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RECIPES: Dishes requiring no cooking to end summer on a chill note

Keep it cool by Kelly Brant | August 18, 2021 at 2:02 a.m.
Whipped Feta Dip (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

One doesn't need an excuse not to feel like firing up the oven, stove or grill. Some days — maybe it's the sweltering weather, a particularly hectic day of juggling schedules, general exhaustion or simple laziness — the idea of cooking a meal is just too much. Even something simple like boxed spaghetti with jarred sauce and a bagged salad sounds daunting when you realize you'll have to fill a pot with water and wait for it to boil and fill your kitchen with steam in August.

There's no shame in having cold cereal or PB&J for supper. And we won't judge you for ordering pizza.

But if you haven't reached that level of desperation yet, or if your body (and your family) would like something just a little more nourishing, a little more flavorful and ready just as quickly, these recipes are for you.

In addition to coming together in just minutes, they also make excellent lunches, whether for noshing at home or brown bagging.

For supper, we like to prepare a combination of these, such as the soup, feta dip and one of the salads to enjoy small-plate style.

Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup

  • 4 mini seedless cucumbers OR 1 English cucumber, roughly chopped (see note)
  • ½ avocado, peeled, pitted, chopped
  • Leaves from 2 (5-inch) sprigs mint
  • Juice of ½ lime, or more to taste
  • Generous pinch smoked paprika
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Red chile flakes or hot sauce, to taste

In a blender or food processor, combine cucumber, avocado, mint and lime juice. Process until smooth. Add up to 1 cup cold water to thin to desired consistency. Season with smoked paprika, additional lime juice and salt to taste.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of red chile flakes or hot sauce.

Makes about 4 (½ cup) servings.

Note: Can substitute 2 peeled and seeded regular cucumbers.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch: arkansasonline.com/818nocook]

Chickpeas and Roasted Peppers

  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (13-ounce) jar roasted red peppers
  • ½ small red onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ cup fresh sugar snap peas, strings removed
  • 1 carrot, cut into matchstick-size lengths
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

In a small bowl, mash minced garlic with a little salt and whisk in black pepper, oregano, vinegar and olive oil; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine chickpeas with red peppers, onion and parsley. Toss with all but 3 tablespoons of the dressing. Mound chickpea mixture on a shallow platter. Toss sugar snap peas and carrot with remaining dressing. Arrange pea-carrot mixture around chickpeas and top with crumbled feta cheese. Serve at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from "Best Summer Weekends Cookbook" by Jane Rodmell

■ ■ ■

Whipped Feta Dip

  • 8 ounces feta cheese
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic or garlic paste
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, rosemary and/or thyme
  • Olive oil
  • Red pepper flakes such as Aleppo
  • Crudites, crackers, pita chips or other desired dippers

In a food processor, combine the cheeses, mayonnaise, cream, lemon juice, garlic, black pepper and herbs. Process for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, scraping sides as needed, or until completely smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with chile flakes. Serve with desired dippers.

Makes about 1 ½ cups.

Marinated Beans (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Marinated Beans (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

Marinated Beans

  • 2 tablespoons minced red onion or shallot
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
  • ½ cup chopped fresh herbs such as any combination of basil, mint, parsley, thyme, chives
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans beans such as black, kidney, cannellini, chickpeas and/or black-eyed peas, rinsed and well drained
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic or garlic paste
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • Red chile flakes such as Aleppo

In a small bowl, combine the red onion and 1 tablespoon of the vinegar and let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the herbs and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the beans, garlic, salt, black pepper and red chile flakes. Stir to combine. Add the onion and mix well. Taste and add more vinegar, oil, salt or peppers as needed. Chill until ready to serve.

Serve over toast, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Tomato, Cucumber and Tuna Salad (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Tomato, Cucumber and Tuna Salad (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

Tomato, Cucumber and Tuna Salad

  • 6 ounces seedless cucumber such as mini (Persian) or English
  • 6 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 or 2 jarred pepperoncini peppers, thinly sliced PLUS 1 tablespoon juice, divided use
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic or garlic paste
  • 1 ounce pistachios, shelled
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 (5-ounce) can tuna, drained if packed in water
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil, to taste
  • Lettuce leaves, for serving, optional

Cut the cucumber(s) in half length-wise and then thinly slice on a steep diagonal.

Halve or quarter the tomatoes.

Combine the cucumbers, tomatoes and sliced pepperoncini in a large bowl. Add the garlic, nuts, lime juice and tuna. Stir to combine. Taste and season with salt, ground black pepper, pepperoncini juice and olive oil (if using oil-packed tuna, you may not need any oil).

Serve in lettuce cups, if desired.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.

Spinach, Grape, Cheddar and Pecan Salad With Tuna or Chicken (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Spinach, Grape, Cheddar and Pecan Salad With Tuna or Chicken (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

Spinach, Grape, Cheddar and Pecan Salad With Tuna or Chicken

  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 cup seedless black grapes, halved
  • ½ cup pecan halves or pieces
  • 2 mini cucumbers OR ½ English cucumber, quartered and sliced
  • 2 to 4 ounces cheddar cheese, diced
  • 1 (5-ounce) can tuna OR chicken packed in water, drained
  • Mayonnaise, to taste
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • Italian vinaigrette, to taste

In a large bowl, gently toss together the spinach, grapes, pecans, cucumber and cheese.

In a separate bowl, combine the tuna or chicken with just enough mayonnaise to moisten. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide spinach mixture among serving plates. Top with a scoop of tuna or chicken. Drizzle with Italian vinaigrette.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.

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