What to Eat When You're Already Cooked

When the temperature hits 102 like it did yesterday in Washington, it's difficult to complete even the simplest of tasks, with that gunky layer of environmental haze muddling all cerebral functions.

When it's this hot, I can hardly walk a straight line, feeling tipsy (but not in a good way), let alone figure out what to make for supper. When it's so hot that it feels like the oven is already on, why would any self-respecting soul turn that dial at dinnertime?

This was the question I continued to ask myself as I wandered aimlessly at the Clarendon farmers' market late yesterday afternoon, in search of inspiration for a cool supper. Had my brain been fully operational, I would have noticed all the fixings for gazpacho right before me -- cucumbers, carrots, basil, peppers, tomatoes. There's no better time of the year to whip up this Spanish classic, which packs a nutritional punch to boot. Think of all those colorful antioxidants you're drinking up!

Some of us take issue with the love apple, which makes gazpacho a less than stellar idea -- although a white gazpacho with green grapes or cucumber would make an excellent Plan B.

When I'm melting, my thoughts often turn to Vietnamese summer rolls (aka fresh rolls or salad rolls), made of moistened rice paper wrappers, stuffed with herbs, a mix of produce diverse in color and texture, from julienned carrots to chunks of avocado, and most often, rice vermicelli noodles. Technically, you're supposed to boil those noodles, but if you really wanted to play by the un-cook rules, you could soak them in really warm water for about 20 minutes.

The option behind Door Number Three is my old hot weather standby, a big bowl of homemade hummus, with an assortment of crunchy veggies for dipping. Nothing makes Mister Mighty Appetite happier, and now he knows how to make it himself. Ain't life grand.

Hummus was exactly what we supped on last night, and our neighbors the Fonzes joined us in our cool repast and a glass of wine. With a little more thought, I would have expanded on the Middle Eastern theme and whipped up a batch of tabbouleh, a salad of quick-softening, most definitely un-cooked bulgur wheat, seasoned with parsley, lemon, scallions and chopped tomatoes. The hazy cobwebs surrounding my brain always seem to lift when I make tabbouleh.

Last, but not least, is ceviche, one of the coolest uncooked dishes on the planet, which involves seafood and acid, usually of the citrus variety. In a seasoned lime bath, scallops and shrimp can "cook" in less than 30 minutes. For the past several months, a reader has been asking for a recipe, and I promise this weekend I'm getting to work. Details in next week's space.

And now, it's your turn. What do you make for dinner that requires not a drop of oven or stove power? Share in the comments area below.

By Kim ODonnel |  August 9, 2007; 11:44 AM ET Dinner Tonight , Summer
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We opted the other night for pitas stuffed with fresh, local veggies (cuke, tomato, onion, green pepper); mushrooms; spinach; feta; and balsamic vinaigrette. I did boil a couple of ears of corn to go with the sandwiches, but it hit the spot and didn't steam up my kitchen.

Posted by: Troylet | August 9, 2007 12:25 PM

We keep a bowl of gazpacho in our refrigerator most of the summer. We do cheat and cook up a chicken breast, have gazpacho and perhaps some of the yummy fresh corn that's out there right now. We finish it off with a blueberry/nectarine crisp (I make a large batch of it and it keeps in the refrigerator for a week or so). I know we cheat with the chicken and corn, but what a yummy meal.

Posted by: peapod | August 9, 2007 12:31 PM

I made pasta last night -- with a COOKED tomato sauce -- in my unairconditioned kitchen. It was insane. So maybe tabbouleh tonight! Question: whenever I include a large amount of raw parsely to a dish, it never seems to add in right, the end product always has a sorty of scratchy texture that sticks in the throat. Is this a question of not chopping finely enough, do you think?

Posted by: I should have read this yesterday | August 9, 2007 12:51 PM

went to the neighborhood pool yesterday. It was more like warm bathtub so we did not feel so refreshed. However, husband made some awsome panko breaded flounder sandwiches. It took him less than 15 minutes. wrapped the sandwiches up; grabbed some fruit and drink; and off we went to the pool. I would recommend having some meat during this hot weather but I wouldn't have something too heavy, say meatloaf (which I am in a mood for but way too hot for the apartment)

Posted by: pali_g | August 9, 2007 1:26 PM

It's not a no cook meal, I would fix what I called the summer meal. Boiled new potatoes, corn on the cob and watermelon.

BLT's almost qualify as no cook, especially if you use a microwave to cook the bacon.

Posted by: rdv | August 9, 2007 1:38 PM

I would pick up a ready-cooked rotisserie chicken from my local Giant, some fresh salad greens with home-made viniagrette dressing, maybe a cold pasta salad from the deli aisle, and fresh watermelon slices or ice cream for dessert. Some cooking with these items is required but not by me ;-)

Posted by: Southern Maryland | August 9, 2007 1:46 PM

Check out this gazpacho recipe:
totally different take on the normal.

Posted by: gansie | August 9, 2007 2:11 PM

No contest...salade nicoise. Yes, you have to hard-cook the eggs and steam the baby potatoes, but I always have some of those already done in my fridge for quick snacks anyway. Put a bed of lettuce on a platter, open a can of light tuna packed in olive oil (none of that albacore-in-a-bag stuff that tastes like wet dust), drain it and plop it in the center of the platter. Arrange bunches of blanched or thawed baby green beans; wedges of hard-cooked egg; tomato slices/wedges or whole/halved grape or cherry tomatoes; and scatter with a couple different kinds of olives. Drizzle with homemade or bottled (travesty!) mustard vinaigrette, and you've got a complete meal with all of the food groups with minimal cooking. To be really authentic, I serve mine with nicely chilled rose wine from Provence or Spain.

Posted by: dcgirl1899 | August 9, 2007 2:41 PM

I did end up cooking spaghetti, but I made an uncooked sauce with some lovely homegrown tomatoes I was given, which I've sworn NOT to let go to waste.

The sauce was just chopped (seeded) maters, minced garlic, fresh basil (chiffonaded), salt, pepper, shredded parm, all macerated in olive oil for an hour at room temp. It seemed a little thin in the end, or maybe I needed more protein, so I threw in a dollop of ricotta after tossing up the spaghetti and sauce.

Posted by: Reine de Saba | August 9, 2007 3:30 PM

We make the Lemony Couscous With Scallions and Chickpeas from the Washington Post food section site. We have been throwing in what we have, like cherry tomatos, cucumber, raw corn kernels, depending. We have this down to a science. I usually make half a recipe (with half a box of couscous) or a full recipe if we want some leftovers for the week. It's great with grilled brats or chicken. Or with an ear of corn. Or by itself for lunch. The parsley and scallions make it. Easy and good. And you don't have to cook, except to boil some water.

Posted by: Kary | August 9, 2007 5:24 PM

I like the Walnut Hummus recipe in Peter Berley's book "Fresh Food Fast" (I think that is the title). You toast the walnuts, but that's all the cooking involved. I like it in hot weather like this, and it's also nice in cool weather (served with warmed pita) because it reminds me of warmer times.

Posted by: Somerville, MA | August 9, 2007 5:32 PM

I have my live-in personal chef prepare my meals so I cannot really relate to your petty dilemmas. Do you people not have air conditioning in your dwellings?

Posted by: Upper | August 9, 2007 9:18 PM

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