It’s hard to think back to a season of braised meats and buttery roasted root vegetables when my immediate future is packed with beach trips and potluck picnics for a concert in the park.
Sure, days are longer, but my willingness to dedicate time to dinner preparation is drastically shorter in the summer months. The heat doesn’t help. And yet, there are little mouths that are apparently still expecting to be fed daily— and something tells me that a cold beer and a plate of crusty bread and sharp cheese isn’t going to cut it.
I’m sure some kids love gazpacho and tuna ceviche, but mine, regrettably, do not. Here are a few of my family-friendly, quick and easy back pocket summer dinners.
Open-face ricotta sandwich: We sing the praise for the simple crostini at my house, but sometimes even that is too much work. Skip the toasting and make a meal out of a single thick slice of whole grain country bread: spread generously with whole milk ricotta (or goat cheese), smashed sweat peas, pesto and diced prosciutto. Finish with salt and pepper and a drizzle of oil and vinegar. If the little ones have a firm stance against the color green, swap sweet peas for sliced peaches, tomatoes or roasted red peppers.
Seafood rolls: Kids (mine, anyway) think it’s funny to eat things in a hot dog bun that aren’t hot dogs. Buy a container of your favorite seafood salad and load it up on a buttery roll with a handful of chopped fresh herbs. Try Whole Foods, Mount Kisco Seafood, Port Chester Seafood or any other good quality fish market for a container to-go. Serve with sliced sweet peppers and a bean salad.
Chopped salad wraps: Sometimes it’s as simple as wrapping it up. My go-to, kid-friendly chopped salad combination has carrots, apples, diced rotisserie chicken, sharp cheddar, toasted sunflower seeds and raisins. Spread a sweet honey-mustard along the inside of a whole wheat wrap and load it up.
Shredded chicken sandwich: OK, this isn’t the most revolutionary dinner idea but it is the most realistic. Pick up a rotisserie chicken, shred and toss with your favorite homemade sauce (Caesar dressing, honey-barbecue, Buffalo, tahini vinaigrette, arugula pesto, etc.). Pile it onto a toasted roll and serve with a summery berry salad. What it lacks in creativity, it makes up for with crowd-pleasing consistency.
See also: 3 Summer Sauces to Spice Up Your Cooking.
White bean, peach, tomato and basil panzanella: Sweet, savory, filling and easy to pack for a picnic. This is one of those combinations that really nails the summer flavors, all in one dish. Toss cubed day-old bread with white beans (“muscle beans” in our house), roughly chopped peaches, tomatoes, basil and red onion with a simple vinaigrette from sherry vinegar, olive oil and honey.
Cold shrimp tacos: Set out corn tortillas, shrimp (buy frozen cooked, then thaw) and a buffet of fixings and let everyone assemble their own combination. Recommended toppings include sliced avocado, halved cherry tomatoes, corn salsa (try the one from Stew Leonard’s), lemony black bean dip, queso fresco and chopped fresh cilantro.