I spent the winter complaining about the cold and the snow (Since when do I live in Minnesota?). I spent the "spring" (using that term very loosely) complaining about the rain (Did I move to Seattle in my sleep?). And now that it's almost summer I'm already complaining about the heat. Today it hit 87. Tomorrow's forecast calls for 97. In early June. In NYC (Wait, this isn't Southern Florida, it's New York).
When it's this hot the last thing I want to do is cook. I have a powerful stove that generates a lot of heat. Turning the oven on isn't even a remote possibility. Boiling water is about as far as I'll go and that's being generous. But I have a family to feed and I'm trying to eat healthier so constantly ordering in isn't really a long-term option either. So I'm going to let you in on my little secret: instead of cooking I assemble.
And now you can too.
Top 5 Simple (almost) No-Cook Meals to Beat the Heat
1. Fruit salad, yogurt, granola
Yes this can be dinner. You can be extra lazy and buy the already cut-up fruit at the grocery store. Top it with some good high protein yogurt (I tend to favor the Greek kinds - Chobani and Fage) and some crunchy granola and you have an easy, cool, refreshing, filling dinner that is also kid-friendly.
2. Chilled Soups
Cold soups are the perfect antidote to hot, humid, hazy weather. I love gazpacho, chilled yogurt cucumber soup, cold vegetable purees.... I confess I tend to buy these already made at Fairway or Trader Joe's. Once tomato season rolls around I'm more apt to make my own gazpacho. It just involves a lot of cutting and a swirl in the blender. Tonight we had store-bought gazpacho topped with some shrimp I boiled in well-salted water and a dice of fresh avocado. One pot, one cutting board and voila dinner was done.
Salads can be surprisingly filling and satisfying. You just have to go to a little effort to make them interesting. Load up on crisp greens and top with a variety of ingredients. I tend to go for a lot of different textures and flavors in my salads. For something creamy try avocado, a soft cheese or perhaps a buttermilk-based dressing (see my Ranch dressing recipe here). For added crunch vegetables such as green beans, radishes, peppers, celery and cucumbers are great. Nuts, seeds and croutons also add a nice texture. Sweetness can balance out the plate - try dried fruits like cherries, apricots or cranberries or even fresh fruits - watermelon, peaches and berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries) are great salad additions. If you feel you're lacking protein add in beans, lentils, eggs, chicken, fish, steak, etc.
4. Brinner (aka Breakfast for Dinner)
It doesn't take too much heat to cook up some eggs or even pancakes. Try an omelet loaded with fresh vegetables and a sprinkling of cheese. It's delicious and tres chic to enjoy it with a glass of chilled white wine (pretend you're in Paris). Pancakes made with half whole wheat flour and topped with fresh fruit also make a satisfying fun dinner once in a while. And I promise it will be a hit with your kids (if you have them). If not, be one for a night.
5. Pretend You're in Greece, the Mediterranean or Italy
Tzatziki, pita, olives, grape leaves, tomatoes, cucumbers, take-out rotisserie chicken = dinner.
Hard cheese, olives, sausage, proscuitto, a baguette, some fresh fruit and grilled vegetables = dinner.
Hummus (look here - a recipe!), falafel, baba ganoush, pickles, tabouli, greens, pita, olives - dinner.
You get the idea.
So what do you do when it's too hot to cook? I'm always looking for some new ideas.