Cool Summer Recipes for Hot Days

Watermelon Gazpacho

Last week, we spent a few short days in NYC during that hot hot heat wave. We did a bunch of walking, a bunch of sweating, and whenever we’d sit down to a meal I’d find myself ordering anything on the menu that was cold and refreshing. I had a wonderful watermelon gazpacho at ABC Kitchen… some pretty salads, and more salads. I came back craving some cool favorites that I thought I’d share here. Click directly on the photos to go to each recipe!

First up – this Watermelon Gazpacho, blended with tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and a pop of red wine vinegar. This is probably the most refreshing recipe on the blog – be sure to put it on your list before summer is over!

Watermelon Gazpacho Corn, Cucumber, Peach & Avocado Salad

This Corn, Cucumber, Peach, and Avocado Salad is one of my all-time favorites. It has a great crunch from the grilled corn and a nice pop of sweetness from the peaches and the basil. A creamy chile-lime dressing takes it to the next level.

Watermelon Poke Bowls

When I think of foods that are hydrating, watermelon and cucumbers are at the top of the list. This faux Watermelon “Poke” Bowl was inspired by a bowl from Poke Poke, one of our favorite lunch spots in Austin. The watermelon is dressed with a tangy tamari-lime dressing, and topped with a sprinkle of furikake (a mix of nori, sesame seeds and sea salt). I know – this concoction sounds a little weird, but it really works 🙂

Watermelon St. Germain Cocktails

I’m obviously on a watermelon kick and I just love these St. Germain Watermelon Cocktails. They’re made of pureed watermelon (but you can also buy cold pressed watermelon juice), lemon juice, vodka, and St. Germain. A simple combo that’s so refreshing.

Tomato Basil Artichoke Picnic Sandwich

Before the summer is over, go on a picnic and bring these Tomato Basil Artichoke Picnic Sandwiches. They’re slathered with a delicious basil edamame spread and they travel well!

Peach & Plum Caprese Salad

A quick no-cook appetizer – this Peach & Plum Caprese Salad is a sweet spin on a classic.

Chocolate Avocado Almond Pudding Pops

For a sweet afternoon snack – these vegan creamy Chocolate Avocado Almond Pudding Pops are a healthier version than the pudding pops I used to eat as a kid. I promise the avocado taste is undetectable (and Jack agrees!)

Summer Squash Vegetable Pizza

When you have every summer vegetable under the sun – throw it on a pizza!

Cucumber Mango Miso Noodle Bowls

More summer means more cucumbers! These Cucumber Mango Miso Noodle Bowls are great for a light dinner and perfect for lunch the next day.

Raspberry Lemon Chia "Cheesecake"

Last but not least – a no-bake freezer dessert. This Raspberry Lemon Chia “Cheesecake” is a cool dairy-free treat!

Mix & Match Veggie Quesadillas

Mix & Match Veggie Quesadillas

We’ve been overloaded with decisions lately. “Where to live?” has been the question of the year, but I’m happy to say that we’re finally in the process of buying a new home (more on that later!). Now the decisions at hand are things like “which barstools match the new countertop? which sofas are free of VOC’s?” and “is a white sofa a really bad idea?”

Suffice it to say, when I got around to this recipe, I couldn’t make up my mind on just one option so… Mix & Match quesadillas it is! A no-brainer. Hallelujah.

Mix & Match Veggie Quesadillas

Here’s how they go:

First, the binders. Yes, you could just bind your quesadillas with melted cheese, but refried beans, mashed sweet potato, and mashed avocado are fun, healthy, vegan-friendly alternatives. Spread a thin layer onto your tortilla before adding the fillings (see the photos below).

Next, the veggie fillings! Fresh sweet corn, sauteed spinach, red onion, diced avocado, sliced serrano peppers, and sliced cherry tomatoes are all good seasonal choices.

Salsas by Gaby Dalkin of What's Gaby Cooking

Next, make your quesadilla really flavorful by adding a few dollops of salsa inside before you fold them up. My dear friend Gaby of the blog What’s Gaby Cooking just launched her own line of salsas – they’re SO delicious in these! Her Tomatillo Salsa is bright and tangy, and her Chipotle Tomato Salsa is rich and smoky. I haven’t tried her Guacamole Starter yet, but I pictured it here anyway because you can buy these 3 as a set at Williams Sonoma. So good, (way to go Gaby!)

Mix & Match Veggie Quesadillas

Fold your filled tortillas in half and grill on each side. Slice the finished quesadillas into wedges (as pictured at the top of this post). Serve hot with more salsa on the side 🙂

Mix & Match Veggie Quesadillas

Taco Bowls with Cucumber Jalapeño Ranch

Taco Bowls with Cucumber Jalapeño Ranch

I’ve had this one planned for awhile now. Every few months, I’d glance at my upcoming list of potential recipes and start salivating over the idea of this summer taco salad. I love summer, I love tacos, and I really really love salads, so here we go!

Instead of taco meat, I mix red quinoa and black beans with lime juice, chili powder, smoked paprika, and a touch of maple syrup – all of this helps create a bit of a smoky flavor. Quick tip: keep this quinoa mix on hand in the fridge to build lunchtime salad bowls throughout the week.

Taco Bowls with Cucumber Jalapeño Ranch

Now onto the “ranch” sauce – I used blanched, slivered almonds (unpeeled almonds work best and it’s not fun to peel almonds yourself), Almond Breeze Almondmilk, cucumber, lime juice, jalapeño, and spices. It makes the perfect cool, creamy ranch-like sauce.

Jack and I had a long argument about whether this tastes similar to “authentically” bottled ranch dressing. He said “it tastes more like tzaziki because of the cucumber” and I said “that’s the COOL part about cool ranch.” The argument came to an abrupt, unsatisfying end when Jack found a bottle of ranch dressing in the back of my parent’s fridge that expired last December that we both refused to try. I continued on, and once the taco bowls were assembled with this creamy vegan ranch-ish sauce, we were both very happy.

Taco Bowls with Cucumber Jalapeño Ranch Taco Bowls with Cucumber Jalapeño Ranch

This recipe has a few components – but all of them can be made in advance: the sauce, the quinoa – even the baked tortilla strips.

Taco Bowls with Cucumber Jalapeño Ranch

You can assemble your bowls however you like – I use chopped romaine lettuce, fresh raw corn kernels, chopped tomato, and tons of cilantro.

The sauce recipe makes extra – store it in the fridge and put it on more bowls, in tacos, or use it as a dip for raw vegetables.

Taco Bowls with Cucumber Jalapeño Ranch

Heirloom Tomato Bean-LT Sandwiches

Heirloom Tomato Bean-LT Sandwiches

I love a faux BLT, especially during this time of the year when the T’s are in top form. Admittedly, I was never a bacon lover so just putting veggie things between bread is fine with me. My favorite version of a BLT sandwich is the crispy Shiitake BLT that’s on page 171 in the cookbook (it’s the closest to the real deal!). I also love this smoky marinated tempeh as the “meat.”

But this time, as I was deciding whether or not to “bacon” some coconut, Jack had the idea to call this a Bean-LT. The B in this version is the Bean spread that I used here instead of mayo.

This white bean spread is thick and tangy. It’s made with pureed cannellini beans, lemon, capers, and garlic – all ingredients that go well with fresh tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, and grainy Seeduction bread. A few pinches of smoked paprika add a little smokiness to this otherwise very fresh sandwich.

A Festive Fruit Salad with Lemon & Ginger

A Festive Fruit Salad with Lemon & Ginger

My best 4th of July memories are all about watermelon and pool parties. When I was younger, we used to go to the community pool and they hosted this relay race game where you’d swim across the pool trying to push a slippery watermelon with you. It was harder than you think, especially when you’re a little kid. Afterward they’d cut up the watermelon for all the kids to eat. Between the splashy water and the watermelon juices, well, it was all a big fun slippery summery mess.

All of these thoughts of watermelon made me immediately think “fruit salad,” followed by the realization that I never even posted a fruit salad on this site! I have salads with fruit in them, but this one is a salad that’s really all about the fruit. It’s pepped up with a lemon-gingery dressing, fresh herbs, and a few soft mozzarella cheese balls.

You may notice that I got a little crafty and cut my melons into star shapes – I used a 2-inch cookie cutter and I promise it wasn’t as fussy as it might seem :). Of course, you could just use a melon baller to save some time (and fun).

Happy long weekend!