Summer is in full swing, and it is simply hot. Even if you live someplace where the temperatures are a bit milder, summer calls for a new menu.
Stews and soups and roasts are great for the fall. But for now, you want something light that doesn’t involve turning on the oven.
In that spirit, here are 11 ideas for reasonably priced meals that require no — or very little — use of the stove:
1. Mediterranean feast
Why not take tips from folks who’ve been dealing with hot, humid weather for centuries?
Get a loaf of good, crusty bread, a cheese or two, some hummus (a great protein source) or other dip, a summer sausage (or salami, or the like), olives, and maybe a sliced apple or bunch of grapes.
Wash it down with a chilled bottle of rosé as you sit outside with friends and family.
Maybe you think of it as more of a lunch meal, but a good sandwich can work for dinner as well. It’s pretty easy to slap most of the food groups between two slices of bread and have a balanced, filling and not-hot meal.
And if you don’t mind a little use of the stove, you can always pan-fry your concoction so the bread gets toasted and the cheese gets melty.
Gazpacho is a Spanish-style cold tomato soup that tastes best in summer when the tomatoes are fresh. It may have you thinking of liquefied salsa, but a good gazpacho is so much more than that.
There are countless recipes out there, each with a slightly different take. It’s easy to find one that suits your tastes in regard to spiciness or other flavors.
Beyond gazpacho, there are dozens of recipes for cold soups that take advantage of the season, such as cucumber or zucchini, or others using a fruit base like watermelon. Pair it with a sandwich, salad or just some bread and butter, depending on how hungry you are.
The idea of salads is so wide-ranging that it’s almost meaningless. But this time we’re talking about something out of which you can make a meal, not just a side dish.
Start with some greens — many supermarkets carry bagged salads with a wide variety of different leafy veggies. Add a protein source, like a piece of grilled chicken or fish, cold tofu, or even a can of tuna if you want to be really quick.
Throw on some nuts for a bit of a crunch, and/or anything else your heart desires — onion and tomato are classic, but what about some fresh berries or ripe mango?
5. Asian noodles
There’s a little bit of a cheat in this, because we’re going to use the stove. Cook some noodles in the morning, while it’s still cool outside. We don’t mean a dried up pack of ramen — get some good quality soba noodles at the Asian market. If you don’t have one, use some spaghetti or fettuccine; the texture will be off, but it will still work.
Strain as usual, then throw on a bit of sesame oil so they don’t clump. Toss with the oil, and put them in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat, add whatever you like, maybe some garlic, green onion, ginger and a dash of soy sauce. A bit of peanut butter also can be interesting.
Throw in a little red pepper if you’re feeling feisty. Top with some tofu — the tofu doesn’t need to be cooked — for protein, and you’re good to go.
6. Steak tartare
Raw beef may be an acquired taste. And, yes, there’s a chance of bacteria. But if you’re willing to set that aside, finely chop a good quality piece of beef, add in a raw egg — yes, more risk of bacteria — and some spices, and let it sit chilled for a little while.
Serve with bread, and maybe some sliced onion if you like. Prepared well, it can be delicious.
In the same vein as tartare is ceviche, fresh seafood tossed in a citrus sauce. The acid from the citrus changes the nature of the fish and makes it seem cooked. But it’s not actually cooked — and again, there is a risk of bacteria.
Still, the flavor is great for seafood lovers who don’t want to bother with the grill, or who want to use a fish that won’t hold up well on the grill.
We can add sushi into this category, as it’s another sort of fish that doesn’t require cooking. Sure, you need rice, but a rice cooker doesn’t generate too much heat.
8. Tuna salad
OK, so it’s not too exciting — but it could be. Use the time you would have spent slaving over the stove to poke around on your favorite recipe site, and you can probably find an interesting variation you haven’t tried before.
If not, go with the one you like — it’s classic for a reason.
Yes, you probably already thought of this one, but it just has to be on the list. Grill up a little meat, a little corn, and maybe some other veggies on skewers. Pop open a cold beer or pour a glass of lemonade to wash it down. It doesn’t get more summertime than that.
10. Fresh fruits and berries
You’ve enjoyed the meal, but you want a little something sweet to finish it off. Ice cream is the obvious choice for hot weather, but eating it every day will have consequences when you try to fit back into your winter clothes.
Instead, get something a bit healthier and find some fresh berries or stone fruits like peaches and plums — few things are sweeter than fruit you get from the farmers market that was probably picked the day before.
Depending on the month and part of the country, different fruits will be available, but there’s usually some overlap to allow you to mix flavors. They’re great by themselves, but you can top them with a little whipped cream for a treat.
11. Food trucks
This one’s a bit of a cheat, because there’s still cooking going on. But at least you’ve just outsourced it to the folks in your favorite local food truck.
Most food trucks have fairly reasonable prices. For those of you who don’t have local trucks, we can maybe add in the biggest cheat — get a pizza, or really anything, delivered.
What’s your go-to, too-hot-for-cooking recipe? Share with us on our Facebook page!
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