Cool tips to keep you from sweating your summer meals

When it's this hot, smart cooks turn to fresh vegetables and turn off the oven

Staff WriterAugust 3, 2011 

  • Make rice summer rolls, which at most require boiling water in the microwave to soak the rice paper and rice noodles. Tweedy Tattersall of Durham shared this link,, for a how-to video and recipe from cookbook author Mark Bittman.

    Make gazpacho, suggested several readers, including Katie Oleson of Charlotte. She shared this recipe from Ina Garten, the Food Network's "Barefoot Contessa," ( although Oleson adds jalapeño and basil and tops her gazpacho with sour cream. Oleson says it makes a great meal with a salad or good bread. Or make open-faced or toasted cheese sandwiches in the toaster oven.

    Use store-bought rotisserie chicken to make chicken salad. This curried chicken salad recipe is from Diane Engles of North Raleigh: Combine 4 cups diced chicken, 1 cup diced celery, 1/2 cup chopped pecans and 1/2 cup raisins with this dressing: 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon each white wine vinegar, soy sauce and minced onion, 1 teaspoon curry powder, 2 teaspoons honey (optional) and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine.

    Cooking pasta won't heat up your kitchen much. Mandi McClure of Lincolnton makes an orzo salad, combining 1 cup cooked orzo, kernels from three ears of corn, 1 diced avocado, 2 tablespoons each fresh lime juice, cider vinegar and sugar, 1/4 cup olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 pint of halved grape tomatoes. Toss lightly to combine. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.

    Cook in the morning when it is cool. Karen Lee Martinez of Hickory cooks bean salad, potato salad or macaroni salad in the morning and then uses her grill in the evening to cook sausages, burgers or fish. Serve those with sliced cucumbers or tomatoes for easy weeknight meals.

    Use your grill. Grill enough proteins, such as beef, chicken or fish, to last several meals, like Mary Jo Lassiter of North Raleigh. Use side burner to cook vegetables, boil pasta or heat baked beans.

    Your toaster oven is your friend. Anne Brill of Cary offered this recipe for crab and deviled ham muffins, which can easily be adapted to the toaster oven: Broil four split English muffins in the toaster oven. Butter muffins, spread with deviled ham from one 4.5-ounce can and top with crab salad made with 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup chopped celery and one 7.5-ounce package of crabmeat. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, sprinkle with paprika and serve.

    Do most of your cooking on Sunday. Sunny Davis of Zebulon cooks several salads to serve throughout the week, such as pickled shrimp, potato and green bean salad and tuna salad using fresh tuna.

    Note: A thanks to Southern Season, the gourmet and kitchenwares store in Chapel Hill. The store supplied the bowl and napkin shown in the soup photo. Those are Rosenthal 6-inch Nido Bowl for $18 and the Now Designs NP Orchard napkin for $5.50. For more information, go to

When it's as hot as an oven outside, you don't want to re-create that heat inside.

Readers from Lincolnton to Zebulon responded to our request to share cool cooking tips and recipes for hot summer days.

The most common suggestions: Don't turn on the oven at the end of the day. If you must, use the oven in the early morning or do a couple hours of cooking on Sunday to set up several days' worth of meals. Use other appliances instead that don't turn the kitchen into a sauna: the microwave, the toaster oven, the sandwich press. Or opt to keep all the heat outside and use the grill.

Gazpacho, that cool Spanish soup that takes advantage of the tomatoes and cucumbers now abundant in the garden and at the farmers market, was the recipe most suggested. We offer a reader's classic version as well as a tasty twist: a Spicy Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Soup from award-winning chef Andrea Reusing of Lantern in Chapel Hill.

Beyond that, heat-weary cooks often turn to recipes that require only assembly, like our Layered Turkey Sandwich or the Chickpea-Couscous Salad with Lemon and Mint.

Plus, these recipes and tips would produce quick, easy meals after a long, hot day at the beach because, really, the last thing anyone wants to do on vacation is sweat over a hot stove.

As we suffer through August and what will likely be more record-breaking heat, let's aim for cool and comfortable in the kitchen. See readers' tips and recipes to the right. or 919-829-4848.

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