What Do You Do When It's Too Hot to Cook?

Categories: Leftovers

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A Texas-style caprese salad, made with things that grow best in summer -- local tomatoes and basil -- and cuajada fresca in place of mozzarella.
As Houston's summer weather goes, this last week of June isn't too terrible. Low humidity, highs under 100 degrees. But looking ahead to the rest of an increasingly humid, increasingly hot summer gets more like looking down an endless gravel highway, shimmering and waving in the brutal heat. It just ain't pretty.

In this, my thirtieth Houston summer, it's becoming increasingly difficult to motivate myself to cook in the evenings. Even with the A/C cranked down, the oven and the stove heat up my small apartment to the same temperatures outside.

Instead, I increasingly find myself eating fruit, cheese and crackers, or salads -- even salads in the roughest sense of the word, as in "Here are a bunch of cold things I found in my refrigerator and will now toss in a bowl with vinegar."

Interested in how our readers cope with the warm weather, I took to the Internet to crowdsource for answers.

"I generally nibble on things like Greek yogurt, berries and almonds," says Jody Stevens, local baker and owner of Jodycakes. "Who wants heavy, hot stuff on 100-plus degree days?"

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Photo courtesy of Tintos
Some of Houston's best soups are served cold.
Steph Stradley, Texans blogger for the Houston Chronicle, agrees, listing a refreshingly cold soup as her summer go-to: "Gazpacho. Pretty much year-round food in Houston."

Many people turn to smaller plates of antipasto-style nibbles in addition to those cold soups. "Tomato salads, cold raw vegetable soups, fruit salads, cheese and wine, sandwiches, pizza on the grill, charcuterie with pickled veggies, and ice cream" make up food blogger Dragana Harris's preferred summer items. Chef Riccardo Palazzo-Giorgio, most recently of Greatfull Taco, mirrors Harris's list and adds a few important considerations of his own: "Olives, cheese, crusty bread and wine, wine, oh yeah, and wine."

Of course, there are other alternatives to cooking at home that don't involve turning on the oven. "I'm surprised I didn't see anyone mention a microwave / convection oven combo," says Brian Truax of Houston's Fresh Arts Coalition. "We can bake up pretty much anything in our microwave and it doesn't heat up the apartment at all."

And no longer are slow cookers seen as the wintertime items. "Crock pot soups," says food blogger Lynn Ghose Cabrera, when asked about her summer cooking routine. "Last week was split pea; this week, Cuban style black bean. Usually with a side of sliced tomatoes, olives, salami."

But while just as many people are making their own summer picnics at home, the restaurant industry -- which traditionally sees summer as some of its slowest months -- is picking up, too, as more and more people choose to eat out instead of heating up the house, crowding around a table and working up a sweat doing dishes later on.

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15 comments
Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

Crock pot idea=brilliant. We made an incredible beef stew tonight and I'm wearing a cardigan while the A/C blasts away. Also have plans for a watermelon salad I saw on Chelsea Lately, of all places.

Mamacita
Mamacita

Use that slow cooker to make pulled pork.

Jay Francis
Jay Francis

There is this protein shake that is insanely delicious and makes for a thick,icy cold, low calorie evening meal. It is the MetRx brand Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor protein shake. You can vary it up by putting a couple of drops of peppermint extract in it. Another variation is to add a tablespoonful of the Nutiva brand Hemp Shake.

Michael
Michael

 Fuck all day, cook all night, problem solved.

Randy West
Randy West

i like to make oiled up gonzo videos on plastic tarps when its too hot outside.  my "air tight" series has been noted as "quite artistic" in various circles.

Megan
Megan

Excellent topic; my humble city is under an excessive heat warning through tomorrow.  Not only that, but I'm already feeling sluggish from the normal summer heat.  So light food is a real winner in my book. Let's see: In my fridge, I have cold cooked chicken, mozzarella and provolone cheeses, hummus, pita, some turkey lunchmeat, sauteed onions, cilantro-lime brown rice, and basil.  There's a tomato sitting on the counter.  Dinner tonight will most likely be a turkey sandwich and caprese salad.  I love to make mezze platters with hummus, pita, and crunchy raw veggies (carrots, cucumber, peppers).  Salads are always popular, as well; my favorite is a pan-roasted corn salad with tomatoes and feta.  In the mornings, I like to make smoothies with my coffee, chocolate protein powder and soy milk.  About the only cooking I'll do is boil water for pasta, and then I'm tossing frozen vegetables in with the water to cook both at once.  Toss with a citrus vinaigrette and instant pasta salad.  Grilled shrimp, chicken and small amounts of beef are cooked for protein (and can be enjoyed cold and added to just about anything).  Add to that lots of fresh fruit (especially berries and peaches!), and I'm good.

If I go out, it's most likely for some Thai noodles, the hotter the better.  I also love spring rolls and bun from Vietnamese restaurants. 

csoakley
csoakley

Those little convection toaster ovens are the best. I was able to cook bread in mine without turning the whole house into a sauna. I used that little guy until the knobs broke off. I would get another but I'm in a new place and the AC works really well. 

Florida63
Florida63

Bacon and tomato sandwich with watermelon or tomato gazpacho from Radical Eats.

Shotgun Dude
Shotgun Dude

I don't know about you people, but I have AC in my abode.

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

I make tomato/onion/cuke salad a lot (a LOT) and so there's always some in the fridge at various stages of marination. For lunch I pair it with whole-wheat pita and hummus, for dinner I cut up some cold baked chicken (also a fridge staple in my house) and toss the t/o/c salad and chicken with some torn lettuce leaves. Done.

TQro
TQro

Same with us, snacking on lots of fruit (watermelon, musk melon, cantaloupe, peaches, blueberries, figs are all in season) and eating out a whole lot more.  It's been a good time to get to the restaurants we've been meaning to visit.  The heat just makes us lazy.

I can't forget our nightly trips to the refresqueria for a raspa.  We love our spot because the lady sells more than raspas, she has her own ice cream and sorbet (helado and nieve, respectively).  Love the nieve de guayaba.  She makes banana splits, vasos de fruta, mangonadas, paletas, etc. so there is something for everyone.

1311
1311

Good list.  But don't forget the ceviche.  Had some trout in the freezer from a Rockport fishing trip -- two hours in lime juice, tomatoes, onions, etc. -- boom.  Perfect late June dinner.  Crack open a sauvignon blanc or a Modelo and bag of plantain chips, and you're golden.

Lynda
Lynda

This is great information!

Megan
Megan

So do I, but even when it's hot, I don't necessarily want to eat something heavy and feel like crap for the rest of the night.

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