Serving salad outside

It is very hot. And while that may not be breaking news, I am here with the headline: Sometimes, Even Chefs Can’t Stand the Heat!

That doesn’t mean we’re going to get out of the kitchen (never!), but you might find us changing the way we cook and eat for the summer to help keep cool.

Hot-weather meals don’t have to be salads and sandwiches, though those are great options for enjoying farmers’ market finds and leftovers. Staying cool while the weather is hot can be as easy as making a few small adjustments to your normal cooking routine.

Water heated in an electric kettle, for example, can be used to quickly blanch vegetables, soak rice noodles or rice paper sheets for summer rolls, or even steam small shrimp, couscous, or other pastas. Pour the boiling water over your ingredients in a heat safe bowl or casserole dish and cover to soak, for just a minute or so for vegetables or longer for starches and noodles. From there, you can make cold vegetable noodle salads, fresh veggie grain bowls, or easy shrimp salad toasts without boiling a pot of water.

Summer seafood is perfectly timed for the oven-free lifestyle, since acidic citrus juice can be used to “cook” fish and other seafood. Look to ceviche for inspiration, and use the mixture to top a slice of avocado toast, fold into a tortilla or pita, or toss with grains or noodles. And don’t overlook tinned seafoods, like high-quality tuna, mussels, and sardines. Serve them alongside a great crusty bread, your favorite condiments, and a bright seasonal salad for a 10 minute, no-cook dinner.

One of my summer go-to meals is something my family rather uncreatively calls Dip Dinner. Pair your favorite whole grain crackers, hummus or other dips, sliced charcuterie and cheese, pickled veggies, and any of your other go-to mezze-inspired chutneys, tapenades, and spreads for a well-rounded dinner that you can enjoy at the dinner table, coffee table, or picnic table!

If you do find yourself standing over the stove or pre-heating the oven, make the most of it. Prepare a double-batch of whatever it is you’re cooking, especially if it’s rice, grains, beans, veggies, or other easy-to-freeze ingredients. Having a freezer stocked with already-cooked dinner basics multiplies your one day of cooking into extra days of convenient dinners. Bean burritos, chilled pasta salads, and even just a quick side for a prepared rotisserie chicken can be ready in minutes, leaving you to sit under the fan with an icy drink—which is where you’ll find me!


Laura Monroe ’12 is the Foodies Editor at The Culinary Institute of America.

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