Easy Dishes For Summer

I love to cook, but July and August are not my favorite months for doing so. The weather is simply too hot. Some cooking is unavoidable, but mostly I try to minimize the amount of time spent in front of a hot stove.

Louisiana’s blistering, muggy weather can cause even the most ferocious appetites to wane, which is another reason for choosing light, refreshing dishes that appeal to dulled sensibilities. Often, salads and other preparations that can be served cold or at room temperature fit the bill.

The recipes this month are all in that vein. They draw upon two sources of ingredients. One is the great variety of local vegetables available from home gardens and farmer’s markets. The other is quality pantry staples – such as extra-virgin olive oil, tuna, canned beans, quinoa, dried pasta, marinated artichoke hearts, capers, Parmesan cheese and anchovies – that are invaluable for preparing quick and tasty meals.

This month’s dishes are ideal accompaniments for the grilled meats, poultry and seafood that are frequently the centerpieces of summer dining. For a lighter menu, a variety of these preparations, along with good bread, a green salad and, perhaps some cheese, can constitute a meal on their own.
None of the recipes require much cooking, and a couple of them never touch the stove. The Marinated Green Beans with Bacon and Egg involves the most cooking of the lot, but it is limited to boiling eggs, cooking bacon and blanching green beans. No heavy lifting there.

The Zucchini Slaw, a fresh dish appropriate for our summers, requires no cooking at all and can be prepared in minutes. Likewise, there’s no need to turn on the stove to prepare the Cannellini Bean and Tuna Salad, a very simple and nourishing dish.

The Quinoa Salad does require cooking the primary ingredient, but that can be done in a rice cooker. The remainder of the recipe only involves some cutting and chopping. Of course, pasta has to be cooked for the Bowtie Pasta Salad, but that’s a snap, as is the remainder of the recipe.

Marinated Green Beans With Bacon and Egg
1    pound green beans
2    slices thick-cut bacon
2    hard-boiled eggs, peeled
¹⁄³    cup extra-virgin olive oil
2    tablespoons white wine vinegar
1    tablespoon Creole mustard
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Trim beans and cut into 2 or 3 pieces. Cook bacon until crisp, drain on paper towels, and dice.
2. Separate cooked egg whites from yolks. Combine oil, vinegar, mustard, and egg yolks in a large bowl and whisk to emulsify. Dice egg whites and set aside.
3. Cook green beans in a large pot of salted, boiling water until tender, but still firm, about 6 minutes. Drain beans in a colander and refresh under cold running water. Pat dry with a clean towel.
4. Add warm beans to bowl and toss to coat with dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with diced bacon and egg whites.

Makes 4 servings

Quinoa Salad
½    cup quinoa
1    cup water
½    cup diced red bell pepper
½    cup diced celery
½    cup peeled and diced cucumbers
½    cup diced tomatoes
¼    cup chopped parsley
¼    cup chopped green onion tops
¼    cup extra-virgin olive oil
2    tablespoons freshly squeezed
lemon juice
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Rinse quinoa, then cook according to package instructions, either on the stovetop or in a rice cooker. When cooked, allow to cool, then fluff with a fork.
2. Transfer quinoa to a mixing bowl, along with bell pepper, celery, cucumber, tomato, parsley and green onion tops. Add olive oil and lemon and toss to combine.
3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 4 servings

Cannellini Bean and Tuna Salad
1    (15.5-ounce ) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2    teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2    tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
2    tablespoons chopped green onion tops
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1    (5-ounce) can solid light tuna, drained
Lemon wedges

1. Place beans, 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and green onion in bowl and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Add tuna, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and toss lightly so as not to break-up tuna. Serve with lemon wedges.

Makes 4 servings

Zucchini Slaw
4    medium zucchini
4    teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4    teaspoons freshly squeezed
lemon juice
4    tablespoons chopped parsley
4    teaspoons chopped mint
Coarse salt

1. Trim ends from zucchini. Using a grater or mandoline, shred enough zucchini to yield 4 cups.
2. Combine zucchini, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and mint, and toss. Season to taste with coarse salt.

Makes 4 servings

Bowtie Pasta Salad
½    pound farfalle (bowtie pasta)
1    (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
6    anchovy fillets
2    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2    teaspoons capers, drained and rinsed
6    tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1    tablespoon chopped parsley

1. Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package instructions.
2. Meanwhile, chop artichoke hearts and anchovies and place in mixing bowl, along with olive oil and capers.
3. When pasta is ready, drain in a colander, then add to mixing bowl and toss to combine.
4. Add grated Parmesan. Toss. Season with salt and pepper, add parsley and toss.

Makes 4 servings





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