Keep cool in the kitchen with 5 easy recipes for "no cook" dinner

(WASHINGTON POST) - I used to have all the time in the world to make dinner. I was a freelance food writer and it was my job to obsess about what to cook, how to cook it and how to frame it for an Instagram post.

Then I did something crazy – I took a full-time job as editorial director at cookbook publisher Clarkson Potter. And now those languid days of dinner dreaming are gone.

Even though I cook all the time, I am now one of those single mums who think – on my commute home – about the fastest way to get dinner on the table for my two hungry boys.

Typically, I might turn to a baking sheet to roast, braise or bake my way to a one-pan dinner in one clean swoop as it is efficient, easy and the subject of my next book, Sheet Pan Suppers: Meatless. But the weather is steamy, so it is no-cook dinners for me now, which mean no stove top or grill. 

Not only will you stay cool and composed, but you also can have the whole meal on the table in 40 minutes, including a no-bake dessert.

Here is a menu's worth of dead-simple yet sophisticated recipes to see you through the hottest of days. 

Heirloom tomatoes, cannellini beans and snap peas - four servings


Crisp crunch and beautiful colours will pull your guests to the side of the plate where this salad sits. The salad, minus its basil and goat cheese, can be refrigerated a day in advance.

About 300g ripe heirloom tomatoes, hulled and cut into bite-size pieces
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt or 1 tsp kosher salt
170g snap peas, ends trimmed and pods thinly sliced on a bias
11/2 cups drained and rinsed canned white beans, such as cannellini
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled and thinly sliced crosswise (chiffonade), or more as needed
55g fresh goat cheese

1. Combine the tomatoes, oil and salt in a mixing bowl, stirring gently to incorporate. Add the snap peas, beans and most of the basil, then crumble the goat cheese over the top. Give the salad a gentle stir, sprinkle with the remaining basil and serve.

Nutrition per serving (using kosher salt): 210 calories, 9g protein, 19g carbohydrates, 11g fat, 3g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 380mg sodium, 6g dietary fibre, 4g sugar 

Avocado-crab rolls - four servings 


Avocado makes a creamy and pretty mayonnaise alternative in this 10-minute recipe, letting the taste of the crabmeat shine through. Although this is a no-cook recipe, a butter-toasted bun would not be heresy.

Flesh of 1 ripe Hass avocado 
2 Tbs fresh lemon or lime juice
2 tsp salt or 1 tsp kosher salt 
230g lump crabmeat, picked over to remove any cartilage or shell
2 Tbs thinly sliced chives or scallions 
4 hot dog buns or brioche buns, preferably split on top
Small green leaf lettuce leaves 
12 sprigs cilantro, for garnish

1. Combine the avocado, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and 4 teaspoons salt in a medium bowl. Use a fork to mash the mixture until it is semi-smooth, with some chunks.
2. Gently fold in the crabmeat, the chives or scallions and the remaining citrus juice and salt. 
3. Line the buns with lettuce leaves. Divide the avocado-crab mixture evenly among them. Top each portion with cilantro sprigs. Serve immediately.

Nutrition per serving: 240 calories, 16g protein, 29g carbohydrates, 9g fat, 2g saturated fat, 75mg cholesterol, 670mg sodium, 3g dietary fibre, 6g sugar


Cauliflower “couscous’ with herbs - four servings


A quick side dish gets even quicker when you can pick up the cauliflower already broken down to a couscous consistency – typically found these days in the refrigerated or frozen produce section. The dressing components go right into the salad.

2 medium head of cauliflower, separated into florets, or about 280g of frozen/defrosted cauliflower couscous 
1 medium red bell pepper, halved, seeded and finely chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeds scooped out and cucumber finely chopped 
3/4 cup fresh herbs, such as basil, cilantro, fennel fronds, mint, parsley or tarragon, or a combination 
3 scallions, white and light-green parts, finely chopped  
1 Tbs mirin  
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice, or more as needed 
1 tsp ground coriander 
1/2 tsp salt or 1 tsp kosher salt, or more as needed
3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds

1. Place the cauliflower florets in a food processor. Pulse for six or eight one-second pulses until they are fine-textured and look like couscous. Transfer to a mixing bowl. 
2. Add the bell pepper, cucumber, herbs, scallions, mirin, lemon juice, coriander and the salt, stirring to incorporate. Add the oil and stir until everything is well seasoned. Taste and adjust as needed. Stir in most of the sunflower seeds. Serve with the remaining sunflower seeds sprinkled over the top.

Nutrition per serving: 200 calories, 4g protein, 12g carbohydrates, 16g fat, 2g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 380mg sodium, 4g dietary fibre, 5g sugar


Lentils with hot-smoked salmon - four servings


Canned lentils are a convenience item that merits co-star attention here. Serve this spiky-savoury salad as a main dish or side. Hot-smoked salmon has a flakier, more “roasted” texture than cold-smoked, lox-style salmon, though in a pinch, the latter works just fine. Here, it can be flaked apart or chopped and then folded into the salad, or you can simply serve it alongside the lentils. 

One can lentils, about 430g, drained and rinsed
3 radishes, trimmed and cut into thin rounds  
1 Tbs capers, drained and coarsely chopped  
2 Tbs finely chopped fresh dill  
1 Tbs sherry vinegar  
1/4 tsp salt or 1/2 tsp kosher salt 
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
230g hot-smoked salmon, skin and pinbones discarded  

1. Combine the lentils, radishes, capers and dill in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with the vinegar, then season with the salt and pepper, stirring to incorporate. Add the oil and toss to coat. 
2. Cut the salmon into four equal portions or flake the salmon into the lentil salad and toss gently to incorporate, then divide among individual plates. 
Nutrition per serving (using kosher salt): 210 calories, 17g protein, 15g carbohydrates, 9g fat, 2g saturated fat, 15mg cholesterol, 770mg sodium, 8g dietary fibre, 2g sugar

No-bake coconutter fudge bars - 24 small squares


Chopped dried cherries enhance the chocolaty flavor and richness of this easy dessert or snack. The chocolate does need to be melted in the microwave, this is not truly a no-cook recipe. But making it will not heat up your kitchen and that is the goal. The assembled bars are easier to handle with at least 20 minutes of chill time. Store or pack them in a single layer; wrapped well (once they are firm), they can be frozen for up to 1 week.  

11/2 cups roasted, salted peanuts
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1/8 tsp salt or 1/4 tsp kosher salt
11/4 cups dried cherries
2 Tbs creamy peanut butter (optional)
230g semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup low-fat coconut milk
11/2 Tbs liquefied coconut oil
Flaked sea salt, for garnish (optional)

1. Combine the peanuts, cocoa powder and salt in a food processor. Pulse about 10 times (one-second pulses) until finely ground. Add the cherries and pulse about six times, until you can squeeze the mixture together without it breaking apart easily. If it seems loose, add the peanut butter and pulse to bind and incorporate.
2. Line a quarter baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the peanut mixture in the pan. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the peanut mixture and, using the bottom of a measuring cup, press it into a solid and even layer. Freeze until set, about 15 minutes.
3. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high in 20-second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is completely melted. This should take a total of about 11/2 minutes.
3. Whisk in the coconut milk and coconut oil until smooth, then pour the mixture over the frozen peanut-mixture base, spreading it in an even layer. Sprinkle with flaky salt, if using, and freeze for at least 20 minutes before cutting into 24 squares.

Nutrition per piece (using kosher salt): 140 calories, 4g protein, 13g carbohydrates, 9g fat, 4g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 40mg sodium, 1g dietary fibre, 9g sugar