The best, and cheapest, summer recipes don't require turning on the oven or stovetop but still result in delicious and refreshing dishes. Take advantage of freshly harvested vegetables and fruits and savor the colors, smells, and flavors they bring to the table. We've gathered tasty dishes from several sources and combined them into a full-meal menu, minus the cooking bits.
For the starter we found a black-bean-based salad recipe on ForTheLoveOfCooking.net that incorporates avocado, tomatoes, red onion, and cilantro. This dish earns top billing in terms of ingredients and maximum 10-minute preparation time. The recipe suggests proportions for a dish that serves six, but the basis of this salad can be easily expanded and used for a party of any size. A can of black beans, avocados, grape tomatoes, and red onion constitute the heartiest portion of the salad. Lime juice, garlic, and fresh cilantro kick up the summertime flavors, and oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper finish it off. For a spicier version try adding a finely-chopped jalapeno (be sure to scrape away the seeds first); for a sweet salad, fresh pineapple is the way to go.
Everyone knows you can't seek out a no-oven, cheap summer recipe without gazpacho rising to the surface. With more than 175 reviews and a five-star rating for this gazpacho recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, this is the one to try. Plus, it doesn't take much longer than 20 minutes to prepare (and certainly less to eat). The instructions suggest using a food processor, although a little extra time showing off your knife skills can serve as a replacement in a pinch. You'll be combining well chopped, or lightly processed, seeded cucumbers and bell peppers with plum tomatoes, red onion, and garlic. Add tomato juice as the base for the soup and perk it all up with some white wine vinegar, quality olive oil, salt and pepper.
There aren't many hearty meals that can be pulled together without cooking but when it's hot and sticky outside the last thing you want is to feel heavy or bloated afterwards. Often, an extra-large salad or cold soup can double as a main course, but another welcome alternative is a healthy sandwich. A stack of avocado, tomato, sprouts, and cheese on whole grain bread provides a good mix of fat and protein. If you're looking for something with more protein, lobster rolls are an option. Alternatively, crab rolls make for a slightly cheaper summer meal but are still finger-licking good. (Sure, it's a bit of a cheat to buy canned crabmeat, but we won't tell.)
Popsicles! A cheap summer dessert idea that really blossoms with a dash of creativity, love, and patience. A blender and popsicle molds are a necessity, and, of course, a freezer. Combine fresh or frozen fruits with milk or yogurt for a healthy and sweet dessert. Using ice cream as a base, or adding a little sugar to the mixture, is an excellent way to satisfy everyone's sweet tooth and still get a day's worth of fruit. One oddball recipe that caught our eye -- Strawberry Basil Yogurt Pops -- is just crazy enough to taste good.