A couple of weeks ago, when it was ever so hot, I had my three wonderful triathlon training compatriots over for a summer dinner. It was one of those days when my bike commute turned me into a soggy, wilted mess, and any movement in the muggy outdoors felt lethargic at best. There was no way that I would be turning on the oven, since the kitchen would immediately become an inferno. I had a quick poke around on my Pinterest account and came up with a beautiful summer menu that required a bit of stove work, but nothing that would take too long.
No-Oven Summer Menu
Watermelon-Goat Cheese Bites
Olives with Garlic and Lemon
Chicken Tacos with Corn, Feta, and Avocado
Cucumber Yogurt Salad
Grapefruit Rosemary Popsicles
The first appetizer of Watermelon-Goat Cheese Bites is one I’ve made before that never fails in the heat of the summer. It appears to be the new Pinterest phenomenon, and is just as refreshing as it looks. I never followed a recipe, but the idea and execution are simple. No need for a recipe! Just cut out rounds of watermelon, hollow them out a bit with a teaspoon or melon baller, and fill with goat cheese. I have officially broken all of my pastry bags and need to replenish my stock, so I left the goat cheese out for a bit to get all soft and malleable, and then squeezed the lot into a Ziplock bag. I then snipped off one of the ends and piped a glob of tangy goat cheese into each of the watermelon rounds. Then, just for a tiny bit of color, I chopped some thyme from the garden and sprinkled it over the top of the lot. Et, voila! A beautiful summer appetizer.
The watermelon rounds were served with lemony garlicky olives from the Antipasti bar at Whole Foods (pricey, yes, but oh-so-tasty). The two combined for a lovely chill appetizer (of course always better served with a cold libation of the alcoholic variety).
The main dish was a Serious Eats find (love them) that I’d marked a bit ago but hadn’t gotten to try yet. Give me anything with avocado and I am one happy lady, so the thought of these tacos made the taste buds tingle. I sweated over the stove making these that day, but it was so worth it.
The sides were two of my own creations, one of which has already been featured here. Carrot Slaw is so simple to make and super-colorful (love that beta-carotene!). It paired beautifully with a cold cucumber-yogurt salad that takes minutes to throw together. I can’t remember the first time that I made this salad, but the idea was derived from tzatziki sauce, which I had numerous times on the countless döner kebabs I devoured while living in Vienna (seriously – why can I not find one as delicious here in the U.S.?!? Probably for the best…).
¾ cup Greek yogurt
1 large clove garlic, minced
juice of ½ lemon
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper
1. Slice cucumbers in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Then slice into thin half-moons, the thinner, the better, since they’ll absorb the dressing better. (If you have a mandolin and can use it without slicing off your fingers, then this might be the time to use it.)
2. Combine yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, dill, and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Add sliced cucumbers and toss to combine.
3. The salad is best after it’s mellowed in the fridge for at least an hour or two, or even the next day!
The grapefruit-rosemary popsicles were a brilliant find, and unbelievably delicious. The balance of tart and sweet in grapefruit is one of my favorite flavors and combined with the fragrant earthiness of rosemary, it made a perfect popsicle that was a refreshing end to an outdoor summer meal. I highly recommend making these as soon as possible – your taste buds and belly will thank you!