Keeping Cool: No-oven summer meals

The summer heat has arrived! We’ve already survived a few heat-waves in Davis—passing as many hours in the pool as we can before retreating back into the air-conditioning. Cooking indoors can raise the temperature in a home by up to 10 degrees, so the last thing anyone would want to do, when that thermostat is hitting those triple digit numbers, is turn on an oven or spend time over a stove.

Today I’m partnering with Lennox, who provides the efficiency, control, and (cool) comfort we expect from the most valued and innovative appliances in our homes, to offer up some menu suggestions that will keep you cool inside and out. When all is said and done, nothing beats the heat like a high-quality HVAC system that’s well maintained during hot summer days, but these are some of my favorite things to serve whether it’s just us or it’s a crowd. You could pare this down for a very simple afternoon.

Think fresh, crunchy salads, stone fruit sliced with creamy mozzarella, the bright acid of tomatoes with mint. Think shaved summer squash, melon with prosciutto, and grilled meat that can hang out for a while. I’ve discovered my favorite meals come from imagining a hot day near the mediterranean sea—where lemons and olives, basil and lavender reign supreme.

Simple starters and snacks


If your market has an olive bar, start there!

If you’re putting together your own, try a mix of jarred green Castelvetranos and Kalamatas. You can marinate them in some extra virgin olive oil with grated orange or lemon peel and rosemary to give them a special touch.

Burrata and Figs

Burrata—mozzarella skin filled with soft, stringy curd and fresh cream—used to be difficult to find, but now it seems the word is out. If, however, it’s not available at your grocery, try using a fresh whole-milk ricotta. The combination is great in salads and on pizzas, but it’s especially decadent when just set out with crackers and a knife.


The salumieri at Columbus Craft Meats gave me some tips about serving salami last year, one of which was that it tastes better when closer to room temperature. So if you bring home something pre-sliced from the deli or taken off the cooler racks, leave it out for a few minutes before serving. My favorite is thinly sliced prosciutto and fennel-flecked Finocchiona salame.

Fresh Salads

Shaved summer squash

Put aside a couple of lemons, a couple of cups of arugula, and a couple of ounces of olive oil for this one. Use a mandoline (or a vegetable peeler) to shave a few yellow squash and green zucchini over the arugula. Grate the zest of one lemon into a bowl and add the juice of the two lemons. Stir with olive oil and a couple of teaspoons of coarse salt. Pour over the salad and add freshly ground pepper. (Optional: garnish with mint and/or shavings of pecorino cheese.)

This would also work well with shaved asparagus.


This one requires you to use the grill (that you’re heating up for the meat, later). If you’re trying to avoid all heat, leave out the bread and just enjoy a juice-laden tomato salad.

Roughly chop the best tomatoes you can find—preferably large plum varieties or beefsteak, but cherry tomatoes would work, too. About one tomato per slice is a good start. Let them marinate in olive oil—again, the best you have, because it’s about the simple flavors—with salt and pepper and a few leaves of basil for at least ten minutes, if not longer.

Toast your bread on the grill, preferably leaving nice black lines across it, and rub a clove of garlic over the rough surface.

Divide the chopped tomato mixture between the toasts, add another dash of olive oil and garnish with more basil.

Grilled Meat

Using an outdoor grill keeps the heat out of the kitchen and cleanup to a minimum, so it’s the way to go in the summer! Flank steak is a great option—inexpensive and fast-cooking— but Aron’s favorite cut is Tri-Tip.

He assures me it’s simple: Season on both sides with salt and pepper and place on a hot grill. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until a thermometer reads the appropriate temperature (120F for rare, 140F for medium, or 160F for well-done). For a cut this thick to get to 130F will take about 10-15 minutes. Flip it halfway through the cooking process.

When you take it off the grill, let it rest on a carving board for 5-10 minutes before slicing it (at least until the temperature stabilizes). Slice on the diagonal, against the grain, no thicker than one-half inch. I’d try for even thinner with a flank steak.

It will be great on its own, but my favorite is when Aron makes a delicious verde sauce: Combine 1 tablespoon of chopped shallots with 2 tablespoons of finely chopped tarragon in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

A note on thermometers: We used the iGrill (a new favorite), but Thermapens and Thermapops are our other favorites. If you’re just starting out, be sure to get yourself a good meat thermometer and a couple of pairs of extra-long tongs (used separately for raw and cooked meat).

Finally, no grill? No problem. Let your local deli counter do the cooking and substitute a rotisserie chicken.


The options for cold, sweet finishes is endless (popsicles, ice cream, frozen bananas…). I’d opt for berries and mascarpone, with a crumbling of amaretti cookies, after this meal.

How about you? What are your favorite summer meals that keep your oven off? 

This post was brought to you by Lennox. Innovation never felt so good. Contact your local Lennox dealer today to learn more about the precise and efficient HVAC products Lennox offers.

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