Summer means warm weather, longer days, and a focus on al fresco dining, so it’s easy to associate summer with dinner on the grill. However, summer doesn’t mean you should neglect the kitchen. In fact, the best things to cook in the summer are light, full of fresh ingredients, and won't heat up your kitchen. Bring summer’s fresh ingredients to the dinner table with a few of our favorite one-pot (or one pan!) ideas:
Teriyaki Chicken with Pineapple Stir Fry rice
We love this dish for two reasons: 1) it makes great use of fresh summer fruits and vegetables and 2) it’s tastes just as good cold, so it’s easy to pack and serve at a picnic.
Before cooking, we recommend marinating boneless, skinless chicken breasts in teriyaki sauce overnight. (The sauce can be bought pre-made or you can tact on some time in the kitchen and make your own sauce from this Food Network Teriyaki recipe).
Photo Credit: Cookie + Kate
Once cooked, remove the chicken from your pan and add a teaspoon of olive oil. After the oil heats up and begins to shimmer, add chopped seasonal vegetables like bell peppers and zucchini, and most importantly, a healthy dose of chopped fresh pineapple. Let the peppers and pineapples sizzle until they become brown and more tender, and then add pre-cooked rice. Cook the stirfry for another five minutes, and then it’s ready to be served with your chicken.
If you have access to garden vegetables, this Taco Pasta recipe is the perfect dish for fresh corn, bell pepper and tomatoes. (If you don’t, the recipe works just as well with frozen vegetables)
Pour one 13.5-oz box of whole wheat rotini noodles in a large stock pot, and add 2 cups corn, 1 green pepper, sliced, ½ a yellow onion, sliced, 1 15-oz can of tomatoes, 1 package dry taco seasoning and 4 cups of chicken broth.
Cover and cook over high heat until the broth boils, then reduce heat to medium, stir, and let it continue to cook until the pasta is al dente. The noodles will absorb the liquid as they cook.
If you want to add more protein, toss in 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed. You can also top each bowl of pasta with a sprinkle of Monterey Jack cheese and chopped cilantro for more color and flavor.
One-pot pasta dishes like this are perfect for busy summer schedules - you can add a variety of vegetables, seasonings and proteins to create a number of combinations once you’ve mastered the basic method. And in many cases, these one pot-pasta dinners double as a delicious cold-pasta salad the next day.
Warm Quinoa Salad
This warm quinoa salad eats like a meal even though it’s called a salad. Start by sautéing 1 clove of minced garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil in a 2 quart saucepan. Then add 2 cups of tricolor quinoa and about 3 cups of cold water. Let the water come to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cover. While the quinoa is cooking, slice cherry tomatoes, green onions, spinach, kale or whatever veggies you have on hand. Check the quinoa for doneness after 15 minutes. Toss in the vegetables and add salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil before eating.
Protein-packed quinoa makes this a complete meal without any added meats, but you can add pre-cooked chicken or seafood to give this salad an extra boost.
Photo Credit: Chowhound
Along with the right recipes and ingredients, the right cookware is essential for easy summer cooking. Skillets and pans that heat evenly and prevent sticking make both cooking and cleanup easy as a summertime breeze.