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Desperately Seeking Dinner (meaninful dinnertime)

I'm stuck in a "Simple Summer Meals" dinner making rut already! We have had lots of kabobs and taco nights! What kinds of things do you like for summertime? I am looking for ideas that don't heat up the kitchen,are refreshing to eat in the summertime heat, and will appeal to families with children so we can have some good family time to talk! Whew!

Thank you!

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  1. Not sure whether you grill or not...

    How about paninis? Customizable and easy to do with minimal heat.

    Bean/rice/lentil/grain salads

    chilled (non fried) spring rolls and potstickers

    if you grill, this opens up another avenue.... Grilled pizzas esp

    1. A staple in my home growing up was chunky tuna salad. Canned tuna, but not mashed fine as if for sandwiches. It was dressed with a lemon & olive oil & herb dressing, the celery was a little chunkier, big chops of hard boiled egg, etc. Served with a nice chewy french or italian loaf, and sorbet for dessert.

      1. How about simple pasta dishes? If you make the kind you put together with quickly sautéed toppings like chicken tenderloins and veggies rather than heavy and long-cooking red sauces, you can have that stove on and off pretty quickly. I use the leftovers the next day as the basis for a salad.

        1. There's a great and simple preparation that will suit your family if they like olive oil and you have access to some good Italian bread and decent fresh mozzarella. The Italians call this a summer sauce, because the sauce itself requires no cooking. It's bowtie pasta (or penne can work) with tomatoes and mozzarella, etc., warmed up in the pasta's residual heat. Specifically:

          --Cook a pound of bowtie pasta;
          --Meanwhile, cut about a half pound of fresh (not brick) mozzarella into roughly half-inch dice (and, following a Cooks Illustrated tip, lay out the mozzarella cubes on a plate and place for a few minutes into the freezer, this keeps them from getting gummy later);
          --Chop or chiffonade a handful of fresh basil;
          --Take 10-16 ounces of cherry tomatoes and cut each one in half;
          --have your best olive oil and (if you like) parmaggiano cheese ready.
          --When the pasta is ready, drain it and empty some of it into a bowl; dump in the mozzarella cubes, tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste; give a stir and then the rest of the pasta. Let everything sit a minute or so to warm all the ingredients.
          --Give it another toss, add some oil or salt maybe, and then serve with crusty bread and, if using, parmesan.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Bada Bing

            Yum, and if you toss some fresh baby spinach leaves in at the end, you'll have a full meal.

            1. re: Bada Bing

              I've been making something very close to this lately--only difference is a pint of grape tomatoes gets chopped in the mini FP along with some fresh garlic, parsley, oregano and thyme...totally love this and it's even nicer because I can pick all the herbs right off my deck...and soon I'll be able to pick tomatoes, too. And I'm a pecorino romano girl rather than parm reg...but that's just how it always was in my house. Either works!

              Here's how I roll:
              http://kattyskitchen.wordpress.com/20...

              Rather than crusty bread, I've been serving it with freshly made chicken sausage from my favorite local Italian market. I agree--having GOOD fresh mozz is key...but I live in Melilli's sister city, so it's no problem here. :) A leftover portion heats up nicely in less than a minute in the micro.

              1. re: Bada Bing

                I really like bushwickgirl's and kattyeyes' suggestions. Will try both asap. I even have some fresh baby spinach in the garden....

                About the bread: we know it's a superfluous starch, given the pasta, but wherever there is delicious olive oil and drippings at the bottom of a bowl, we demand bread for sopping up every drop.

                1. re: Bada Bing

                  I hear you, Bada Bing...with my sweet tooth, I try not to do double starches, but don't think for a minute it doesn't sound very tempting and wonderful...for sure, it does! And resisting is tough if it's right there (must be the Italian in me!).

                  So lucky you have fresh spinach in your garden! If you have extra fresh mozz you don't want to waste, I have a breakfast idea for you...just check the recipe I posted right above the caprese capellini for Iron Skillet Spinach ‘n Eggs with Fresh Mozzarella...you can make that for more than one person and call it dinner, lunch--whatever! Easy, quick, fresh, delicious!

              2. I've been grilling chicken breasts marinated in Italian dressing often. Served with sides of (a) "oven roasted" potatoes prepare on the grill (there's a separate thread on this if you are looking for recipes & techniques) and (b) green salad. If you want, you can cut up the chicken and toss both the chicken and potatoes in the salad; we typically keep them all separate.

                When it's too hot to even grill, our go-to meal is egg salad and/or tuna salad, served with some bread or rolls and carrot sticks. Also salade nicoise but not sure if that is something your children will eat.