A Light, Refreshing, 100% No-Cook Dinner to Beat the Heat

Serious Entertaining

Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.

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It's been one of those weeks. The sweltering kind, where you start sweating within seconds of hitting the pavement and your skin sticks to any smooth surface it comes in contact with. Even my air-conditioned apartment feels overwhelmingly humid and hot. And when air-conditioning isn't cutting it, there's no way in hell I'm turning on the stove, let alone the oven.

Instead, I've been doing my fair share of lying prone beneath a fan, eating fridge scraps, dreaming of cooler weather and better food. Today, it ends. Today, WE FEAST! And best of all, we feast on a four-course meal that doesn't require even a second of actual cooking: just assemble and enjoy, ideally with a glass or two of chilled white wine or effervescent Lambrusco on the side.

Fig, Melon, and Spanish Ham Salad With Basil

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[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

This salad is so simple, it's barely even a salad. Think of it as "delicious stuff you put together on a plate." Fresh, jammy Mission figs; honey-sweet cubes of melon; paper-thin slices of salty, funky-nutty Spanish ham; a scattering of shredded basil. It's finished with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, for an effortless don't-break-a-sweat platter that captures some of summer's freshest flavors.

Get the recipe for Fig, Melon, and Spanish Ham Salad With Basil »

Easy Gazpacho

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

I've come to realize that I literally cannot tire of gazpacho. As light as a salad, refreshing as an ice-cool drink, and satisfying as a main course, it's my ideal mid-summer sustenance.* I whip up big batches of the stuff all season long, always intending to make it last the week. But since I inevitably wind up eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it rarely makes it more than a couple of days.

We have a truly special but somewhat labor-intensive Andalusian gazpacho that I love, but of all the gazpacho recipes I've tried, this simplified rendition delivers hands-down the best results given the extraordinarily minimal effort that's required. Simply scatter some bread in the bottom of a bowl; top it with chopped and salted vegetables, fresh herbs, and some oil and vinegar; let it sit for 30 minutes or so, and then blend it all together. For a super-smooth texture, you can pass it through a strainer a couple of times, though if I'm being totally honest, sometimes I can't even wait that long. Be sure to serve it with a fresh country-style bread to sop up every last drop!

* If you're a lush like me, you can also throw some booze and protein into the mix for a gazpacho Bloody Mary with pickled shrimp.

Get the recipe for Easy Gazpacho »

Artic Char Aguachile With Habanero, Jicama, and Lime

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

If there's one thing I crave when I'm chugging sipping my bowl of gazpacho, it's a chilled plate of fresh ceviche to go alongside. I'm all for classic Peruvian ceviche, but ever since I was introduced to aguachile—ceviche's Mexican cousin—I've had a hard time going back. What sets aguachile apart is that it's served immediately after being tossed with citrus and aromatics, rather than marinating until the acid has begun to denature or "cook" the seafood's proteins.

Aguachile is traditionally made with shrimp (we also have a version with scallops), but I'm especially enamored with this take, starring sashimi-grade arctic char. The filet is salted and refrigerated for one or two hours until it's lightly cured, and then combined with diced jicama, slivered red onion, and herbal coriander seed. Then, right before serving, the whole mixture is tossed in a blended sauce of water, fiery habañeros, tart lime juice, and mint. Serve it with sliced avocados and some tostadas to help cut the heat.

Get the recipe for Artic Char Aguachile With Habanero, Jicama, and Lime »

White Sangria Paletas

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[Photograph: Fany Gerson]

Since the evening's taken something of a Latin turn, we might as well stay on-theme with some chilled paletas. These white sangria popsicles couldn't be more straightforward: just mix up a batch of your favorite sangria, put some aside for sipping, and freeze the rest in a paleta or popsicle mold (or an ice cube tray, if you're short on supplies). You can't make it too boozy or they won't actually freeze, but otherwise they're yours to play around with!

Get the recipe for White Sangria Paletas »