Vacation Must-Cooks – The New York Times

I got an email from a reader named Julia that read, “Dear Emily, I am going away on vacation next week and I have a fantasy that my relaxation will include not being asked ‘What are we doing for dinner?’ every night. So I have a fantasy that I will meal-plan the week.” Julia, I feel you. I too don’t want to shop, cook and, most crucially, think about shopping and cooking during my vacation.

I am a New Yorker who lives in a fourth-floor apartment. To me, food cooked on a grill is summer exotica; that same meal eaten outdoors constitutes true bliss. That’s vacation food, along with clams if you can get them, and fresh tomatoes and corn. But the vibe is more important than the ingredients: Post-beach (or post-lake, or post-pool) meals should be the laziest of endeavors, done barefoot and loose, maybe still in your bathing suit and over by dusk.

The recipes this week are all good for vacation cooking one way or another: heavy on the grill and light on other equipment; minimal chopping; easy to scale up or make ahead. And it’s not dinner, but one last thought: One of my colleagues, the esteemed reporter Kate Zernike, pointed out that the crisp is the perfect rental-house dessert. So true. It’s easy, you can use any fruit, and there are always a few relevant spices kicking around.

Ideas? Feedback? I’m, and I read every email you send to me.

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Here are five dishes for the week:

1. Lemon and Thyme Grilled Chicken Breasts

Somehow it doesn’t feel like work if you’re cooking outdoors. Maybe it’s because grill duty is mostly about holding a drink in one hand and tongs in the other as you zone out and appreciate the view, or the fresh air. One strong move is to make your entire meal on the grill, and to that end I’d throw on a few ears of corn with this crowd-pleasing chicken, and some sliced zucchini. (Everything you need to know about grilling vegetables is in this guide, and we have six truly delicious ideas for that corn over here.)

View this recipe.


2. Caprese Antipasto

The slice-and-serve dinner is another must. This recipe is known in my home as the Super Caprese, and in tomato season we eat some jumbo version of it for dinner almost once a week, skipping the roasted red peppers, swapping in salami for prosciutto or omitting the meat altogether, slipping in some sliced nectarines or peaches. The only nonnegotiable is bread, and lots of it. If someone you love doesn’t think this is dinner, just explain that it’s a cool, deconstructed pizza and that nothing is better in the month of August. Burrata would make it truly obscene.

3. Skirt Steak With Salsa Verde Salad

Another dish for the grill, and an efficient one: The salsa verde is both the steak marinade and the salad dressing. You can forget the salad if you like, and use the dressing on grilled zucchini or other vegetables, or sliced fresh tomatoes. I’d also put corn on the grill (again) to make this a full meal. Feel free to skip the pine nuts for the salad; they’re nice to have, but we’re avoiding extra pans this week, remember?

View this recipe.


4. Spicy Clams With Garlicky Toasts

I have a no-clam policy for this newsletter — not for a lack of love for clams (which are recommended in our guide to food and climate change), but because I want to avoid ingredients that are best used the day you buy them, on the assumption that your Tuesdays don’t typically include a stop at the fish market. But we are on vacation, people! You can omit the hot peppers so the dish isn’t spicy, skip some herbs and double up on others, and serve over pasta if you like. Or, to keep cooking to a minimum, just serve with toast as the recipe suggests. If you aren’t near fresh clams (or even if you are, I’m not here to judge), you can used good canned clams and make pantry pasta with clam sauce.

View this recipe.


5. Chickpea Salad With Fresh Herbs and Scallions

It’s a good idea to make an enormous salad you can stick in the fridge and eat for lunch and dinner over several days. The chickpeas here make this more filling than potato salad, and it would be so good as a vegetarian dinner with bread and other salady things, store-bought or homemade, or as a side to grilled sausage — one of the best vacation house grillables because it comes already seasoned and it’s impossible to mess up. Pasta salad is, of course, another solid move; this one is great, and mayo-free.

View this recipe.


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