10 No-cook Dinners for Summer

These no-cook dinners allow you to enjoy the summer and keep your cool.
These no-cook dinners allow you to enjoy the summer and keep your cool. See more pictures of light dinners.
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Lazy summer days just aren't made for cooking. When the temperature is at its peak and the air conditioner is already pushing itself to the limit, why spend your time sweating over the stove? Instead of adding extra heat to your home when Mother Nature is at her worst, take advantage of summer's bountiful fresh vegetables and fruits to whip up dinner without turning on the oven. For many delicious summer meals, a knife, a cutting board and a big bowl are all you need. Need some inspiration? Keep your cool with these 10 no-cook summer meal ideas.


10: Gourmet Sandwiches

With all the time you save not cooking, how about making a double-decker turkey sandwich?
With all the time you save not cooking, how about making a double-decker turkey sandwich?
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Entire restaurant chains are built on the basic salad and sandwich combo. To compete, all you really need to do is freshen up your ingredients, starting with the bread. To make the most of this experience, skip the factory white and try some fresh baked offerings from your local grocery store bakery. These breads aren't packed with preservatives, and they offer real flavor and a variety of textures, like the soft center and chewy crust of Italian bread.

Next, fill the table with platters of deli meats, sliced cheeses and all the fixings. Include basic toppings, like lettuce and tomatoes, or branch out into more exotic fare, like sliced avocados, crisp apples slices or hummus.


Complete your assembly line with a simple tossed salad. Serve on festive paper plates and eat outside to take advantage of those long summer days.

To get started, why not whip up some heroes or tofu-rich egg salad sandwiches.

9: Summer Fruit Salad

That same summer heat that's keeping you out of the kitchen is helping Mother Nature shine in the garden. Take advantage of the plethora of produce available this time of year with an anything-goes fruit salad dinner. Be creative; use fruit from the garden, or take a trip to your local farmer's market and stock up on fragrant, juicy summer produce. If the heat has zapped you of your normal energy, pick up precut fruit from the store to get dinner on the table even faster. Give your meal an island twist with Emeril's Vanilla-scented Tropical Fruit Salad, or try this Rainbow Fruit Salad with Yogurt Sauce for a dish that's as colorful as it is delicious!


8: Greek Salad

Greek salads burst with color and flavor, yet they hardly take any work to make.
Traditional Greek salads don't have lettuce, but feel free to add some green leaves if you want to.
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Bursting with color, flavor, aromas and texture, a Greek salad appeals to all the senses. Its cool freshness is the perfect antidote to a hot summer night.

To create a traditional Greek salad, forgo the lettuce and toss some juicy tomato wedges, cucumber chunks, red onions cut into rings, pitted black olives and pickled banana pepper slices into a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil or Greek salad dressing and toss everything together. When you're ready to serve, transfer generous amounts of the salad to individual bowls and top with a slice or pile of crumbled feta cheese. Serve with a side of pita wedges.


If you'd like to add some leaves to your salad or would like put a gourmet twist on this traditional recipe, try Emeril's Stacked Greek Salad, or this recipe for a Greek salad with red wine vinegar.

7: Caesar Salad

Transform this classic starter into a quick and filling no-cook meal. If you're in a hurry, pick up a bagged Caesar salad kit from the grocery store. These kits are packed with lettuce, dressing, croutons and cheese to help you put together the perfect salad without the hassle. Add protein with precooked chicken strips, or toss in chunks of rotisserie chicken. For a dish with some flair, try this recipe for a gourmet salad with homemade dressing and anchovy paste or this one for garlic lovers. Looking to cut calories? Skip the fattening dressing and keep things light with Emeril's Lighter Caesar Salad.


6: Tuna or Chicken Salad

Small touches like mint can make a chicken salad stand out.
Small touches like mint can make a chicken salad stand out.
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Open a can, drain the liquid, chop some celery and onions and mix them all together. That's all you need to do to make tuna or chicken salad. Four cans of tuna or two large cans of chicken make enough to feed four. Sprinkle with pepper and stir in enough mayonnaise -- about 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons -- to hold it all together. In some houses, mayonnaise has a significant "yuck" factor, in which case you can substitute it with plain yogurt.

If you're in an experimental mood, you can dress up your creation with sliced grapes, chopped apples, pecan bits, pineapple chunks or fresh dill. Serve it on a bed of lettuce for a light, cool treat. For a heartier dinner, place spoonfuls of your meat salad onto pieces of pita bread, or roll it up into a soft tortilla with some bean sprouts for an easy wrap.


5: Gazpacho

When the temperature drops in the winter, nothing can be more satisfying then a bowl of steaming hot soup. For a cool twist on this hearty favorite, try a refreshing bowl of tomato-based gazpacho. Inspired by Spanish cuisine, this "liquid salad" is packed full of flavor and nutrients. If you've never tried gazpacho before, start with a classic recipe, like this one made with fresh tomatoes, onions and peppers, or this simple version, which calls for canned tomato soup and beef broth. Add a fruity twist with Emeril's Spanish style gazpacho, made with strawberries, or give your meal a splash of summer sweetness with this watermelon-flavored recipe.

Serve gazpacho with plenty of fresh bread for dipping, and garnish with cilantro, sour cream and lime.


4: Corn and Tomato Salad with Mozzarella

Other variations of this salad include corn, tomato and zucchini.
Other variations of this salad include corn, tomato and zucchini.
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Sharpen up your knives -- that's all you'll need to prepare this hearty summer dinner. Start with fresh ears of your favorite sweet corn, Roma tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese. To prepare the dish:

  • Cut the corn kernels off the ears into a large bowl. This is your major ingredient. Your proportions will be two parts corn, one part chopped tomatoes and one part mozzarella.
  • Chop the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces.
  • Cut the mozzarella into bite-sized chunks.
  • Add the tomato and mozzarella to the corn.
  • Drizzle the mixture with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and toss to coat.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with your favorite fresh herb -- parsley sprigs or basil leaves.

That's it. Serve this dish up in big bowlfuls and offer chilled watermelon wedges for dessert.


3: Meze Feast

When it's just too hot to cook, create a buffet of flavorful foods inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine. Start with a plate piled high with pita breads or crispy pita chips, then add dips and simple salads. Pick up some hummus from the grocery store, or make your own using mashed chickpeas, olive oil, tahini sauce and garlic. If you've never tried baba ghanoush, this is the perfect time to acquaint yourself with this creamy, eggplant-based dip. Throw together some tabbouleh or a lentil salad, or swing by the local gourmet grocer to find salads and sides with a Middle Eastern flair. Serve with a dish of black olives, a side of feta cheese and this chutney cheese spread. Finish with a bowl of fresh fruit for dessert.


2: Waldorf Salad

This no-cook dish is bursting with flavor and offers a hearty texture you simply won't find in the average salad. So what transforms a plain old chicken salad into a Waldorf salad? It's the addition of sliced green apples, juicy grapes and crunchy walnuts, almonds and celery. Try Emeril's meat-free version of this dish, which relies on Greek yogurt to add moisture without the fat. Mix in shredded rotisserie chicken or use precooked slices from the grocery store to create a filling summer dinner.


1: Cool-Cooking Ceviche

Ceviche may require cooking, but you won't have to do any of the work.
Ceviche may require cooking, but you won't have to do any of the work.
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Impress your friends and family with this cool meal that cooks in the refrigerator. This South American dish uses the citric acid in lemons, limes and other citrus fruits to alter the proteins in fresh fish and seafood in the same manner that cooking does, just without the heat. Ceviche is a dual-purpose meal: great food and an unbeatable chemistry lesson.

Enjoy a perfect balance of savory sweetness with this recipe for tuna ceviche with coconut and soy sauce, or create a classic shrimp ceviche with this recipe by Emeril Lagasse.

Lots More Information

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  • Kovach, Pat. "Corn, Tomato, Mozzarella Salad." Personal interview: April 9, 2010.
  • Marvel, Ellen. "Five Cup Salad." Personal interview: April 8, 2010.
  • Nolan, Jill Eversole. "Cultural Diversity: Eating in America—Middle Eastern." Ohio State University Extension. 2010. (Jan . 09, 2012. http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/pdf/5256.pdf
  • Stradley, Linda. "History of Ceviche, Seviche or Cebiche." What's Cooking America. 2004. (April 13, 2010) http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/CevicheNotes.htm
  • Valladolid, Marcela. Fresh Mexico: 100 Simple Recipes for True Mexican Flavor. New York. Clarkson Potter Publishers. 2009.
  • Wright, Clifford A. "Gazpacho." Clifford A Wright. (Jan 10, 2012) http://www.cliffordawright.com/caw/food/entries/display.php/id/64/
  • Wolke, Robert L. "The Acid Test." Food 101. The Washington Post. Nov. 10, 2004. (April 8, 2010) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A36202-2004Nov9.html
  • Zenner, Britney. "Middle Eastern Food." University of Connecticut. (Jan. 09, 2012) http://www.journalisminternships.uconn.edu/Middle%20Eastern.html