Food & Wine

Hot days, cool menu: A midsummer night's dinner - no sweat required

Photo Sarah Manning/Special To The Town Crier Hot summer days call for cooler fare, which means less time over a hot stove.

As I struggled to catch my breath after a hilly run in the sweltering Lake Tahoe sun recently, the first thought that came to mind was, “I’m starving.” It was nearing dinnertime, but the last thing I wanted to do was stand in front of a hot stove. What’s a hungry girl to do?

Summer’s heat takes its toll on many aspects of our lives, from clothing choices to weekend activities. We don shorts, breezy dresses and bathing suits in an effort to keep cool, often choosing to eat meals on the beach or poolside.

One of the season’s biggest challenges is cooking. Hot meals aren’t so haute when you’re already sweating, and it can be very tempting to visit an air-conditioned restaurant to have someone else cook for you.

My solution on that sultry evening in Tahoe was to create a menu that takes little time to make, can be served cold or at room temperature and doesn’t require an hour over the stove. I used the best and freshest ingredients I could find, allowing the summer flavors to shine through.

Excellent as a light lunch, these dishes also make great accompaniments to a protein of choice at dinnertime.

This Month’s Morsel: Let the weather be your guide. Juicy fruits, brightly colored vegetables, light dressings and plenty of finger foods embody summer’s casual and playful mood, with a hearty serving of nutrition alongside.


Corn and Blueberry Quinoa Salad


• 1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions (2 cups cooked)

• 1 cup fresh blueberries

• 1 cup fresh yellow corn

• 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

• 1/4 cup roasted red bell peppers, cut into strips


• 6 tablespoons olive oil

• 3 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar

• Handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

• Salt and pepper to taste


In large bowl, combine cooked quinoa with blueberries, corn, pine nuts and bell peppers.

In blender or food processor, puree dressing ingredients until well blended.

Toss salad with dressing and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Serves 4.

Tuscan White-Bean Caprese Wraps

with Lemon-Basil Cashew Cream

• 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews

• Juice of 1 lemon

• 1 bunch of fresh basil

• 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed well

• 4 roma or heirloom tomatoes, quartered lengthwise

• 4 whole-grain tortillas

• Salt and ground black pepper to taste


In large bowl, soak cashews in enough water to cover for 1-3 hours. Drain and rinse.

Transfer rinsed cashews to food processor and add lemon juice, handful of basil and ground black pepper. Pulse to create smooth paste the consistency of thick sauce. Add a bit of water to thin, if desired. Transfer to bowl and set aside until ready to assemble wraps.

In medium bowl or on cutting board, add generous amount of black pepper and salt to white beans and mash with fork.

To assemble wraps, spread a few spoonfuls of mashed beans onto center of each tortilla, followed by a few tomato pieces, some basil leaves and a drizzle of lemon-basil cashew cream. Alternatively, spread cashew cream atop mashed beans before adding tomatoes and basil.

Fold up, slice in half and serve with a bit more cashew cream for dipping.

Serves 4.


Minty Lemon-Lime Tea Coolers

• 8 cups brewed jasmine or white tea

• 3 tablespoons raw honey

• Handful of fresh mint

• 2 lemons

• 2 limes


Brew 8 cups light tea of choice, then transfer to pitcher. Add honey and mint, stirring so honey dissolves.

Add juice from 1 lemon and 1 lime to tea and stir.

Slice remaining lemon and lime and stir into tea. Refrigerate. Serve over ice and garnish with slices of lemon, lime and mint.

Serves 4.




Sarah Manning is a Los Altos High School graduate who blogs weekly about her culinary adventures. To read her food blog, visit

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