In honor of the Fourth of July and in anticipation of what will likely be a long, hot summer, I propose declaring independence from the cooktop.
Not every night, of course. But what about once a week? Wouldn’t it be great to avoid cooking one night a week?
Of course it’d be great, you might be saying, that’s why there’s my local burrito joint. And the pre-prepared foods aisle at Safeway. And pizza delivery.
But I’m not talking about forgoing a homemade meal. I’m talking about having the best of both worlds – a delicious, homemade meal without having to turn on the stove.
How about a clean-out-the-vegetable-bin salad, using up bits and bobs from last week’s trip to the farmer’s market? Top the whole thing with a little protein – a chicken breast leftover from the night before or some already-cooked shrimp from the freezer – and you’ve got an easy, satisfying entrée, without breaking a sweat or ordering out.
Sandwiches are good options, too. We’re just barely into tomato season. How about a couple of thick slices, along with shaved Parmesan, olive oil, and basil leaves, on artisan bread? Cool, in every sense of the word.
And then there’s cold soup. You can make it with almost any fruits or vegetables you like. Just puree, maybe with a little juice, stock, yogurt, milk, buttermilk, or cream, and season. You could also add a little acidity – lemon juice or vinegar – and an herb or two.
Serve your soup with a salad or sandwich. Then pour yourself and a glass of wine and toast life, liberty, and the pursuit of heat-free happiness.
Cold Cucumber Soup
Paired with a salad or a sandwich, this soup makes a simple-yet-delicious summertime meal. For something more elegant, serve it with cold poached salmon.
3 cucumbers (about 2 1/4 pounds), peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1/4 small red onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
In a blender or food processor, combine the cucumber, onion, buttermilk, yogurt, mint leaves, mustard, and salt and puree, scraping down the jar or bowl as necessary. Taste and pepper add more salt if you like. Chill well before serving.