No-cook main dishes for summer?
June 25, 2013 11:25 AM   Subscribe

What are your favorite main-dish recipes that require NO cooking? As in, not even boiling pasta?

It's 90+ and muggy where I am, with most of summer still to come. I know there are lots of dishes that taste good cold (pasta salad, fried chicken, chicken salad, etc.)--but sometimes it's so hot you don't even want to turn on the stove. In hot weather we eat a lot of salads for dinner, and sometimes sandwiches, but there must be more to summer dinners than this, no?

My go-to is this gazpacho, which requires very little chopping. What are your favorite *main-dish* recipes that require NO cooking--no stove, no oven, not even a microwave? Fast, not fast, healthy, indulgent--all good as long as it doesn't add heat to my kitchen.
posted by Ms. Informed to Food & Drink (38 answers total) 162 users marked this as a favorite
My dad used to make Smoothies for dinner on really hot summer days in Arizona. Very refreshing!

Also the Sub Sandwich with chips was a favorite at our house.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:30 AM on June 25, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Can't recommend a specific meal, but there is a ton of interest in raw food out there-- while people seem to usually do it as a lifestyle, I'm sure raw food blogs, cookbooks and such would answer your question perfectly. So you might use "raw" as a keyword if you haven't already thought to.
posted by threeants at 11:31 AM on June 25, 2013

Best answer: Avocado and sea salt/hot sauce on some sort of carbohydrate.

Watermelon salad (sea salt, lime, red onions....) on a bed of arugula with a lot of crumbled feta or halloumi.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:35 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had guacamole and naan for dinner last night (the guac was from scratch, but the naan was store-bought).

I will also admit to heating up the naan in the microwave for 10 seconds.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:38 AM on June 25, 2013

Best answer: Caprese sandwiches - crusty baguette/hero bread spread with pesto, sliced tomato, sliced fresh mozzarella, arugula if you have it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:38 AM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I just whipped up a caprese salad last night with basil from the garden and some nice local mozzarella and crusty bread on the side.

What about raw "cooked" dishes like carpaccio or ceviche?

A favorite when we were kids was "the spread" which was Smorgasbord-style usually comprised of a couple cheeses, tuna, crudites, maybe a dip or two, hard-boiled eggs, and crackers or bread. I still do this on occasion and it's a great excuse to go raid the cheese counter at the local store. Nowadays I will include pickles of some sort (I happen to like cornichons) and tinned sardines.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:39 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Cereal for dinner.
posted by yawper at 11:40 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Was stepping in to say gazpacho and salads, only to notice you have those covered already. In my house, hot weather means barbecue, but if even that is too much, then it's time for my mom's patented "catch as catch can" dinner. Raid your fridge for snackable items, like cheese, bread, crackers, random veg, sour cream or yogurt, bottles of jam, honey, pickles, cold meats, whatever you have that catches your eye. Maybe open a can of tuna and make some tuna salad.

Then lay it all out on the table and let people figure out what they want to eat for themselves.

Of course, doing this regularly means you need to think ahead a little. When the weather cools off in the evening, do a bit of cooking in anticipation of the following day. Top and tail some green beans and microwave in a bit of water until cooked but still crisp. Drain, and toss with some dill, olive oil and lemon juice. Boil some soba noodles and rinse. Hard boil some eggs. Boil some pasta and toss with a bit of mayo or italian salad dressing. Wrap these things in in cling film and heave into the fridge. That way, when the heat is oppressive, you have some cold stuff to fall back on.
posted by LN at 11:41 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Would you accept dishes that make use of an outside grill?

If so, this Three Bean Salad with grilled corn and grilled jalapenos is really, really good. Lasts a long time in the fridge and you can jazz it up with avocado, cotija, sour cream, etc. if you get tired of it. And as long as grilling is an option you could look at Mark Bittman's 101 Grilling Recipes for inspiration.

I find Eating Well hit or miss sometimes, but they have a list of no-cook meals that might be worth browsing.

Gazpacho...would ceviche be an option? Not sure how you feel about fish.

Lastly, when I lived in the midwest where it was super hot in the summers, we would often do "gourmet" dinners; fruit+cheese+salami+bread+wine. There's so much good produce in the summer that you can get by with endless variations on this. On preview, jinx backseatpilot!
posted by stellaluna at 11:42 AM on June 25, 2013

Best answer: There are a lot of cold cucumber soup recipes out there; I like to make mine with plenty of dill. Toss in some chilled shrimp (buy it pre-cooked at the store) if you like.
posted by scody at 11:46 AM on June 25, 2013

Oops, forgot this winner, if you eat meat: Bresaola salad, which my friend's host parents made for us on a very hot August day in Italy.

Bean salads made from tinned beans, rinsed-- cannellini with chopped celery and red wine vinegar; vaguely Mexican with kidney beans, red peppers, corn, cumin, and chilis.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:46 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tuna salad made with parsley, mayo, and celery; I like to wrap it in a roll made of lettuce leaves.

Hummus, eaten by dipping in celery, crackers, red peppers, raw broccoli, iceberg lettuce, pretty much any vegetable. (I really like dipping pieces of chicken in hummus, but of course, that would necessitate cooking the chicken first)

My other standard eveningtime food is sharp cheddar with nuts and-or slices of a cold sausage, such as pepperoni.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:50 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ohh! Another possibility for something to do with bresaola (fyi, bresaola is a thin-sliced air-cured beef product: kind of like proscuitto, only it's beef instead of pork).

Make a spread out of a stick of softened butter (if it's hot, your butter will soften up in a jiffy) and a couple handfuls of chopped arugula. Throw the arugula and the butter in a food processor and whiz that up until the arugula is chopped up real good and blended with the butter. Then - spread on bread and top with bresaola and consume.

That and a salad of sliced tomato and mozzarella will set you up right.

Oh, and if you don't mind microwaving those green beans - that'll work in a salade nicoise: canned tuna (spring for the good kind), sliced tomato, a few crisp-tender green beans, sliced olives, sliced hardboiled eggs if you have any, and a couple anchovies if you like them, all on a bed of lettuce. Or, take those same ingredients and lay them on a baguette, brush on some olive oil, wrap it up tight in plastic wrap and leave that sit for an hour, then unwrap and eat - that's pan bagnat.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:52 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hummus topped with your favorite vegetables, wrapped in a flour tortilla, lettuce leaf, or slathered inside of a pita pocket. I love using spinach, shredded carrots, chopped tomatoes, and kalamata olives.

White bean or black bean salad, cowboy caviar, chickpea panzanella, canapes, anything slathered with pesto.

You can make a delicious Vietnamese noodle salad (bĂșn) or fresh spring rolls by soaking dried rice noodles in hot water from the tap rather than bringing it to a boil on the stove.
posted by divined by radio at 11:54 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I make Vietnamese-style spring rolls a lot in the summer. Here's a basic recipe to get the general idea. I usually do a peanut sauce for dipping.
posted by something something at 11:55 AM on June 25, 2013 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: These are great ideas--keep them coming!

Stellaluna, I'd be fine with a grill in principle, but as an apartment-dweller, I don't have one. :( I'm noting down the grill-related suggestions, though, should my situation ever change...
posted by Ms. Informed at 11:57 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's that hot where I am, too.

Last night we had shrimp salad (precooked frozen shrimp) mixed with lemon juice, mayo, tarragon and capers over spring mix lettuce.

Tonight is asian chicken salad: Pregrilled chicken strips, mixed with bagged cole slaw mix, red peppers, scallions, lots of cilantro and mint, topped with a thai peanut sauce (I make my own, but you can buy it).

Tomorrow may be tomatoes stuffed with tuna, cottage cheese or egg salad; BLT's (we will have to break down and cook the bacon); or proscuitto-wrapped melon.
posted by sarajane at 12:05 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Smashed chickpea salad is great as a sandwich or on greens. And this is my favorite three bean salad ever, which I make a main by adding greens (I suggest reducing the sugar to 1/4 cup).
posted by EvaDestruction at 12:06 PM on June 25, 2013

Best answer: Cucumber/tomato/onion/feta/red wine vinegar/pepper/salt = easy delicious salad.

Avocado/black beans (canned)/corn (canned)/tomato/onion/cilantro/spicy peppers/lime juice/cumin/paprika/salt is also great. Toss it in a tortilla and make a wrap or just eat it like a salad (either on top of greens or by itself). Add cheese if you want.
posted by SugarAndSass at 12:13 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

We like to make something called "meal salad". This does require that you buy some cooked chicken fingers in the deli of your favorite supermarket, so it's not incredibly healthy or inexpensive, but it's still cheaper than going out and it's very satisfying.

For each salad, you'll want:

a few cups of chopped iceberg lettuce
a few cooked chicken fingers, cut into bite size pieces
about 1/4 cup crispy chow mein noodles
about 1/3 cup canned chickpeas
about 1/4 cup diced tomato and/or sliced onion, optional

Toss with your favorite creamy salad dressing: I like ranch, my spouse likes honey mustard. It's also good with chopped hard boiled eggs, but of course that requires cooking.
posted by rossination at 12:18 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like to make fresh salsa by mashing chopped tomatoes, red onions, and bell pepper (or another mild pepper) with corn, squirts of lime or lemon juice and hot sauce to taste, and some fresh cilantro. I use a turn-the-handle type eggbeater but you could use a mortar and pestle, blender, or food processor or just the back of a big spoon. Tasty on tortilla chips, or crackers, or uncooked vegetables such as carrots or celery. Also customizable with chopped fresh jalapenos, watermelon chunks, mango...even beans if you like beans in your salsa.

On preview, this is basically cowboy caviar as linked above without the avocado. But avocado sounds like a swell addition!
posted by homelystar at 12:21 PM on June 25, 2013

I'll link to a previous comment of mine on "dump can salads" that may meet your requirements.
posted by drlith at 12:26 PM on June 25, 2013

Best answer: I was all "oh hey, it's hot where I am, too!" and then I see that we are in the same place. Heh. Others have mentioned the Meal of Snacks and that's a big one in our house on days like these, and I love how everyone has a name for it: Snack Dinner, The Spread, Catch As Catch Can. Other than Meal of Snacks, I like this Ina Garten tuna tartare. Original recipe serves 50, but here's the scaled down version a friend sent me years ago:

8-10 oz very fresh tuna steak
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lime (you will need all the juice and the zest)
1/2 tsp wasabi powder
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
a couple dashes of tobasco or hot red pepper sauce
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1/3 tbsp fresh black pepper
1 green onion/scallion, minced (both green and white parts)
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1/2 avocado
toasted sesame seeds (optional)
1 half cucumber, seeded

1) Cut tuna, avocado and cucumber into 1/4 inch dice and combine in one bowl.
2) In a separate bowl, combine olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi powder, soy sauce, tobasco, salt and pepper (the above is how the recipe breaks down, I just eyeball- also, I usually only use the zest from 1/4-1/2 of the lime, but I do use all the juice).
3) pour over tuna mixture, add jalapeno and green onion and sesame seeds if you wish (I don't use them) and mix together gently.
4) Chill for at least an hour, the longer the better
posted by hungrybruno at 12:28 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: You people are brilliant. For some reason I had forgotten that you can buy precooked chicken (and I think that my local Trader Joe's sells precooked hardboiled eggs too, actually).
posted by Ms. Informed at 12:32 PM on June 25, 2013

Best answer: Mark Bittman's take on recipes that won't heat up the house (so have no cooking, some have minimal use of the stovetop):

Summer Express: 101 Meals ready in 10 minutes or less
posted by dersins at 12:32 PM on June 25, 2013 [7 favorites]

Great question!

Ina Garten's panzanella

Pita sandwiches made with store-bought roasted chicken, hummus, lettuce, tomatoes

Crab tostadas (though I'm sure it's better with real crab we use imitation crab which the kids like better...we also leave out the mayo)
posted by biscuits at 12:33 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

My summer secret weapon is to cook large quantities of meat in the slow cooker outside on the patio overnight, decanting to storage containers first thing in the morning. We're pretty protein-dependent, and there's just no way to have enough to eat without cooking some meat at home. Rotisserie chicken is good, but I find them very salty.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:39 PM on June 25, 2013

Platter Dinner! some kind of cold meat (cubed ham, cut-up fully-cooked sausages, cooked shrimp, grilled chicken strips, smoked salmon whatever you can get already cooked at the store), cubes of cheese, sliced cucumbers, bell pepper strips, carrot sticks, avocado slices, grapes, cherry tomatoes, whatever. Arrange it all on a platter, put rolls in a bowl, everyone eats off the platter. No heat, one dish, kids love it, done.
posted by KathrynT at 1:34 PM on June 25, 2013

Best answer: FYI - the most recent issue of Southern Living magazine answers this question in 56 different ways.
posted by oceanjesse at 1:47 PM on June 25, 2013

Chick peas (can be from a can, just wash 'em well), cucumber, a little red/yellow onion, chopped kale (optional), fresh basil or parsley (optional), lemon juice, olive oil, salt. Mix well and eat. Even better after it's been marinating in the fridge a little.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:09 PM on June 25, 2013

Traditional in our household is the ample use of cold cuts, and veggie tray. Put them out with a range of pickles (oninons, olives and cucs) and some crusty bread and help yourself.

Also not sure if it counts but I'm a big fan of picking up a roast/rotisserie chook from the supermarket and having it for cold chicken for a night or 2 during hot spells. Just cut it into serving sizes or pull it from the bones and make wraps with salads in. You can make it asiany with some sauces and lettuce to make lettuce wraps or add salsa and go south of the border what ever takes your fancy.

Cold ham is great too, though I've only ever seen it heated in the US unless it's for sandwiches but it's nice just as a cold meat too, a lot of hams you can serve cold as they've already been cooked just check the label.

There are a lot of great salad recipes out there too so you can shake things up with anything from pea salads to watermelon salad, and I love a big bowl of guc and pita for dinner on a hot night.
posted by wwax at 3:20 PM on June 25, 2013

Summer Rolls! I like this recipe. Buy pre-cooked shrimp and fresh bun (rice vermicelli) and there's no cooking other than soaking things in hot water.
posted by bgrebs at 4:26 PM on June 25, 2013

I have been living off chicken tacos with mango salsa, diced avocado, and sour cream lately. Combined with a Pacifico, it has become my go to refreshing summer dinner.
posted by clearly at 5:06 PM on June 25, 2013

I've been eating this Avocado/cucumber tartine a LOT lately. The recipe says to toast the bread, but there's no need if you get a good crusty baguette.
posted by Empidonax at 7:08 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Hiyayakko tofu. Cold, soft tofu topped with various things. I like to mix a Korean-inspired sauce of soy sauce, minced garlic, Korean red pepper flakes, sugar, and sesame oil and pour that over the tofu on a plate or in a shallow bowl, then top with toasted sesame seeds, sliced green onion, bonito flakes, and red chile threads. Goes best with rice, which is almost no-cook if you have a rice cooker, but you can use other starches if you like, or make a salad.

Stuff on crackers, of course. A small sampling: salami, hard-boiled egg, sardines (any kind), smoked oysters, smoked clams, tuna, tuna salad, cheese of any sort, sliced radish, sliced cucumber, red onion, jalapeno, avocado, mustard, hot sauce, hummus, canned baba ghanoush, precooked shrimp, salted zucchini slices, salted Thai or Indian eggplant slices (yes, raw), cocktail sausages, olives, capers, raw vegetables of any kind... basically anything you can find that doesn't require cooking can go on a cracker.

Ceviche, coctel, or the vegetarian version, salsa (I do it with jicama and avocado in addition to tomato, for a variety of textures).
posted by WasabiFlux at 8:47 PM on June 25, 2013

Tuna Bean Salad:
Can of good tuna (in oil or water, I haven't found a difference personally)
Can of chickpeas or red beans
Herbs: Cilantro, mint, parsley, chives, whatever! Even a bit of arugula is pretty good as well.
Fresh tomato
A bit of red onion
Lime juice
olive oil
sea salt and pepper

All the measurements are really up to you.

Chop up the herbs, tomato and onion. Mix it up with olive oil and lime juice and a good dose of pepper. Add the beans and tuna, mix it up some more. Optional: Stick it in the fridge or freezer along with your plates to chill it. Sprinkle with sea salt before serving. It's also excellent the next day for lunch.
posted by like_neon at 1:28 AM on June 26, 2013

Salmon or steak tartare
posted by cl3m at 1:11 PM on June 26, 2013

Greek salad - sliced tomatoes, slice of red onion, sliced cucumbers, Greek olives, dressed with good olive oil, and served with a hunk of rustic bread.
Fresh coleslaw is really good, finely chopped cabbage and light dressing.
There's a lot of recipes for black bean and corn salad, I like it with halved cherry tomatoes, some onion and cilantro, dressed with lime juice and a little olive oil.
Even in pretty hot weather, it's worth it to me to make a large bowl of potato salad.
posted by theora55 at 8:08 PM on July 2, 2013

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