If you can't stand the heat, don't get out of the kitchen; instead, try these no-cook recipes, perfect for summer's stickiest days.
For me, cooking is synonymous with unplugging. The kitchen is my happy place and preparing food for myself and for my family and friends is my version of meditation. There's just something soothing about using my hands, as well as the repetitive movements of chopping, kneading, stirring. Even the cleaning up calms me! I may be the only person who actually enjoys doing the dishes! But when it comes to summertime cooking, I like to unplug in a much more literal sense, too. I try to turn my oven on as infrequently as possible, and even manning the grill sometimes feels like an ordeal. For starters, it's hot outside! And no one wants to stand in front of a hot stove when simply walking out the door is enough to make you sweat. And when it's hot outside, I'd really rather be taking in the sun (with proper protection, of course!) with a cold beverage in my hand!
Of course, we still have to eat in the summer! But the season calls for recipes that are not only no-heat, but also no-fuss. Chilled soups, sandwiches, and salads are just the kind of assembly-only cooking I like to do in July and August. If you make a robust- enough salad, with nuts, cheese, grains or legumes, and a bit of meat, you can make a meal out of it. My No-Cook Cobb Salad, which uses prosciutto in place of bacon so you can leave that oven in off-mode (and save yourself the extra pan come cleanup time), also makes a statement if you're entertaining a crowd. On summer's most sweltering days, nothing cools me down like a chilled soup, like my Grape and Almond Gazpacho (which, by the way, makes a great amuse-bouche when served in shot glasses or tiny bowls). The beauty of a cold soup is that the "cooking" required basically involves throwing everything in a blender and whizzing it up. I like to make big batches so I always have some on standby. When Jade and I get hungry, I pour it into a couple bowls, add the garnish, and presto! Lunch is served.
If you've built up an appetite playing paddleball at the beach, a hearty sandwich is the way to go. If you start with good bread, you can put just about anything in a sandwich and it will hit the spot. Of course, you can't go wrong with classic combinations like ham and cheese, but I love to load up my sandwiches with vegetables, a smear of hummus, and a few thick slices of avocado for some substance. Any sort of salad—tuna salad, chicken salad, egg salad—is great because you can make it in advance, but in the summer, I always crave crab salad. My version has a hint of Old Bay for that East Coast flavor—and if you're in the mood for something lighter, you can always serve it on a bed of lettuce.