This past Fourth of July, I made the mistake of baking a from-scratch pie. Yes, pies and America’s great cookout of a birthday party have shared a longtime liaison. (And, yes, it was delicious.) But when the air is so heavy that even a feeble waft from a quick flip of a magazine page offers relief, it’s too hot to twist any oven dial—let alone bake a pie. If you’re like me, kitchen production almost comes to a screeching halt during these slow-moving dog days. Who wants to cook when it’s hot?
Although we can’t do anything about the heat outside, we can help you turn down the dial in the kitchen. We’ve gathered some of our coolest recipes to get you through the sweltering blasts of August. From summer sippers (both naughty and nice) to salads, and from icy soups to frozen desserts, none of these cold-kitchen recipes require any heat. Pacific Oysters with Asian Vinaigrette will evoke memories of a salty, ocean breeze, if only for a moment. A lovely Pear, Basil and Pecorino Salad will cool you from the inside-out.
LC recipe testers chime in with their own temperature-reducing remedies as well. Longtime tester Cindi Kruth turns to yogurt pops when things get humid. Her recipe:
Mash ripe berries, bananas, or stonefruit with some sugar, and stir the mixture into plain, unsweetened yogurt. Freeze in plastic molds with popsicle sticks, and serve when frozen.
For a meal, tester Brenda Carlton offers up The Ubiquitous Watermelon, Mint, Feta and Balsamic Salad: Just toss all ingredients in a bowl and serve.
It may be too hot to stand staring down the stove, but it’s the perfect weather for cold-kitchen comforts. So if you can, peel yourself off of that couch and shuffle over to the fridge. You’ve got some non-cooking cooking to do.
Oh, why the Cold Kitchen 100? We were determined to offer 100 cooling recipes, but came up 28 short. So that’s where you come in. What are some of your no-heat recipes for the summer swelter? Let us know below and help us get to the big 100 mark.—Cynthia Furey
Naughty and nice.
(If you don’t have simple syrup on hand, just stir in the same amount of sugar until dissolved.)
A knife and blender is about all you need.
(Keep it no-cook by omitting the ratatouille.)
STARTERS OF ALL SORTS
Dips and spreads and tapas, oh my!
Miso with Japanese Crudites
Place some yellow miso in a small bowl. Add a splash of rice vinegar, some hot pepper flakes, and a ton of ground sesame seeds. Add cold water, whisking constantly, until the mixture has the consistency of a creamy dip. Serve with veggie sticks—carrots, daikon, snow peas, sugar snaps, celery, green beans, fennel, kohlrabi, and whatever else you find in season at the greenmarket.—Chiyo Ueyama
CHEESE, CHEESE, CHEESE
No one ever said a cheese course can’t constitute supper.
We’re not just talking leafy greens here.
Red Pepper, Pomegranate Molasses, and Walnut Dip
(Hey, just buy some jarred roasted bell peppers rather than roasting them yourself.)
Cannellini Bean Salad
(Simply stir raw chopped tomatoes in with the beans in place of the roasted tomatoes.)
(Forget sautéing the bread and simply use day-old bread drizzled with olive oil instead.)
Marinated Raw Fennel Salad with Radishes, Carrot, and Spring Greens
(You can conveniently forget to toast the cumin seeds, we won’t tell—and neither will you.)
Sliced Tomatoes and Sweet Onion
Slice a Creole tomato (or any kind that you have growing in the back garden) and toss with very thinly sliced sweet onion and your favorite balsamic and olive oil. You can add sliced olives and chunks of any kind of sured sausage you might happen to have on hand as well as sliced mozzarella or feta. Basil is also nice. Actually, this is a blank canvas just waiting for your favorite “toss-ins.”—Karen Depp
The Ubiquitous Watermelon, Mint, Feta, Balsamic Salad
Chop chilled watermelon and feta into chunks and toss with mint, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.—Brenda Carlton
Tomatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks
Raw sweet corn, sliced off the cob
Bocconcini (little fresh mozzarella balls)
Basil, cut into chiffonade
Vinegar, whatever kind sounds good
Coarse sea salt
Stir all of the ingredients together right before you’re going to serve, because you don’t want to refrigerate the tomatoes and the basil doesn’t improve after being cut. It might not be the most original but I’ve been making it for a long time and never had a real recipe.—Debbie White
SIDES & MISCELLANY
Sometimes a sleeper of a side can surprise you and turn into supper.
Cucumber and Black Bean Salad
Toss together canned, drained black beans, diced cucumbers, chopped and seeded tomatoes, lime juice, hot sauce, and cilantro.—Chiyo Ueyama
Simple Italian Kale
Just wash and dry a bunch of Lacinto or Nero di Tosca kale and then thinly shred or slice the leaves crosswise into ribbons, as if for slaw. ?Toss the kale with a vinaigrette made from a not-too-pungent olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and lemon zest to taste.?Refrigerate for at least an hour or two, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.— Marilyn Canna
SOMETHING A LITTLE MORE SUBSTANTIAL
Some of these require a little creativity to get into the no-cook category, but we’ve got a few slips and tips to keep you cool.
Pea Shoot Salad
(It’s easy enough to rely on leftover grilled or rotisserie chicken.)
Radishes with Butter Dressing
(Let the butter turn into a puddle at room temperature.)
Cold Chicken Chutney Salad
(Ditto. Leftover grilled or rotisserie chicken stands in nicely here.)
Grilled Thai Beef Salad
(Cold leftover steak, thinly sliced, is quite lovely atop this salad.)
(Forget the croutons and you can keep it cooking-free. And if you have leftover chicken or shrimp or salmon, well then, there you go.)
This is a classic no-cook tofu dish for the loooong, hot summer in Japan. Place a block of silken tofu (you can cut it in four or six pieces if you’d like) on a plate. Scatter lots of grated ginger and chopped scallion over the top and drizzle with really good, full-sodium soy sauce.—Chiyo Ueyama
Scrounging for Supper
These days when it hits 90 plus, I’m not very innovative. It’s mostly salads with greens from the garden or farmers market and whatever leftover protein scraps are in the refrigerator. A freshly made vinaigrette with herbs from the garden can change the whole nature of whatever meat or cheese or bean dish we had two nights before.—Cindi Kruth
A LITTLE SOMETHING SWEET
Sure, you could simply grab a piece of fruit. But c’mon, how surprising is that?
Girl Scout Cookies
Preferably from a stash in the freezer
Fresh figs, quartered and splayed, with a dollop of mascarpone or ricotta, a drizzle of honey, and pistachios or walnuts.
Pour Guinness as usual. Top with scoops of vanilla ice cream.
Take the ripest fruit on the counter—cherries, berries, bananas, peaches—and mash with a little sugar. Then stir into plain unsweetened yogurt. Freeze the pops in plastic molds using popsicle sticks from the craft store. Serve with some carrot sticks and sliced bell peppers to the little ones for dinner.—Cindi Kruth
Combine 6 cups grapes, 3/4 cup superfine sugar, and 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice in a blender and purée. Strain and refrigerate. Freeze in ice cream maker.—Brenda Carlton
Ice Cream Sandwiches
Nothing beats great store-bought ice cream. Grab some Leibniz Butter Biscuits and assorted ice cream flavors. Guests are happy because they can create what they want, and you’re happy because there are no cake plates or little dessert forks to wash.—Chiyo Ueyama