Food Friday: Cool Dinners for Hot Days

Several chicken wrap sandwiches on mat.jpg

It’s summer and the weather is hot. It’s great to turn to festive cold dishes. But they often contain lots of simple carbohydrates, which most of us should avoid. Here are some tips to help you avoid the same old sandwiches, crackers and pasta salads. 

Some recipes, especially these which are high in protein, require a little preparation in advance. 

With advance cooking: 

  • Prepare any kind of meat, chicken or fish in surplus. Use in any of the following ways: 
  • Season liberally and toss into a leafy green salad for a balanced meal, e.g Taco salad. Serve with fresh corn rather than chips.
  • Season liberally and toss with firm vegetables such as cubed carrots, steamed broccoli, carrots, peas, corn, peppers, tomatoes. Dress with a vinaigrette in advance to marinate, flavor and soften. Add raw nuts to any salad but be sure about allergies. 
  • Make wraps and include vegetable, garnishes, salsas and condiments. Consider rice, seaweed or iceberg lettuce wraps with toothpicks. 
  • Use hard boiled eggs as a protein rich garnish to leafy salads, or mix with olive oil vinegar, mustard lemon and spices to make a rich dressing. Traditional Cobb Salad and Salade Nicoise are made this way. 
  • Make an egg salad with lots of vegetables like celery, pickles, relishes, peppers, etc. 
  • Make “meat” balls of chicken, meat or even fish (called gefilte fish traditionally), and serve on sticks with flavorful cold sauces for dipping. Find recipes that have high flavor since flavor is more subtle in cold dishes. 
  • Make chicken salads, e.g. curried chicken salad or Waldorf salad. 


With no advance cooking: 

( Remember, deli meats are not for pregnant women.) 

  • Meat deli trays.  
  • Cheese Deli trays. 
  • Smoked fish or poultry platter. Any of these can go with all the trimmings, i.e.fruits, vegetables, condiments. Try not to resort to all the crackers. Build hor d’oevres on slices of cucumber, small tomatoes halves or slices of firm cheese.
  • Toss cubes of feta, mozarella or other cheese with leafy or firm vegetable salads. Dress attractively with flavored vinaigrette or a creamy homemade dressing. 
  • Make cold fruit soup with a yogurt or kefir base. 
  • Use canned salmon or your favorite canned meat fish or chicken to make spreads, dips and additions to salad. Think "tuna salad” but better. 


Once you’ve got a protein rich cold main dish figured out, it’s easy to think of cold side dishes. Make any kinds of fruit or vegetable salads; try your hand at a cold Gazpacho. Those who can tolerate legumes (beans, tofu, etc) can make many more protein rich dishes, though one must bear in mind that to constitute complete protein, legumes must be combined with whole grains. 

To keep your cool dinner healthy, steer clear of soda, fruit juices and excess alcohol. Lightly sweetened herbal iced teas flavored with lemon wedges and mint leaves are always appreciated. You can also use just a splash of fruit juice with cold and very economical club soda, at a fraction of the price of commercial gourmet sodas. 

Finally, cool desserts are easy. Try fresh berries, melon or pitted fruit with cow’s milk or coconut cream. If you are feeing ambitious, prepare an exotic sorbet. Simple reliable ice cream makers are commonly available these days at any big box store, and make your recipe into ice cream in 45 minute or less. Just remember to freeze the cylinder well in advance of using it.