10 ideas for no-cook summer meals

Published August 1 2018
Updated August 1 2018

Now that summer is in full swing, the oven roasts my apartment along with my food. Even turning on the stovetop is risky, dooming me to sticky misery for the sake of a single tortilla. I’ve started eating cereal for dinner.

We’ve got a couple more months of puffy cumulus clouds and breathless summer nights. So it’s time to assemble a menu that goes beyond Quaker Oats. With that in mind, we’ve assembled 10 easy recipes spanning everything from a hearty chickpea salad to a blueberry cheesecake dessert — all without the use of an oven.

From Times Correspondent Emily Young:

Chickpea Salad With Lemon, Parmesan and Fresh Herbs

One of my favorite new discoveries is chickpeas. The possibilities go way beyond hummus. In this recipe, the legumes are combined with Parmesan for a savory and sophisticated dinner. First, rinse and drain 1 (15-ounce) can of chickpeas. Wash and chop 2 tablespoons fresh basil and 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley. Add all of that to a medium bowl, along with 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 small pressed garlic clove and ? cup (packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with warmed pita. You can keep the salad, covered, in the fridge for up to 4 hours before serving, and it will still taste fresh. Recipe from Bon Appétit.

Mock Ceviche

This year, I am all in on the glory of shrimp. The crustacean’s pleasing pink spirals add tropical flair to almost any salad. Plus, you can buy it precooked, making it a quick, easy source of protein. This recipe for mock ceviche mimics the raw seafood dish, but uses that cooked shrimp. To begin, make homemade pico de gallo. Combine the following ingredients in a glass or stainless steel bowl: 2 cups diced red tomatoes, ½ cup diced white onion, ¼ cup chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons seeded and finely chopped jalapeno, ½ teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Refrigerate for 2 hours. To make the mock ceviche, toss the following ingredients in a medium bowl: ½ pound cooked bay shrimp, the juice of 1 lime, ½ cup of your chilled pico de gallo (refrigerate the rest for another use) and 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes so the flavors combine. While you wait, wash, peel, de-pit and dice 1 avocado. After the 10 minutes is up, add the avocado to the mix, stirring gently to combine, and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Recipe adapted from Food Network.

Feta and Olive Spread

My ideal evening? Cheese plates and Netflix. This feta and olive spread is so easy, you can treat yourself to it any day of the week. It’s also elegant enough to serve as a party appetizer and requires zero cooking, which means you can impress your guests without having to crank up your AC. To make, combine ¼ cup black olives, ¼ cup green olives and ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes on a cutting board. (If you prefer more olives or tomatoes, tweak these ratios as desired. You can also incorporate capers or roasted red peppers.) Roughly chop the mixture. Crumble ½ pound feta cheese in a large bowl. Stir in the olive and tomato mixture, along with the juice of ½ lemon, ½ teaspoon dried oregano, 2 teaspoons olive oil and pepper. If you want to make it truly gourmet, place a cucumber slice on a cracker and top with the spread. It’s also delicious as a sandwich filling. Recipe adapted from the Kitchn.

Endive Salad With Blue Cheese Dressing

This endive salad is for you blue cheese lovers out there. The recipe’s creator says that "the bitter edge of the endive is soothed by the sharp blue cheese dressing." You can also substitute with feta. It will be just as decadent, if not quite as daring. Begin by placing 2 ounces (½ cup) good-quality blue cheese or Roquefort on your counter to come to room temperature. In a medium bowl, whisk 1 small, finely minced garlic clove with ½ cup plain yogurt. (You can use sour cream if you prefer. If the yogurt or sour cream is too thick to combine with the garlic, use milk to thin it.) Add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. Whisk. Crumble the cheese into the mixture and add ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard, then whisk some more. You’ll know it’s ready when it becomes a smooth sauce. (It’s okay if there are some lumps of cheese.) Wash 4 large or 6 medium endives, trim the ends and cut lengthwise into quarters. To serve, fan the endives onto a platter and spoon the dressing over each. For the finishing touch, dice 1 apple into ¼-inch pieces and toss with lemon juice. Sprinkle the lemony apple pieces over the endives, along with minced chive. Recipe from the New York Times.

No-Bake Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

If you’re in the mood for a baked good but don’t want to use your oven, try this recipe. You do have to melt butter for it, but you can use the microwave for that. The rest simply involves layering a cream cheese filling over a graham cracker crust. First, place an 8-ounce package of cream cheese on your counter until it comes to room temperature. Next, crush 8 whole graham crackers (16 squares) and place in a medium bowl. Use your microwave to melt 3 tablespoons butter, then pour into the bowl, along with ¼ cup ground pecans or walnuts. Stir to combine. Pour the mixture into an 8- or 9-inch square pan, preferably glass, and press down with a spatula to form an even layer, about ¼ inch thick. This will become the crust of your cheesecake. Place in the fridge. Whisk together the cream cheese, 1 cup ricotta cheese, 2 tablespoons honey, a freshly grated lemon rind and a pinch of salt. When it’s smooth, use a spatula to gently spread it over the crust in an even layer. Top with 1 ½ cups fresh blueberries and place it back in the fridge until it sets. This should take at least an hour, but it may need to set overnight. Cut into squares to serve. Recipe from the New York Times.

From Times Food Critic Laura Reiley:

Nicoise Salad

It’s a little bit of a cheat because you’ve got to cook your potatoes, green beans and eggs. But you can boil water once, plunge the beans in for 4 minutes, fish them out and toss them in an ice bath, then cook the potatoes in the same boiling water until tender, then fish them out and pop your eggs in, cover, and turn off the heat; in 13 minutes your eggs are perfect. There’s a lot of variation in this dish, but it’s basically a huge composed salad (do it on your prettiest platter), maybe bedded down on hunks of crunchy/buttery Boston lettuce, with cherry tomatoes, small waxy potatoes (like Yukon Golds), haricots verts (those skinny French green beans, but regular ones are fine), a sprinkling of capers and oil-cured olives, strips of red and yellow bell pepper, quartered hard-boiled eggs and chunks of good oil-packed tuna. The key to this recipe is the vinaigrette that you dribble over the whole beautiful thing.

This is one I’ve been perfecting for a long time, a flagrant attempt to copy my husband’s cousin: ¼ cup sherry vinegar, into which you macerate 1 tablespoon minced shallot, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (tarragon, basil, mint, chervil), 1 heaping teaspoon chopped capers, ½ teaspoon salt, 20 twists pepper and a pinch of sugar. Set this to the side. In a big bowl, put a scant tablespoon Dijon mustard, plus half an egg yolk (this is your insurance against emulsion failure). In a measuring cup, put together ½ cup oil (I have been doing a third of it vegetable oil, a third walnut and a third extra-virgin olive oil — but mix it up, no more than half of it olive oil). Using a whisk, start dribbling oil into the bowl. You don’t need to be crazy-vigorous with the whisk. Just constant. Once all the oil is in, scoop the solids out of your vinegar mixture with a spoon and put them in the bowl with the oil. Then add the vinegar in two batches, tasting as you go. You may not want all the vinegar; you may need to add more salt. And there’s the vinaigrette.

Blender Gazpacho

You can gussy it up with a sprinkling of herbs, a raft of crunchy croutons or even a dollop of sour cream, creme fraiche or a fresh egg yolk. To make, chop 2 pounds of tomatoes roughly (yes, if you’re fancy you can peel and seed them) or even use a big can of San Marzanos. Add them to the bowl of a blender (or food processor) with 1 chopped sweet onion, 1 peeled and roughly chopped English cucumber, a half each red and green bell pepper roughly chopped, 3 chopped garlic cloves and 2 chopped scallions. Pulse (if it’s too much for your blender, do it in batches) while adding three big glugs of sherry vinegar and even bigger glugs of extra-virgin olive oil (nothing too sharp tasting). Then it’s time to tinker: I like things spicy, so I add a tablespoon of Tabasco, a big sprinkle of cumin and the same amount of smoked paprika. Taste it. Add salt and pepper, and if it’s too thick add a cup of tomato juice or V8. A shot of lemon or lime juice will brighten it; a squirt of Worcestershire adds umami savoriness. Top with chopped mixed herbs (Italian parsley, basil, dill) and so forth. It will keep in your fridge a couple of days just fine.

From Times Food Editor Michelle Stark:

Artichoke, Salami and Mozzarella Sandwiches

One word: sandwiches. Instead of traditional cold cuts, take things one step further. Buy a 6-ounce jar of marinated artichoke hearts at the store, then drain and chop the artichokes. Add to a bowl with ¼ cup chopped, drained, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (you can also use fresh tomatoes in a pinch), ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, ¼ cup chopped fresh basil and 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Stir together, then season with salt and pepper. Split 2 sandwich rolls in half lengthwise, then divide the artichoke mixture evenly between the two. Top with some fresh sliced mozzarella cheese and some thinly sliced salami or pepperoni. Press sandwiches down lightly with your hands, cut in half and serve with some brine-cured olives. Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit.

Peachy Tomato Toast

Served with a green salad on the side, fancy toast can absolutely be a weeknight dinner. This one showcases some lovely summer produce. Start by toasting some thickly sliced bread. Something sweet like cinnamon raisin would be fun; a classic white or sourdough bread works great, too. The sturdier, the better. Place toasted bread on a flat surface, then spread 1 ounce goat cheese across 1 slice. Top with fresh peaches and tomato, sliced into about ¼-inch slices. I typically cover the whole piece of toast with 1 layer of the fruits, but you can add less or heap it on if you want. Sprinkle a handful of shelled, roughly chopped pistachios (hazelnuts or almonds would also work) on top of that, then drizzle the whole thing with honey. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately. Two slices of toast should be suitable for a one-person serving.

Zucchini and Corn With Lemon Vinaigrette

With a wide vegetable peeler, peel 1 small zucchini and 1 small yellow squash lengthwise into long ribbons. Add to a bowl or plate, whatever you’d like to serve the salad in. Cut the kernels off 1 ear of corn and add to bowl. Crumble 1 ounce goat cheese onto veggies and sprinkle with some chopped fresh basil. Season with salt and pepper. To make the vinaigrette, add the following ingredients to a jar or another container with a lid and shake well until they are combined: ½ cup good olive oil, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 clove minced fresh garlic, plus salt and pepper to taste. Toss with salad and serve. This makes enough for 1 serving. Recipe adapted from foodiecrush.com.