You get home from work on a sweltering summer evening, and it’s so hot you can barely move, let alone turn on the stove. We asked Whitney Wright, deputy food director at Southern Living magazine, for no-cook dinner suggestions. With a little advance prep, Wright says, you can transform goodies from the supermarket into the main event by assembling a platter of fruit, vegetables, cheese and charcuterie. Try it once and you’ll swear off the stove all summer.
A well-balanced cheese board should contain the following types of fromage: firm (such as Parmigiano-Reggiano), blue (like Maytag or Stilton), soft (perhaps a Camembert or a fresh goat cheese) and aged (maybe a crowd-pleasing cheddar). For even more flavor variety, include a combination of cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk cheeses. Mix things up texturally by offering both bread and crispy crackers or breadsticks.
Rather than serving it plain, Wright suggests soaking seasonal fruit in wine, sugar and spices, and keeping it in the refrigerator for an instant side dish. Riesling-soaked peaches are delicious when combined with bread, cured meats and a little mustard. Combine two large peaches, peeled and chopped, with a half cup of Riesling, 1 tablespoon each of brown sugar and apple cider vinegar, and a few cranks from the peppermill. Refrigerate at least three hours; serve sprinkled with fresh thyme.
With just a day’s notice you can quick-pickle almost any vegetable. Most preps involve boiling a brine (usually some combination of water, sugar, vinegar and spices), pouring it over your produce and refrigerating in a jar for at least 24 hours. Cucumbers’ mild flavor is perfect for a pungent brine, but corn, green beans and peppers also work well. Macerating is another no-cook technique that requires no forethought. Wright uses a mandoline to make zucchini or carrot ribbons when she gets home from work, then soaks them in olive oil, vinegar and fresh herbs until it’s time to eat.
Adding charcuterie to your summer platter will make the meal even more complete. As with cheese, it’s a good idea to include a variety of flavors and textures. Choose a few different cured meats and sausages (prosciutto, chorizo) and then add something spreadable such as a pâté or terrine.
To round out your spread, dig around in your pantry for items like nuts, dried fruit, popcorn or wasabi peas. Place a few of them in pretty bowls, pour yourself some chilled white wine and congratulate yourself on assembling a gorgeous, delectable dinner without breaking a sweat.