Golden Beet and Cucumber Salad with Toasted Spices, Hummus and Pita

Summer’s a good time for a ‘mezze meal.’ With so many vegetables in season, you can easily pull together a colorful assortment of stuff to dip and mix from a plate with pita. This isn’t a very elaborate version of what that could be—try a colorful assortment of lots of salads and sides for a casual dinner party—but it hits the spot, and fills you up in all the right ways, making you feel both healthy and satisfied.

Cold Noodles with Spicy Eggplant and Cucumber Salad

This recipe is really 3, 4, or 7 different recipes bundled into one package: 1. You could make just the spicy cucumber salad. 2. You could make just a spicy eggplant salad.

Spicy Sichuan Cucumber Salad with Persian Cucumbers

This cold appetizer is an extreme balance of yin and yang: cold, crisp cucumbers (yin) marinated with garlic and numbing-hot spices (yang). It’s kind of like Manhattan in the summer, when temperatures outside reach a stuffy ninety degrees but indoors, air conditioners chill you to the bone (or, if you’re in Brooklyn, someone unscrews a fire hydrant that splashes every passer-by).

Tofu Salad with Cucumbers, Scallions & Nori

This would be filed under “stuff I eat when no one’s looking,” except I’m now sharing it. I eat a great deal of tofu as a pure comfort food — that and noodle soup. When it’s cold out, I’ll pick up a cheap pack of organic tofu and chop it up to sautee with a spicy, garlicky sauce. When it’s hot, there’s no greater coolant than a salad of just fresh tofu, and maybe a few cucumbers about.