The phrase, “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” never has been more relevant. With temperatures in the 90s, no one, not even me, wants to stand over a hot stove preparing meals.

Luckily, our gardens, farmers’ markets and local grocery stores are bursting at the seams with local, fresh produce this time of year. There is no better way to take advantage of this bounty than by creating cool summer salads, no-heat-needed entrees and light, refreshing desserts.

As I get ready to prepare foods without heat, I start trying to remember where I stashed those seldom-used appliances such as my blender or vegetable spiralizer. If, unlike me, you resisted the urge to impulse buy these tools from the “As Seen On TV” section of your local superstore, a good chef’s knife and immersion blender will do the trick.

With tomatoes and cucumbers at their peak, summer is the perfect time to make gazpacho (a cold tomato soup). I start with about four ripe, medium-size tomatoes (I like to use those not-so-perfect ones), half of a peeled and seeded cucumber, a clove of garlic, a small sweet onion, quartered, two cups of either tomato juice or vegetable broth, and salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation is easy — puree all of the ingredients in the blender. If you need to kick it up a notch, add a dash of hot sauce, a squeeze of lime juice and garnish with a cucumber slice.

Another summer hit is corn and basil salad. Using canned corn allows you to leave the stove off. All you need is two cans of white and yellow corn, ½ cup of diced purple onion, a handful of fresh basil, chopped, one tablespoon of white vinegar, a teaspoon of olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper. That’s it — just toss and serve.

Pull out that spiralizer for a fresh take on Pad Thai. It’s not only cool and easy, but it’s also low carb. Simply spiralize two medium zucchini, finely shred one carrot and any other vegetables you may have on hand such as radish or cabbage. Combine the vegetables and top with a Thai peanut dressing (see recipe).

No summer meal is complete without a refreshing dessert taking full advantage of the many summer fruits. One of the quickest and easiest summer desserts is a simple trifle. Start with the fruit of your choice, be it berries, peaches or melons, and layer it with whipped cream, yogurt and a sprinkling of granola, cookie crumbs or nuts. It will make any summer evening feel like a special occasion.

There’s no need to turn on the stove or even use the microwave with these delectable summer meal ideas. See what you can come up with to get out of the kitchen and into summer fun.

Kathy Nicarry is manager of Bernheim’s Isaac’s Cafe, where she combines her passion for cooking with her love of the natural world. She can be reached at

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