Welcome to Turn Off The Oven Week, featuring creative ways to beat the heat and stay far away from your stovetop.
When we think of cooking, we tend to think of the application of heat, because that’s literally what the act of cooking consists of. But in the dog days of summer with the sun bearing down on us, the last thing any of us want to do is start sweating above a pot on the stove while sweating onions. Luckily, there’s one appliance in your kitchen versatile enough to allow you to prepare an entire menu’s worth of delicious dishes without getting near your oven: your trusty blender.
If you’re looking to make interesting summer dishes that go beyond simple salads or sandwiches, a blender (or a food processor) is a handy alternative. It’s a suitably cheffy tool that transforms ingredients without having to change their state through heat—a boon to all you sun-scorched cooks looking for a way to cool down.
I submit that you can make use of your blender in just about every meal. Hell, you might even be able to use it as your only transformational cooking tool, no heat required. Here are some examples of blender-built creations with which you can cobble together a day-long itinerary of culinary delights.
This one’s easy: the breakfast smoothie is the staple of any self-respecting yoga mom and liquid-diet aficionado out there. Just throw a few handfuls of fruit and/or vegetables in the blender, add Medjool dates, ice, peanut butter, and whatever kind of milk you prefer, blitz it until smooth, and pour it in a glass. You’re now set to start your day.
Kyle Ryan’s Buncha Crap Green Smoothie gets you where you need to go without spending your entire grocery budget doing it. And unlike sad little cups of single-serve yogurt, a smoothie lets you feel like you’re really preparing your meal (if not “cooking” one), so you can get creative and make a completely different version than the one you had yesterday.
A salad or sandwich lets you assemble ingredients into a whole, but soup lets you transform them. But isn’t soup a hot meal? you may ask. Not gazpacho, I reply, pushing up my imaginary glasses that make me look like the pedantic blender enthusiast that I am.
The Takeout is no stranger to cold soups—hell, here’s a whole Cold Soup Week rabbit hole for you to fall into. But it doesn’t get much easier than the summery Spanish soup gazpacho, that intoxicating chilled blend (in the literal sense) of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and bread. If you want to venture outside the box, I recommend a watermelon gazpacho (like this one courtesy of Love and Lemons). It’s a fascinatingly sweet-and-sour burst of flavor, and if you’re working from home, it’s a great midday pick-me-up.
A dip is the way to go if you want to just blitz something together and slather it on a cracker. Blenders and food processors are a natural fit for this, quickly whipping chickpeas into hummus, tomatoes into restaurant-style salsa, basil into pesto, and white beans into, well, white bean dip.
What is the blended cocktail if not the breakfast smoothie of the afternoon? Daiquiris, margaritas, piña coladas—the sky’s the limit for cool, refreshing batch drinks just sweet enough to satisfy on a hot summer day.
Kate Bernot has a ranking of the best frozen cocktails you can throw together with nothing but ice, booze, a blender, and a dream. But for my money, you can’t go wrong with a classic margarita or, my personal favorite, the minty grasshopper.
Dinner is where it gets tricky. It’s hard to bring something substantial and filling to the table without heating anything up. (Plus, if you don’t go heavy for your main meal, that pitcher of margs you just whipped up is going to hit in an hour or so.)
It’s here you might have to cheat a bit; make a hearty salad (with precooked ingredients if you want to throw in meat or grains), and whip up a thick, creamy salad dressing in the blender. Green goddess dressing, that herby, verdant, yogurt-based sauce, is good for this. Or you make a cold Thai noodle dish with a Thai peanut ginger carrot dressing like this one.
Desserts, on the other hand, are where you have more flexibility for cold dishes. For instance, you could be an absolute madman and try to follow this WikiHow article on how to make ice cream using just your blender, though absent an ice cream maker’s ability to churn and aerate the dairy mixture, you won’t get the full-fledged ice cream texture you might be looking for.
Alternatively, you can stick to using your blender to transform components in an otherwise uncooked dish, like easy whipped cream for a fruit parfait, or turn your favorite fruit smoothie ingredients into a sorbet instead. No-bake desserts are another bountiful category, like these mini key lime pies: just blitz the filling and crust separately, assemble and chill, and you’re ready to go.
Voila! You’ve got a whole menu of summer meal ideas, all of which you can make without having to sweat your ass off. If your AC’s busted and you can’t justify yet another ham and cheese sandwich straight from the fridge, your trusty blender has you covered. (Just invest in some earplugs.)