Dog Days of Summer are officially here. There’s no worse time to cook or eat a big, hot meal than during Dog Days.
Still, you get hungry and need a little something light to fill the space in your belly.
One alternative is the Ploughman’s Lunch, a British combination of cool foods, usually including a hard-boiled egg, ham and apple slice, and always including bread, cheese and beer. You can make it your own by adding or omitting anything you want.
Often, the Ploughman’s Lunch will include English pickles, which aren’t really pickles as much as a relish.
Here is a recipe straight from England for English pickles.
SMALL BATCH ENGLISH PICKLE
½ cup chopped carrots
½ cup chopped onions
¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup peeled and chopped apples
½ cup raisins
¼ cup dried cranberries
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for one hour on low, partially covered.
Blend the mixture slightly with an immersion blender or in a food processor if you prefer a smoother texture.
Allow the mixture to cool. Spoon into a covered container and refrigerate.
Serve this spread on sandwiches, bread, toast and crackers.
To freeze: store the pickle in a covered container in the freezer, for up to a month.
If the English pickle doesn’t sound good, you can create whatever kind of Ploughman’s lunch you want (or make it a Ploughman’s dinner). Use salsa, guacamole, chutney or another kind of dip or spread. Use any kind of cheese you like — even ricotta or cottage. It won’t be a traditionally British meal, but we’re not in England!
Certainly this is not the only option for a cold summer dinner. The following recipes are from Martha Stewart Living.
1 cup small pieces white bread (torn from day-old rustic bread, crust removed)
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ English cucumber, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces, plus 8 very thin rounds for garnish
1½ cups coarsely chopped (about 1½ peppers) jarred roasted red bell peppers
2 pounds beefsteak tomatoes, cut into quarters
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
Stir together bread, garlic, vinegar, and 3/4 cup cold water in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Process cucumber, roasted peppers, and bread mixture in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. Puree half of the tomatoes in the blender, and transfer to the bowl with cucumber mixture. Puree remaining tomatoes, slowly adding oil while blender is running. Transfer to the bowl; whisk to combine. Stir in salt; season with pepper. Refrigerate, covered, until chilled, about 30 minutes. Divide gazpacho among 4 bowls. Garnish each with 2 cucumber rounds.
CHILLED AVOCADO SOUP
3 ripe avocados
2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/3 cup walnut halves
1/3 cup fresh dill sprigs, plus more for garnish (optional)
1/3 cup diced red onion, or half a small onion
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Halve and pit two avocados. With a spoon, scoop out flesh and transfer to a blender. Add buttermilk, walnuts, dill, red onion, vinegar, salt, and 1 cup water and puree until smooth.
Cover the blender and refrigerate until the soup is well chilled, at least one hour. Halve and pit remaining avocado. Cut into four sections lengthwise, and then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch chunks. Divide soup among four bowls and garnish each with diced avocado and dill, if desired.
ASIAN ROTISSERIE CHICKEN SALAD
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves and soft stems
¼ cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)
¼ cup vegetable oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 rotisserie chicken (about 2 ½ pounds), skin and bones removed, meat shredded (about 4 cups)
¼ medium red cabbage (8 ounces), cored and thinly sliced crosswise
1 red bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 large head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
½ cup cashews
Make dressing: In a blender, combine cilantro, lime juice, and oil; season with salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.
In a large bowl, combine chicken, cabbage, bell pepper, and scallions; season with salt and pepper. In another large bowl, toss lettuce with ½ cup dressing. Divide among four bowls, and top with chicken mixture. Drizzle all with remaining dressing, and sprinkle with cashews.
TUNA NICOISE SANDWICHES
½ white onion, thinly sliced
½ red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup plus 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 jars (7 ounces each) best-quality tuna packed in olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges, for serving
4 small ciabatta rolls, split horizontally
2 heads Bibb lettuce, leaves separated
½ cup nicoise olives, pitted
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and thinly sliced
Put onions, ¼ cup oil, vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; season with pepper. Toss to combine. Let stand 10 minutes.
Add tuna and its oil to onion mixture. Add lemon juice and ¼ teaspoon salt; season with pepper. Gently toss to combine.
Cover bottom halves of rolls with lettuce. Top with olives, eggs, and tuna mixture, dividing evenly. Drizzle each with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Cover with top halves of rolls. Serve with lemon.
PRESSED SALAMI SANDWICHES
2 round or oval loaves country bread (1 pound each), split and hollowed
1 jar (12 ounces) oil-packed roasted red peppers
12 ounces salami, thinly sliced
12 ounces provolone cheese, thinly sliced
2 bunches arugula, (about 6 ounces each), washed well and thick stems removed (about 10 cups)
Brush cut sides of halved bread loaves with oil from jar of roasted peppers. Dividing evenly, layer bottom bread halves with roasted peppers, salami, cheese, and arugula; top with remaining bread halves.
Wrap each sandwich tightly with plastic, and press: Lay wrapped sandwiches on a baking sheet. Position another baking sheet on top, and weight with heavy canned goods or a large skillet. Let stand for one hour, pressing down occasionally with hands.
Refrigerate wrapped sandwiches until ready to serve, up to 1 day. To serve, cut into wedges.