In the sweltering summer heat, the idea of walking into the kitchen and turning on the stove, let alone the oven, to cook a meal seems intolerable. Thankfully, not every ingredient needs heat. To give you (and your kitchen) a break, here are three pantry staples you can prepare simply by soaking them—no cooking necessary.
Soaking oats overnight softens them and allows them to absorb a lot of extra flavor, all without heat. The base is very simple and the rest is up to you. Start by mixing equal parts by volume of rolled oats and liquid (water, skim milk, nut milk, yogurt, coffee or a combination of these) in a bowl. Then, stir in as much sweetener (honey, maple syrup, agave) as you like, along with any toppings you want to add (fruit, nuts, seeds, spices). Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight. Test out these overnight oats with honey, almonds and strawberries for a quick and easy breakfast, or spend a few extra minutes prepping this extra-healthy muesli that combines oats with grated apples, flax seeds, goji berries and mint.
A form of whole wheat that is sold parboiled and dried, bulgur is sturdy enough to withstand soaking for 24 hours. It's easy. In a large bowl, cover the bulgur with at least 3 inches of water, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight. Drain the bulgur through a fine sieve, pressing out any excess water. Use it in traditional tabbouleh or dress up the bulgur with crisp green beans and toasted almonds.
Couscous doesn’t normally take long to cook, but soaking can achieve the same outcome. While it takes a little thought to prepare ahead of time, it will make putting a meal together much quicker if you do. Mix the couscous in a bowl with at least 3 times the amount of water (chicken or vegetable stock work, too). Allow the covered bowl to sit in your refrigerator until the the couscous has softened, about 4 hours. Drain the couscous through a fine sieve, pressing out any excess liquid. Toss it with fresh chopped vegetables and a citrus vinaigrette to make this summery couscous salad.