set a pizzella in the middle of each plate. Spread some of the cream mixture on each pizzella, then top with peach slices, fanning them decoratively if desired. Drizzle with any juices from the macerated fruit, if desired, and garnish with rosemary sprigs.
Nutrition per serving: 250 calories, 2 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 20 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 70 mg cholesterol, 75 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 12 g sugar.
Spicy Noodle Salad With Sesame-Hoisin Chicken
Dried cellophane noodles made from mung beans need only a brief soaking in hot water to become tender and translucent. From food writer Tony Rosenfeld.
For the salad
3 3/4 ounces packaged mung bean noodles
2 to 3 bok choy, halved, cored, rinsed and spun dry
2 medium carrots (or 1 large carrot), peeled and trimmed, then shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
4 scallions (white and green parts), trimmed and thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from 1 to 2 limes), or more to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce, or more to taste
1 to 3 Thai chili peppers, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
For the chicken
3 cups shredded or diced store-bought rotisserie chicken
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
For the salad: Fill a large bowl with 4 cups of very hot water. Add the noodles and let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes or until they become tender. Drain them and rinse under cold running water to cool them to room temperature. Let them drain in a colander.
Meanwhile, thinly slice the bok choy to yield 4 cups and transfer it to a large bowl. Add the carrots, scallions and 1 teaspoon of salt; stir to combine. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes or until the vegetables start to wilt.
Combine the lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and chilies to taste in a small bowl, whisking until the sugar has dissolved. Add the mixture to the vegetables along with the noodles and cilantro. Toss to combine, then let the salad sit for several minutes to marinate. Toss again; taste, and add lime juice, fish sauce or salt as needed.
For the chicken: Place the chicken in a large bowl.
Combine the hoisin sauce, oil and sesame seeds in a small bowl. Add a couple tablespoons of cold water and whisk to combine. If the mixture does not thin to a pourable consistency, whisk in a little more water. Add to the chicken and toss to combine.
To serve, divide the salad mixture among individual plates, top equally with the chicken, and sprinkle with cilantro for a garnish.
Nutrition per serving: 330 calories, 35 g protein, 29 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 90 mg cholesterol, 1,170 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 11 g sugar.
Tuna Crudo With Lemon Vinaigrette
Tony Rosenfeld learned how to make crudo, Italy's take on raw fish, as a young cook during an apprenticeship at Bastianelli al Molo, a fancy seafood restaurant just outside Rome. His version of the preparation consists of thinly sliced fish dressed with an emulsified mixture of olive oil and lemon juice. Serve with a crusty loaf of bread and a tomato salad.
MAKE AHEAD: The tuna needs to spend 10 minutes in the freezer before it is sliced. From food writer Tony Rosenfeld.
1 pound highest-quality tuna, preferably a thick piece from the loin
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1 to 2 medium shallots, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)
2 teaspoons capers, drained well and chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
12 leaves basil, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon (at least 2 tablespoons)
Place the tuna in the freezer for 10 minutes; this helps it firm up, which makes it easier to slice.
Use a sharp chef's knife to cut the tuna into roughly 1/8-inch slices. As you work, gently press each slice onto the cutting surface with your fingers, to flatten it, then transfer to a large serving platter, arranging the slices in 1 layer.
Sprinkle the slices generously with the salt, then with the shallot, capers, red pepper flakes and basil.
Combine the olive oil and lemon juice in a sealable container, close the container and shake well until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Spoon the vinaigrette over the fish. Serve immediately.
Nutrition per serving: 250 calories, 27 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 15 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 570 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar.