July 14, 2024


Than a Food Fitter

15 easy summer dinners for when it’s too hot to cook

4 min read

Weeknight dinners can be hard to figure out anytime of year but when temperatures soar and you don’t feel like turning the oven on it’s easy to feel at a loss. Instead of ordering takeout, there are plenty of things home cooks can do that require minimal effort and no heat.

“When the summer season starts, I rely on lighter meals that require little cooking,” said Palak Patel, chef at the Institute of Culinary Education in an email to TODAY Food. “I use lots of seasonal produce, fruits and easy dressings to pull a meal together.”

Related: Bye, boring salads. Go beyond the greens with these fresh takes on fruit, bean, and pasta salads.

Patel suggested putting chopped salads on the top of your menu.

“Use any number of vegetables (chopped into similar sized pieces), a can of chickpeas and your favorite seasoning like tahini, hummus or any citrus juice mixed with Dijon and olive oil. This is on rinse and repeat most summers with variations on dressing and vegetables.”

Chopped Caprese Salad by Reed Alexander

Cold blender soups like gazpacho can also hit the spot.

“Simply add heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to a blender and puree. Top it with any chopped seasonal vegetables and pre-made croutons.”

Gazpacho Soup by Natalie Morales

Avocado toast is another easy meal that everyone in the family will eat. “Avocado toast is a simple meal with good toasted bread, thinly sliced vegetables, crushed red pepper and za’atar,” said Patel. “Variations can include smoked salmon, frozen roasted corn, fresh tomatoes, shallots and microgreens.”

Al’s Garlic Avocado Toast by Al Roker

“​Take advantage of fresh summer produce that is delicious raw,” Ann Ziata, chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education told TODAY in an email. “Tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuces, jicama and even summer squash are wonderful tossed with a little vinaigrette.” Ziata said her go-tos in hot weather are cucumber yogurt soup and gazpacho.

If you’re crunched for time, she suggests using jarred roasted bell peppers, artichokes, olives and canned beans which are all quick and easy to add to a recipe. ​

Arugula, Roasted Bell Pepper and White Bean Salad by America’s Test Kitchen

If you do feel like getting fancy, she suggested using a vegetable peeler to create “carpaccio” salads. “You can marinate ribbons of root vegetables like beets, turnips and carrots in citrus juice with a little olive oil and fresh herbs,” she said. “If you have a spiral vegetable slicer, you can make zucchini noodles and smother them in fresh pesto.”

Pasta without the guilt: Healthy pesto zoodles by Jessica Sepel

Need more inspiration for weeknight dinners that bring the flavor but not the heat? Read on:

Grilled Salmon with Roasted Green Tomatoes

Alex Guarnaschelli says you can serve this delicious recipe hot off the grill or cook it in advance as serve chilled. Put the tomatoes on foil on the grill so there’s no need to turn the oven on!

Grilled Salmon with Roasted Green Tomatoes by Alex Guarnaschelli

Valerie Bertinelli’s Salmon Salad-Stuffed Avocados

Use leftover salmon to make this cooling and healthy weeknight dish.

Valerie Bertinelli’s Salmon Salad-Stuffed Avocados by Valerie Bertinelli

Leftover Rotisserie Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Hard boiled eggs and Dijon mustard give this chicken salad a special kick.

Leftover Rotisserie Chicken Salad Sandwiches by Kardea Brown

Donatella Arpaia’s Elevated Italian Sub

Sandwiches for dinner is nothing short of brilliant when temps are soaring. This sub is built with fresh mozzarella and a tangy vinaigrette.

Donatella Arpaia’s Elevated Italian Sub by Donatella Arpaia

Citrus Ceviche

Joy Bauer says that fresh lime juice “cooks” the fish in ceviche in place of heat. This bright recipe includes tomatoes, cucumber, avocado and onions.

Citrus Ceviche by Joy Bauer

Tabitha Brown’s Tomato Sandwich

This simple, juicy recipe is in-season and delicious. Use as much mayo and black pepper as you see fit!

Tabitha Brown’s Tomato Sandwich by Tabitha Brown

Chickpea and Tuna Salad

This light, bright and flavorful dish will transport you to the Amalfi Coast.

Chickpea and Tuna Salad by Laura Vitale

No-Cook Couscous Salad with Chickpeas and Feta

You don’t even need to boil water to make this flavorful recipe. Serve chilled for a delicious lunch on a hot day.

No-Cook Couscous Salad with Chickpeas and Feta by Alejandra Ramos

Chicken Caesar Salad Tacos

Store-bought rotisserie chicken is your best friend on a too-hot-to-cook day!

Chicken Caesar Salad Tacos by Alejandra Ramos

Giada’s Millet Tabbouleh Salad

Giada adds strawberries to this refreshing dish which you can serve as a meal or a side-salad.

Giada’s Millet Tabbouleh Salad by Giada De Laurentiis


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