Here are some ways to get dinner on the table – without heating up your kitchen. Late summer heatwaves can zap your energy, and make it hard to think about eating, let alone cooking. But unless you live alone – in which case, you can embrace the heatwave weight loss plan – you will probably need to get some meals on the table.
Here’s a tip: Try not to think about what would work if you wanted to turn on your oven or stand over your stove for any amount of time. Instead, focus on what you CAN do in the kitchen that avoids (or minimizes) oven and stove use.
Another tip for hot weather dinner ideas, albeit not a “last minute” strategy – use your freezer. Make dinner building blocks in advance to make meals come together more quickly.
And if your schedule permits, prepare and eat dinner a bit later. Perhaps that will allow for a square of shade to shield part of your outdoor space, or for you to open up a few more windows to capture some type of evening breeze.
But as far as the meals themselves, just rethink the concept of “cooking” and think about using some other kitchen verbs to feed yourself and your family. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Salads are among the most quintessential hot weather dinner ideas. But think creatively. A salad can be loosely defined- particularly with end-of-summer-produce on hand. Tomatoes and stone fruit? Sure. Watermelon and feta? Absolutely. Lettuce with berries? Delicious.
Make a dressing, or simply drizzle with olive oil, vinegar of your choice (cider, champagne, red, balsamic – all are good), and a pinch of Omnivore salt, my go-to all purpose seasoning.
Need something more substantial? Picky kids won’t eat greens? The close sibling of a salad is a charcuterie board. These were becoming of the darling of the catering and entertaining world just as we were forced to stop hosting gatherings. That doesn’t mean you need to skip the trend at home. Chop those raw (or grilled) veggies. Add some eggs, hard cooked in your Instapot, or sliced deli meats and/or cheeses. Support a local bakery to get fresh bread without turning on your oven.
A few slices of filling between a couple slices of bread – and you are ready to eat. My summer sandwich of choice is always a BLT, or more precisely, a BLAT – Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado and Tomato sandwich. Cook the bacon in the air fryer and you don’t have to worry about turning on your oven or babysitting a pan of spattering slices. But you can have whatever kind of sandwich you’d like – egg salad, ham and Swiss, or grilled veggies and hummus.
A little forethought can mean you have your own “takeout” ready to go after a few minutes to reheat. Curries and other “saucy” mains freeze well and reheat beautifully. You can also freeze cooked samosas or portions of lasagna and heat those up as needed.
Grilling is often a go-to for hot weather dinner ideas, and summer meals on the grill are a simple option. In a heatwave, however, stay away from foods that need to be tended to constantly, like fish or skewers. Instead think about chicken thighs or grilled pizza, which allow you to close the lid and walk away for a few minutes.
Don’t underestimate the power of pressure cooking for a hands-off meal that won’t overheat your kitchen. Taco fillings are an easy option (bonus if you have frozen some of your last batch of tortillas!), as are these mix-and-match options. But for a little island twist to your meal, try this Kalua Pork recipe adapted for the Instapot by Nom Nom Paleo.
The bacon adds smokiness, without needing liquid smoke. The Hawaiian salt is authentic, but use what you have on hand. The pull-apart tender meat can be used in sandwiches, to fill tacos, to top nachos or served with rice and macaroni salad.
- 3 bacon slices
- 5 pounds bone-in pork shoulder roast
- 1½ tablespoons coarse sea salt or ~1 tablespoon fine sea salt Hawaiian, if available
- 6 peeled garlic cloves
- 1 cup water
- Line your Instapot with the bacon slices, and set to saute. Wait about one minute for bacon to start sizzling.
- Slice the pork roast into three equal pieces. Make two slits in each piece and tuck in a peeled garlic clove in each slit.
- Check your bacon- flip the slices and then turn off the Instapot when evenly browned.
- Evenly salt the pork, and then layer on top of the crisped bacon.
- Pour in the water. (Use more if you have a larger Instapot to avoid the "burn" error.)
- Lock your instapot and pressure cook for 90 minutes.
- After 90 minutes, speed up the "natural release" by pressing the "keep warm button.
- After the pressure is released, you do need to check that the meat is tender – if not, pressure cook for 5-10 additional minutes.
- Shred the pork, pile it on nachos, wrap in tortillas, fill Hawaiian rolls, or serve with rice and mac salad.
I would love to know what are some of your top hot weather dinner ideas. Please share in the comments.