What Do You Do When It's Too Hot to Cook?
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.
A Texas-style caprese salad, made with things that grow best in summer -- local tomatoes and basil -- and cuajada fresca in place of mozzarella.
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?"
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."
Photo courtesy of Tintos Some of Houston's best soups are served cold.
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.