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Cooking in summer should be uncomplicated. But we still must put food on the table, so I look for effortless recipes that can be put together without turning on the oven or the stove.

Soups are the easiest. A high-speed blender makes it simple, but a food processor works, too. Salads are another option, and given local produce is excellent right now, it should be put to good use.

Tomatoes are the pinnacle of summer eating. Bursting with flavour and juiciness, they should be eaten out of hand over the sink, but I have included a couple of recipes that feature them – one for a no-cook soup and one for the perfect tomato salad.

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Other easy no-cook options include charcuterie. Try bresaola carpaccio, a riff on the raw beef version. Store-bought barbecue chicken is a boon as well. Use pieces of it to top a Cobb or panzanella salad or strip the skin and bones and use it for grain bowls or mixed with cold noodles.

And as a lazy dessert-maker, no-cook treats are top of my list all year!


Skip to a recipe:

Watermelon shooters | Creamy cucumber and arugula soup | The best tomato salad | Fresh no-cook tomato soup | Provençal tuna and white bean salad | Zucchini ribbons with prosciutto, parmesan and pistachios | Mango chicken salad | Bresaola and mushroom carpaccio | Peach and sesame mousse | Instant lemon meringue


Watermelon shooters

Serves 8

Fruit-based soups are easy to make and are extremely popular when they are not sweet and don’t taste like dessert. This recipe could be served as a shooter or a cold soup. Sauvignon blanc has an acidic edge and citrus flavour and balances beautifully with the watermelon, but you can use other white wine or Prosecco. This serves four as a soup, but when served in shooter glasses, it makes enough for eight.

  • 1 ½ lb. seedless watermelon, cut into cubes (about 4 to 5 cups/1.5 L)
  • ½ cup Sauvignon Blanc or other white wine
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeño pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Thai basil or mint

Place watermelon, wine, ginger, lime juice and lime rind in a blender and process until liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill until ready to serve.

Combine jalapeño and Thai basil or mint. Pour watermelon mixture in shooter glasses and garnish with jalapeño and herb mixture.


Creamy cucumber and arugula soup

Serves 4

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A cold soup served in individual mugs makes a good first course with little cleanup. This soup is a winner for this type of presentation. It’s quick, easy and creamy without the added calories of whipping cream.

  • 1 English cucumber
  • 2 cups packed arugula, thick stems removed
  • 2 cups chopped escarole or other lettuce
  • ½ cup chopped Spanish or sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or basil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 ounces baby shrimp, optional
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup cooked baby shrimp, optional
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Peel strips from cucumber, leaving some skin intact. Chop cucumber coarsely and place in a food processor or blender.

Add arugula, escarole, onion, mint, tarragon and lemon juice. Purée until smooth. Stir in buttermilk. Season with salt and pepper.

Chill well. Garnish with baby shrimp if desired and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.


The best tomato salad

Serves 4

For those few juicy weeks when tomatoes are at their best, we indulge in nightly tomato treats. I believe tomatoes should be served simply when they are this good. Later in the year is the time to roast or grill them. Now, they are vibrant, warm from the sun, sliced and drizzled with the best olive oil and sea salt you have. No acid is ever needed with great tomatoes – they have enough on their own.

  • 4 juicy ripe tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
  • Additions
  • Buffalo mozzarella or Burrata cheese
  • Sliced Vidalia or red onions
  • Pesto
  • Crumbled ricotta

Slice tomatoes and lay on a platter. Sprinkle with salt, olive oil and a grind of pepper.

Serve as is, or with any of the additions mentioned.


Fresh no-cook tomato soup

Serves 4

An intense hit of tomato, this is fresh and palate-pleasing. I loved this soup in the test kitchen; I think it is the best chilled tomato soup I have ever had.

  • 2 lbs. fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Salad for topping
  • 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 2 green onions, white part only, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon chopped Thai red chili or a pinch chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup toasted fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Grana Padano

Puree chopped tomatoes in a blender. Push through a coarse sieve with the back of a ladle. Discard any remaining pulp. Season the tomato juice with fish sauce and pepper.

Mix cherry tomatoes with green onions, chili, mint, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Divide soup between four bowls. Spoon ¼ cup tomato salad into centre of each bowl and garnish with bread crumbs and Grana Padano.

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Provençal tuna and white bean salad

Serves 4

Tarragon and basil are a good herb combination because they both have a liquorice edge. In this easy, no-cook dish, the ingredients are tossed together and bound with a tarragon dressing. If you have fresh tuna left over from another meal, use it instead of the canned. Serve with focaccia and some good olive oil. Sustainable tuna is readily available today and a better buy than regular. I buy roasted red peppers at the supermarket.

  • 1 can solid white tuna, drained, preferably sustainable
  • 1 cup white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup chopped roasted red pepper
  • 1 cup chopped pitted black olives
  • ¾ cup chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 6 cups mixed salad greens
  • Tarragon mayonnaise
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried
  • 2 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Break tuna into large flakes. Toss gently with beans, peppers, olives, onion and half the basil in a bowl.

Whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, tarragon, and anchovy fillets. Mixture should be thick enough to coat a spoon. Season with salt and pepper

Toss half of dressing with the tuna mixture. Place salad greens on platter or 4 plates.

Mound tuna salad on top. Sprinkle with remaining basil and drizzle with remaining dressing.

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Zucchini ribbons with prosciutto, parmesan and pistachios

Serves 4

Another pretty, no-cook salad that makes an excellent main course when served with good bread and a side of Italian cheese, such as Taleggio or Gorgonzola. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the zucchini or a mandolin for even thinner slices. If the prosciutto is thinly sliced, it looks more attractive.

  • 3 zucchini, about 1 lb.
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 2 cups watercress, tough stalks removed
  • 2 ounces shaved Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
  • ¼ cup slivered basil leaves
  • Dressing
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped shallot
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Shave zucchini lengthwise with a vegetable peeler or mandolin. Place in a strainer and sprinkle with salt. Allow to drain. Pile on to a platter.

Slice prosciutto into shreds. Top zucchini with watercress, then prosciutto, parmesan, pistachios and basil leaves. Puree mustard, tomatoes, and lemon juice with a hand blender or in a food processor.

Slowly pour in olive oil, continuing to puree. Add shallots and pulse until some chunks remain. Season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle half of the dressing over salad, serving the remainder separately. Pile the salad high on 4 plates for an attractive presentation. Otherwise let people help themselves.

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Mango chicken salad

Serves 4

A quick, lively salad with summery vegetables. This Thai-inspired recipe would be made with green mango if it were truly authentic. However, I like the sweetness of the ripe mango with the citrus of the sauce. If mangoes are not available, try peaches.

  • 1 small barbecue chicken, skin and bones removed, or leftover chicken
  • 1 mango, peeled and slivered
  • 1 cup snow peas, slivered
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • ½ cup green onions, slivered

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoon lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • Garnish
  • 3 cups baby spinach

Shred chicken into strips and place in a bowl. Add mango, snow peas, bean sprouts and green onions and toss to combine.

Whisk together lime juice, lime rind, rice vinegar, vegetable oil, sesame oil, hoisin, and soy in a separate bowl. Season to taste with salt.

Toss three-quarters of dressing with salad. Place spinach on a platter, toss with remaining dressing and place salad on top.

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Bresaola and mushroom carpaccio

Serves 4

Bresaola is air-dried beef made from the top round cut. It is salted and cured for a number of months. Thinly sliced for eating, it is amazingly tender.

The garnishing of this dish is like raw beef carpaccio. For finishing salt, use Maldon or Fleur de Sel or any slightly coarser-grained salt that you like. Pink Himalayan salt also looks attractive on this.

  • 8 ounces sliced bresaola
  • 6 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Finishing salt and freshly ground pepper

Garnish

  • ¼ cup shaved Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoon parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Handful of watercress or arugula

Arrange bresaola slices loosely on a platter. Toss mushroom slices with olive oil and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish bresaola with mushrooms, parmesan, parsley, and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Scatter with watercress.


Peach and sesame mousse

Serves 4

An easy dessert with just enough sweetness to satisfy cravings. Use any stone fruit, including mangoes. Top with blueberries or raspberries instead of peaches and use all the peaches in the yogurt mixture if you wish. Serve with a pretty cookie on the side.

  • 2 1/2 peaches, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

Garnish

  • ½ peach, unpeeled and chopped

Place peeled peaches in food processor and purée with lime rind, juice, and sugar.

Add yogurt and mascarpone to food processor. Pulse until mixture is combined. Gently stir in sesame seeds.

Spoon mixture into wine glasses and top with some unpeeled chopped peaches.


Instant lemon meringue

Serves 4

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This is my secret dessert when I can’t be bothered cooking. It is quick, light and you can always have the ingredients on hand. Buy the meringue shells at a bakery – you can buy lemon curd in jars, too. Some bakeries also make it and freeze it to sell.

  • 4 meringue shells or meringues
  • 1 cup lemon curd
  • 2 cups fruit that you like
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream

Fill shells with lemon curd.

Marinate fruit with balsamic and sugar (if you prefer not to marinate, leave fruit as is).

Whip cream until it holds its shape. Garnish each dessert with whipped cream.

Alternately layer broken shells, fruit, and cream in glasses.

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