The good news is that the time of year when it’s too hot to even look at your oven is also the time of year when most produce is at its plumpest, juiciest, freshest, and downright best. We asked chefs for their favorite no-cook dinners, rough ideas we can all riff on (but not actual full recipes). Crank the A/C and take some inspiration from these:
Vietnamese Cole Slaw
Nicole Routhier, Le Colonial, Houston
This refreshing all-in-one bowl Vietnamese-style coleslaw is one of my favorite ways to deal with Houston’s notorious summer heat without breaking a sweat. To make it, I simply throw together a fresh mix of julienned white cabbage and carrot along with some roasted nuts such as peanuts, cashews, sesame seeds or sunflower seeds, strips of white chicken meat (from a store-bought roast chicken) or even any other left-over protein I might have on hand. Plus there’s lots of fresh mint and cilantro. For a burst of freshness, I also like to add some type of fresh fruit—usually orange or grapefruit segments, mango slices, or julienned green apple. Then, I toss the whole thing in a tangy garlic-lime vinaigrette that includes a touch of fish sauce (nuoc mam), sriracha hot sauce, sesame oil, and a drizzle of light olive oil. The result is a light and tasty meal that will impress even picky eaters.
Cold Soba Noodles
Rachel Yang, Joule, Seattle
You can often find cold soba in my fridge. Soba noodles are pretty soft compared to other wheat noodles which make them perfect cold noodle option for hot summer evenings. Find some crunch veggies, cubed up smoked tofu and quick soy tahini vinaigrette and you can make easy filling dinner. I either do that or make somewhat of Korean, Mexican, American steakhouse mesh up of spicy shrimp cocktail. Thaw frozen cooked shrimp, mix vinegar, chili paste, and mirin, and add any chopped veggies you want. You can mix everything ahead, too. It’s pretty much perfect.
Tuna Lettuce Wraps
Ann Kim, Young Joni, Minneapolis
Something I like to put together as a quick too-hot-to-cook dish is a lettuce wrap. I almost always have some sort of lettuce in my fridge along with different leftover proteins, vegetables, and herbs, and it’s a really great way to utilize them. I love a Korean version of a tuna salad lettuce wrap—perfect because I always have these Korean staples in my pantry. All you need to start is some sort of lettuce. I prefer Romaine, Boston bibb, or even sweetheart cabbage (the leaves are sweeter and more delicate, and work well for wrapping as opposed to traditional cabbage) but iceberg works really well, too. Take one can of a solid white albacore or, even better, go for a high-quality Italian oil-packed tuna, add some gochugaru (Korean chili flakes), sesame oil, salt, black pepper, toasted sesame seeds, and some regular mayo or Kewpie and mix. Spoon the tuna mixture into lettuce leaves with a dollop of saam jang (available at Korean markets) or a squeeze of Sriracha. I like to top with any leftover vegetables and herbs that I have on hand such as radish, cucumbers, daikon, cilantro, and Thai basil. Wrap and eat for a light, healthy, fresh, summery, spicy, and protein-packed meal.
And if you need a more alcoholic way to cool off…