This Kitchen Appliance Is The Secret To Super-Fast, Healthy Summer Meals

Contributing Food Editor By Liz Moody
Contributing Food Editor
Liz Moody is a food editor, recipe developer and green smoothie enthusiast. She received her creative writing and psychology degree from The University of California, Berkeley. Moody is the author of two cookbooks: Healthier Together and Glow Pops and the host of the Healthier Together podcast.
This Kitchen Appliance Is The Secret To Super-Fast, Healthy Summer Meals
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We've all been there—you browse through three or four cookbooks, then pick a recipe that sounds perfect for your summer dinner party, only to find out it requires you to turn the oven on for over an hour. I've even gone ahead and made the thing, a choice I always regret when I'm dripping in sweat as my air conditioner fruitlessly tries to pump out enough cold air to compensate, and my husband glares at me from the (hot, sticky) couch.

I first turned to my Instant Pot to solve the problem. It gets most of the way there: Unlike the oven, the Instant Pot is vacuum-sealed, which serves the dual function of allowing it to pressure cook and trapping in any wayward heat. And while I love my Instant Pot and most slow cookers, they specialize in making things tender, reduced almost to the point of mush. I made legumes and beans for tacos, and gussied up stews with tons of fresh herbs, but the hearty, warming texture was decidedly more winter-comforting than summer-enlivening. That's when I turned to my air fryer.

Air fryers work by circulating super-hot air all around whatever you're cooking, including the bottom, resulting in super-crispy, food. While I don't think the results necessarily taste fried, I do think they perfectly mimic a super-high-quality oven—and, like the Instant Pot, the device is completely sealed, meaning there's no heat transfer to the greater environment. Because the air circulates around the food entirely, it also cooks everything way faster—think seven to eight minutes for crispy, golden brown vegetables instead of an entire hour.

At first, I experimented blindly, tossing whatever came from my farmers market haul into the air fryer's basket. I made zucchini chips with baharat seasoning, using a bit of avocado oil spray. I made crispy mushrooms to top some olive-oil-tossed pasta. Even cherry tomatoes fared well, becoming punchy, bright, and umami-packed in just 15 minutes. I tossed the result into a salad that my husband called one of the best he'd ever had (a feeling that came, I'm sure, in no small part due to the delightfully cool temperature of the house as he ate it).

Wanting to take my air frying to the next level, I began perusing a few of the top air-frying cookbooks. The "I Love My Air Fryer" Keto Diet Recipe Book is filled with 175 keto-friendly air fryer recipes and taught me how to make a shockingly delicious flatbread and frittata. Karen Lee, a doctor of chiropractic and acupuncture, released Paleo Cooking With Your Air Fryer, where I learned to make beef empanadas that rivaled the ones I had in Argentina. My favorite of the bunch was from New York Times bestselling author Gina Homolka, which makes sense since she also created the air fryer I own at home, a PFOA-free version that has a touch-screen with ample presets that were especially useful in my early air-frying days.

The Skinnytaste Air Fryer Cookbook has 75 healthy air fryer recipes and is filled with the type of vegetable-forward fair that I love. Crispy chickpeas are usually a winter staple: Made in the oven, they take upward of an hour. With Homolka's recipe, I have a super-crispy za'atar-tossed version in 12 minutes—it's become a winning dish that I take to any picnic or outdoor activity. I also love the tomatillo salsa verde recipe, which allows me to make my own salsa (a definitive summer staple, great for topping grilled fish and dipping chips in alike) in about 15 minutes, without turning on my oven's broiler.

I use my air fryer almost every day now, whether I'm quick-cooking a veggie to add depth and interest to a salad, making taco filling, or stocking up on chickpeas to bring to a beach volleyball game. My food has never tasted better, but best of all, my house has stayed blissfully cool throughout it all.

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