I have a neighbor who only eats raw food. In fact, there’s an entire movement dedicated to eating foods in the raw state. (Take a look in the “Extras” section to the right.) Much of the nutritional value of your food is lost when it’s boiled, sautéed or roasted, so the benefits of this type of diet are obvious. However, much as I admire this dietary practice, it only seems to entice me in the heat of the summer.

Basil, garlic and tomato

Add a little pasta to your homegrown goodies, and you’ve got an amazing dinner!

Zucchini

Grate your zucchini into long, thin strips when making zucchini carpaccio.

Gazpachio

Turn down the heat and turn up the flavor with this delicious gazpacho.

Photo Credit: Nancy Watson

I’ve always felt that there’s something counterproductive to cooking inside in the summertime, especially when your air conditioner is sucking up electricity at a rate equivalent to that of a small city. That’s when I pull out my arsenal of no-cook (or very-little-cook) recipes – particularly those that make use of the things ripening in my vegetable garden.

These three recipes are my favorite summer meals when it’s so hot that I don’t even feel like firing up the grill. They make excellent use of my garden’s produce, and they’re very healthy – a wonderful combination. I hope you like them as much as I do!

My Favorite Summer Pasta

This meal is great with a hearty white wine and some crusty, fresh French bread (even better if it’s bread that’s been baked in someone else’s kitchen).

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. of spaghetti, fettuccini or linguini (Use what you prefer because it doesn’t affect the results.)
  • ½ cup of good-quality olive oil
  • 1 lb. wedge of brie cheese (rind removed and chunked into small pieces)
  • 1 cup of fresh basil leaves (torn into whatever size you prefer)
  • 2 cups of small-cubed, fresh, meaty tomatoes (Leave the skin on or remove it – it’s up to you.)
  • 2 cloves of garlic squeezed through a garlic press (or to taste)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Boil the pasta in plenty of salted water. In a large mixing bowl, add the olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and brie. When the spaghetti’s cooked al dente (to taste), drain, rinse quickly and add to the mixture to the bowl. Toss, then add the basil pieces. (Feeds four hungry people.)

Gazpacho

I use this recipe from Bon Appétit magazine as my base and have developed lots of variations – switching V-8 for the tomato juice or using a green tomatillo-based salsa. Every variation I’ve tried comes out really well, so feel free to invent your own combination!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of tomato juice
  • 2 cups of homemade (or purchased) fresh salsa
  • 1 large sweet or Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large cucumber, coarsely chopped (I grow the seedless kind, but any will do.)
  • ½ cup of chicken stock or broth
  • ⅓ cup of fresh cilantro, chopped (or parsley)
  • 3-4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped or pressed
  • 1 Tbsp. good-quality olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender in batches. Season to taste with hot sauce, salt and pepper. Refrigerate and serve with a dollop of fresh pesto. (Feeds six as a main course.)

Zucchini Carpaccio

You normally think of carpaccio as that great Italian dish made with beef. But when zucchini is used in its place, it becomes a delicious meal in its own right. You can serve this on a bed of arugula for a really filling and tasty main course.

Ingredients

  • 4 medium-sized, firm zucchinis
  • A big block of good-quality parmesan reggiano or romano cheese
  • 2 lemons, cut in half and seeded
  • Good-quality olive oil
  • 1 bag of washed arugula
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Wash the zucchinis and cut off the ends (about half an inch). Grate the zucchini through a mandolin or grater until you’ve produced long, thin ribbons from all four zucchinis. Spread the arugula on a large serving platter, then add a single layer of the zucchini ribbons. Sprinkle with olive oil and lemon juice, then salt and pepper. Repeat until you use up all of the zucchini. Grate the cheese in curls over the final layer of zucchini until it’s covered. Sprinkle with a little more lemon juice and olive oil and enjoy! (Feeds two as a main course or four as a first course.)