I used to have all the time in the world to make dinner. See, I was a freelance food writer, and it was my job to obsess about what to cook, how to cook it and how to frame it for an Instagram post. Then I did something crazy - took a full-time legit job as editorial director at cookbook publisher Clarkson Potter. And now those languid days of dinner dreaming are gone, baby, gone.
Even though I cook all the time, I am now one of those single moms who think — on my commute home — about the fastest way to get dinner on the table for my two hungry boys. Typically, I might turn to a baking sheet to roast, braise or bake my way to a one-pan dinner in one clean swoop, as it is efficient, easy and the subject of my next book.
But the weather is steamy, so no-cook dinner, here I come! No stove top, no grill — recipes that are the holy grail of sticky nights like these. Not only will you stay cool and composed, but you also can have the whole meal on the table in 40 minutes, including a no-bake dessert. (Spoiler alert: You do need to melt chocolate in the microwave.)
Here’s a menu’s worth of dead-simple yet sophisticated recipes to see you through the hottest of days.
Pelzel’s “Sheet Pan Suppers: Meatless” will be released in October.
Heirloom Tomatoes, Cannellini Beans and Snap Peas
Crisp crunch and beautiful colors will pull your guests to the side of the plate where this salad sits. From cookbook author and Clarkson Potter editorial director Raquel Pelzel.
12 ounces (about 2 medium) ripe heirloom tomatoes, hulled and cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt OR 1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces snap peas, ends trimmed and pods thinly sliced on a bias (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups drained and rinsed canned white beans, such as cannellini (from a 15-ounce can)
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled and thinly sliced crosswise (chiffonade), or more as needed
2 ounces fresh goat cheese
Combine the tomatoes, oil and salt in a mixing bowl, stirring gently to incorporate.
Add the snap peas, beans and most of the basil, then crumble the goat cheese over the top. Give the salad a gentle stir, sprinkle with the remaining basil and serve.
Nutrition | Per serving (using kosher salt): 210 calories, 9 g protein, 19 g carbohydrates, 11 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 380 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar
Avocado makes a creamy and pretty mayo alternative in this 10-minute recipe, letting the taste of the crabmeat shine through. Although this is a no-cook recipe, a butter-toasted bun wouldn’t be heresy. From Raquel Pelzel.
Flesh of 1 ripe Hass avocado
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt OR 1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over to remove any cartilage or shell
2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives or scallions
4 hot dog buns or brioche buns, preferably split on top
Small green leaf lettuce leaves
12 sprigs cilantro, for garnish
Combine the avocado, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a medium bowl. Use a fork to mash the mixture until it is semi-smooth, with some chunks.
Gently fold in the crabmeat, the chives or scallions and the remaining citrus juice and salt.
Line the buns with the lettuce leaves. Divide the avocado-crab mixture evenly among them. Top each portion with cilantro sprigs.
Serve right away.
Nutrition | Per serving: 240 calories, 16 g protein, 29 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 670 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar
Cauliflower ‘Couscous’ With Herbs
A quick side dish gets even quicker when you can pick up the cauliflower already broken down to a couscous consistency - typically found these days in the refrigerated or frozen produce section. The dressing components go right into the salad. From Raquel Pelzel.
1/2 medium head of cauliflower, separated into florets (or 10 ounces of frozen/defrosted cauliflower couscous; see headnote)
1 medium red bell pepper, halved, seeded and finely chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeds scooped out and cucumber finely chopped
3/4 cup fresh herbs, such as basil, cilantro, fennel fronds, mint, parsley or tarragon, or a combination thereof)
3 scallions, white and light-green parts, finely chopped
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more as needed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt OR 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
Place the cauliflower florets in a food processor; pulse for six or eight 1-second pulses, until they are fine-textured and look like couscous. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
Add the bell pepper, cucumber, herbs, scallions, mirin, lemon juice, coriander and the salt, stirring to incorporate. Add the oil and stir until everything is well seasoned; taste to make sure, and adjust as needed.
Stir in most of the sunflower seeds. Serve with the remaining sunflower seeds sprinkled over the top.
Nutrition | Per serving: 200 calories, 4 g protein, 12 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 380 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar
Lentils With Hot-Smoked Salmon
Canned lentils are a convenience item that merits co-star attention here. Serve this spiky-savory salad as a main dish or side. Hot-smoked salmon has a flakier, more “roasted” texture than cold-smoked, lox-style salmon, though in a pinch, the latter works just fine. Here, it can be flaked apart or chopped and then folded into the salad, or you can simply serve it alongside the lentils. From Raquel Pelzel.
One 15-ounce can lentils, drained and rinsed
3 radishes, trimmed and cut into thin rounds
1 tablespoon capers, drained and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt OR 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces hot-smoked salmon, skin and pinbones discarded (see headnote)
Combine the lentils, radishes, capers and dill in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with the vinegar, then season with the salt and pepper, stirring to incorporate. Add the oil and toss to coat.
Cut the salmon into 4 equal portions, or flake the salmon into the lentil salad and toss gently to incorporate, then divide among individual plates.
Nutrition | Per serving (using kosher salt): 210 calories, 17 g protein, 15 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 770 mg sodium, 8 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar
No-Bake Coconutter Fudge Bars
Chopped dried cherries enhance the chocolaty flavor and richness of this easy dessert or snack. The chocolate does need to be melted in the microwave, so we can’t honestly call this a no-cook recipe. But making it won’t heat up your kitchen, and that’s the goal. From “Sheet Pan Suppers Meatless: 100 Surprising Vegetarian Meals Straight From the Oven,” by Raquel Pelzel (Workman, 2017).
1 1/2 cups roasted, salted peanuts
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1/8 teaspoon salt OR 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
11/4 cups dried cherries
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (optional)
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup low-fat coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons liquefied coconut oil
Flaked sea salt, for garnish (optional)
Combine the peanuts, cocoa powder and salt in a food processor; pulse about 10 times (1-second pulses), until finely ground. Add the cherries; pulse about 6 times, until you can squeeze the mixture together without it breaking apart easily. If it seems loose, add the peanut butter and pulse to bind and incorporate.
Line a quarter baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the peanut mixture in the pan. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the peanut mixture, and, using the bottom of a measuring cup, press it into a solid and even layer. Freeze until set, about 15 minutes.
Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH in 20-second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is completely melted; this should take a total of about 1 1/2 minutes.
Whisk in the coconut milk and coconut oil until smooth, then pour the mixture over the frozen peanut-mixture base, spreading it in an even layer. Sprinkle with flaky salt, if using, and freeze for at least 20 minutes before cutting into 24 squares.
24 small squares
Nutrition | Per piece (using kosher salt): 140 calories, 4 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 40 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 9 g sugar