Easy Meals for Long Weekends and Hot Days

3 vegetable-driven recipes for potlucks, grill-outs, and chillin'

These three dishes have something in common: a desire to party with you. They don't care if you're in a lawn chair on the porch enjoying a solo supper in the breeze, celebrating a family milestone, or going on a picnic with new friends. They're easy.


Toasted Edamame with Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 4
Time: About 30 minutes

The interior of edamame veers more toward the gritty part of the bean texture spectrum, which makes them perfect for toasting — almost like nuts. Another good option is frozen green fava beans. They're usually easier to find than they used to be, but for some reason, I came up short in three places last week. I also used chopped fresh oregano and sage leaves instead of the parsley. Further proof this recipe is totally adaptable. Serve over thick bread slices or rice or toss with pasta or torn salad greens.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups frozen edamame (12 ounces)

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

  • 2 large shallots

  • Salt

  • 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes

  • 1/2 cup fruity white wine, or water

  • 1 bunch parsley

  • Pepper

Instructions

1. Turn the oven to 425° F. Put 3 cups frozen edamame beans in a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to coat, then spread them into a single layer. Don't wait for the oven to come to temperature; just put the pan in. Roast the beans, turning them with a spatula once or twice, until they're brown and crunchy in places, 15 to 20 minutes. 

2. Peel the shallots and slice thinly crosswise; separate the rings best you can. (It's fine if they're not perfect.) Trim any tough stem ends from the tomatoes.

3. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it's hot, add the shallots and sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring frequently until they soften and turn golden, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, chop 1/2 cup of parsley leaves. 

4. Transfer the shallots to a small plate with a slotted spoon and turn the heat to high. When the skillet is smoking hot add the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt. As the tomatoes sputter and start to darken in spots, adjust the heat to medium and shake the pan occasionally for even browning until they split and release some juice, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and stir to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. 

5. As soon as edamame are ready, remove them from the oven and sprinkle with just a little salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes to the pan, along with the shallots and parsley, and toss to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve hot or at room temperature, drizzled with more olive oil. 

Variations

Blistered Whole Fava Beans and Cherry Tomatoes. It's a kitchen miracle when you discover that the whole fava bean — yes the gnarly pod full of skin-on beans that hit stores and markets in spring and early summer — is edible. Better than that, it's delicious. Figure about 2 pounds whole fava beans. Turn the oven on then trim the beans by cutting almost through the toughest end and pulling the string down the length of the bean. (Same way as stringing snap or snow peas.) Cut off any black bits and scrub well. Toss with the oil and roast as described in Step 1; they'll take about the same amount of time. Continue with the recipe. When the beans are fork-tender and golden in places, chop them crosswise into bite-size pieces and stir them into the tomatoes, substituting fresh mint for the parsley if you like.

Roasted Mature Fava Beans with Cherry Tomatoes. These are the large brown fava beans common to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Both canned and dried are not typical to most supermarkets so when you see 'em, grab some. Follow the main recipe, substituting 3 cups cooked or canned rinsed and drained beans for the green favas. They won't get crunchy but will develop a golden crust. Dill or parsley to finish. Your choice. As is a dollop of yogurt.

Roasted Cannellini with Cherry Tomatoes. Substitute 1 cup (at least) whole basil leaves for the parsley. Substitute 3 cups cooked or canned cannellini. Follow the main recipe. They won't get crunchy but will develop a golden crust. Either drizzle with more olive oil or shave some Grana Padano or Pecorino Romano cheese on top before serving.

Adapted from How to Cook Everything Fast

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Lemon-Rosemary Cauliflower Steaks with Manchego

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 35 to 45 minutes

These were all the rage a few summers ago and I still love them. One tip: The larger and tighter the cauliflower, the better they slice into steaks. The simple seasonings here make the steaks easy to serve with your favorite sides and build a satisfying meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds)

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

  • Salt and pepper

  • Grated zest of 1 lemon

  • 1/2 cup grated or crumbled manchego cheese

Ingredients

1. Start the coals or heat a gas grill for medium direct cooking. Make sure the grates are clean.

2. Trim the bottom from the cauliflower so it lies flat. Cut downward, top to bottom, in 4 equally thick slices. Stir the oil and rosemary together in a small bowl with some salt and pepper; brush both sides of the slices with the seasoned oil.

3. Put the steaks on the grill directly over the fire. Close the lid and cook until the cauliflower is tender and a bit charred in places, 10 to 15 minutes per side; a skewer or thin knife inserted at the thickest point should go in with little resistance.

4. If the slices start to brown too much, move them to a cooler part of the grill. Transfer to a platter, sprinkle with the lemon zest, then the Manchego, and serve.

From How to Grill Everything

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Warm Chicken Salad with Cherries and Sage

Serves 4
Time: 30 minutes

For many of us, chicken salad is actually better when it’s slightly warm. If you prefer it ice cold, take an extra 10 minutes to pop it in the freezer to quick chill. Be sure to check out the turkey variation: It’s perfect — and even faster — with Holiday leftovers but also easy enough to make any time with quick-cooking turkey cutlets; the technique works for the other flavor combinations here, too. This time of year, chicken salad makes a lovely light dinner with crudité and crackers.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts

  • 1 cup white wine or water (or a combination)

  • 1 bay leaf

  • Salt

  • 3 sprigs fresh sage

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise

  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

  • Pepper

  • 1 cup sweet cherries (frozen pitted fruit is fine; don't bother to thaw them)

Instructions

1. Put the chicken, wine or water, bay leaf, and a pinch of salt in a medium skillet over high heat. As soon as the liquid comes to a boil, adjust the heat so it barely bubbles. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat but don’t open the lid; let the chicken sit for 10 minutes.

2. Strip the leaves from sage sprigs, chop and put them in a large bowl. Add the mayonnaise, Dijon, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper; stir to combine. Pit the cherries if necessary, and slice each in half. Then add them to the bowl but don't stir yet.

3. Nick a couple of the thickest sections of chicken with a small knife to make sure the interior is no longer pink; if it is bring the water to a boil again, cover and shut it off for another 3 minutes or so to sit. 

4. When the chicken is ready, transfer it to a cutting board. (Save the broth for another use.) Chop or shred the chicken and add it to the bowl. Stir to coat the chicken and cherries in the dressing. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve.

Variations

Warm Chicken Salad with Apples and Garam Masala. Garam masala is a turmeric-free Indian warm-spice blend so its flavor is mild and slightly sweet; a more common curry powder is a fine substitute. Substitute 1 large crisp apple for the cherries and 1 tablespoon garam masala for the sage. Peel the apple if you’d like and chop it into 1/2-inch pieces while the chicken cooks. Warm whole wheat pita wedges are good on the side.

Warm Chicken Salad with Olives and Thyme. Replace the sage with thyme and the cherries with pitted black olives, like Kalamata. Substitute olive oil for the mayonnaise, keep the Dijon and add the juice of a lemon.

Warm Turkey Salad with Grapes and Rosemary. Instead of the cherries, use 1 cup seedless red or green grapes. Substitute 1 1/2 pounds turkey tenderloins or breast cutlets for the chicken. Use a large skillet and increase the poaching water to 2 cups. Cook the turkey for a couple minutes longer in Step 1 (depending on how thick it is) before removing from the heat. Substitute fresh rosemary leaves for the sage.

Adapted from How to Cook Everything Fast

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