Even if you’re a celebrity chef in the making, does anyone really want to stand over a steaming, crackling pan when it’s getting warmer outside? I don’t—especially if I’ve spent the day “relaxing” at the community pool (translation: carrying a 40-pound child into the deep water on my back while dodging the Frisbees and tennis balls whizzing past my head).
When I’m overheated and exhausted, cold dishes are my easygoing summer pal. I wish I could just buy as many pre-made meals as possible at the deli, but that gets expensive, and I like to maintain some semblance of control over the ingredients I’m putting into my family. Usually, I do a little of both: buy some prepared foods, but also take a day to cook big batches of stuff I can use in fast recipes all week long.
Maybe I’m prejudiced by how easily these meals go from the fridge to the table, but my taste buds think they’re even better after a few hours spent chillin.’ Aren’t we all?
Whether you like it best with mayo and celery or lemon juice, walnuts, and cranberries, this one can be time-consuming to make yourself, and mine never ends up tasting as good. To make it last longer, combine with a mashed avocado and make Romaine lettuce wraps.
If you can find 15 minutes to chop up some bell peppers, Vidalia onion, broccoli, eggplant, and garlic on a Sunday, you can have an easy, healthy add-in for meals throughout the week. I toss all of the above with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and roast in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour (mixing a few times). The carmelized flavors taste terrific right from the oven, but even sweeter after a day in the fridge. Try in a crusty baguette with goat cheese and olive oil.
The rare food that satisfies my crunchy carb craving AND my protein needs, quinoa is a good grain to have on-hand. I was spending $10 a week on a smallish container of a tasty quinoa salad at my local deli before I decided to try DIY’ing it. An under-$4 quick-cooking Mediterranean quinoa packet easily yielded 5X the amount I was buying. I mix it with some of my roasted veggies, olives, and lemon juice for a quick lunch or dinner side.
Three bean, five bean, seven bean—however many legumes you can handle in a salad, you can find a recipe for it. If the beans don’t feel meal enough (a vegetarian I’m not), you can make it Mexicali with the addition of cold shredded chicken, corn and tortilla strips. Another tasty combination I DIY’d after buying it elsewhere: garbanzo beans and tuna. Give it a try.
This never seems worth the effort to make myself—could the store-bought flavor profile really be that different from homemade? Either way, I prefer pesto after it’s been chilled; it’s smoother and less intense. I love mixing it with equal parts mayonnaise to make a tangy spread that gives a whole new dimension of taste to your summer sammies. It’s also great with cold…
Cold spaghetti with marinara would be a definite don’t. But ravioli tossed with sun dried tomatoes, red onion, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil? Penne with baby spinach, olives, cherry tomatoes, and pesto? Yum. I’m not fussy about mixing condiments like my better half, so I’d even toss some of the chicken salad in there.