Top 10 Cold Summer Dinners

I am so sick of cooking. At least I am as I write this, four days into a New York-style heat wave, and three weeks into a project that has me testing recipes and — get this — turning on the oven. You know that’s essentially against the law in my house during the months of July until August, so in order to preserve some sense of sanity in the kitchen, I’ve been on a chilled dinner kick. Most of these require turning on the stovetop, but if you’re smart about it, you can do a little advance cooking all at once (poach chicken, cook shrimp, boil noodles), stash your loot in the fridge, then grab for a quick assembly job during the week. Herewith, a few ideas:

1. Lobster Rolls OK, fine. I don’t exactly expect you to shell out the big bucks on lobsters for a regular old Tuesday night family dinner. I really just needed an excuse to show off the photo above, taken on the porch of the Inn where Andy and stayed in Block Island a few weeks ago. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Everything tastes better with an ocean view.

2. Shredded Chicken Salad I’ve been subbing in sweet-and-spicy shrimp for the chicken with killer results. If I was the lady-who-luncheons type, this would be at the center of the table. (Make shrimp in advance and let cool.)

3. Chopped Salad with Kale and Homemade Ranch Dressing It’s a VIP in our house all year long — mostly because it can be assembled with odds and ends from the vegetable drawer.

4. Vegetable Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce The truth is, anything is good when it’s dipped in spicy peanut sauce. Plus: No oven, no stovetop, no heating up the kitchen.

5. Detox Soup Puree avocado, cucumber, buttermilk (or yogurt), serve cold, and watch it erase all sorts of evils.

6. Curried Chicken Salad On a bed of lettuce, wrapped in flatbread, stuffed in between a split croissant or potato roll — wowowowow, you can’t really go wrong here.

7. Mediterranean Chicken Pitas No shame in starting with a store-bought rotisserie, btw.

8. This weekend I’m going to grill extra skirt steak, then try tossing the leftovers with Bibb lettuce, cucumbers, red onions, basil, mint, and cilantro. Maybe some peanuts on top. I’ll keep you posted.

9. Shrimp Rolls (page 74, Dinner: The Playbook) If you buy your shrimp pre-shelled, it’s the easiest summer dinner out there.

10. Cold “Peanut Butter Noodles” (page 261, Dinner: A Love Story)

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Patrick W.

The detox soup looks simple and strangely lovely. Unfortunately, I am allergic to avocado, an allergy that I developed as an adult (don’t get me started on how I can’t eat either guacamole or California rolls anymore, two apparently ubiquitous foods). Can you suggest anything to use in that recipe in place of the avocado?


I have the same rule July and August. My main goal is to find other people to feed me, but when left to my own devices I settle on cheese/crackers or ice cream more often then not. These are all better options than that!

Karen Capucilli

THANK YOU for this. We are having some hot NYC temperatures these days! at least once a week I have been making a cold soup – a different one every week – and many are no cook. I make it in the AM and let it chill until dinner. cold soups make me happy for hot weather. Looking forward to trying your ideas.

Washington Cube

I finished “Dinner: A Love Story” last night and came running right over here. I know I’ll find many recipes to add to my repertoire, staring with the shared wish to not heat an oven during August. Your book is wonderful. I can see it turning into a classic wedding gift or baby shower gift.

Washington Cube

I made cold Peanut Butter Noodles on Friday. I used just under 1 pound of pasta, snow pea pods, grated carrot and roast red peppers, diced. I used the exact ingredients for the sauce. I should have thought things through a bit more It was obviously too much for two people, even stretching it out in small portions over three days. I would love to add sesame seeds sprinkled across the top for another go round. I did use chopped peanuts, but this is one you can play around with a lot. My only complaint, and it’s only my own perception, is that the flavor of the sauce needs to be beefed up more, and I added some watered down Trader Joe’s Peanut Satay sauce. With that said–I can see where you would want a milder version for children or family-friends with less adventurous taste buds. In the end, highly adaptable in portions, ingredients and sauce.


Okay, so I’m loving the extra steak idea and the Asian shredded chicken salad. Those are the kind of meals I love in the summer! Thanks for the tips!

Abbie @ oven cleaners

I love the avocado soup, but I add some parsley and a tad bit of garlic to it as I’m not a big fan of avocado in the first place. I don’t know, I can’t seem to get used to its specific taste. And the scent of garlic always makes me want to eat things 😀


Mmmmmm…..yum. This looks totally amazing. I’m just starring at the screen looking at how delicious they look.


This looks so good! I am over here ogling over this plate right now. I am all over this. I can’t even quit introducing.