​Chill Out: Cool and Easy Summer Meals to Beat the Heat

Food & Drink

During the warm, yet chill, days of late summer, the last thing you want to do is sweat over a hot stove making a hot meal that you might not be in the mood to eat after all that hot. Who wants to spend all that time in the kitchen when the weather is so good and there’s so much fun stuff to do outside? Luckily for you, we have the solution. Cold food! We’ve gathered some cold-serve, warm-weather meals that are easy to make so you can go enjoy this easy feelin’ season. Read on and eat up.

Mmmelony Minty (M)gazpacho
Most people think of tomatoes when they think of gazpacho, which is fine—tomatoes are tasty and there are plenty of ‘em this time of year. But let us not forget the other wonder-fruits (and veggies) of summer, like watermelon and cucumber. This recipe also incorporates refreshing mint and some other secret-weapon flavors, making this twist on classic gazpacho a little sweet, slightly spicy, cool and a refreshing thing of wonder.

What to use:

  • 2 seedless cucumbers, peeled and diced (about a cup)
  • 4 cups seeded and diced watermelon
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1 small red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • ½ small onion, diced
  • 3 tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 ½ tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds or pepitas (optional)
  • Olive oil (optional)
  • Sour cream or creme fraiche (optional)

How to use it
Combine first 10 ingredients in a large bowl reserving 2 tbsp. mint and stir to combine. In batches, purée all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours. Before serving, taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Divide between chilled bowls and top with watermelon, toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped mint, sour cream/creme fraiche or a drizzle of olive oil. Makes 6 servings.

Meat! Bread! Greens!
Stale bread got you down? Well chin up, friend. This hearty panzanella salad recipe will take care of all that old bread you’ve been hoarding (although we should discuss—why have you been hoarding old bread?). It requires a bit of cooking, but it’s steak, so no argument there, right? Plus, the flavor-bang and satisfied feeling it provides make it worth the effort. And any sensations of being overheated can be quelled with a cool and classic refresher.What to use


  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp. Worcestershire
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • ¼ tsp. honey


  • 1 10-oz. loaf bread
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 12 oz. hanger steak
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into 1-in. cubes
  • 1 medium cucumber, cut into ½ in. slices
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-in. cubes
  • 2 oz. arugula, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup thinly shaved Parmesan cheese

How to use it
Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl until emulsified.

Heat oven to 300°F. Tear the bread into rough 1-in. cubes, place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake about 20-25 mins. until hard on the outside but still slightly soft in the middle, rotating the sheet halfway through. Cool on the baking sheet. Place the onion in a large bowl, add 2 tbsp. of vinaigrette, combine and set aside. Heat a 10-in. skillet about 10 mins. over high heat until smoking and season steak with salt and pepper on both sides. Sear steak in the the skillet for 7-9 mins. per side (7 for medium-rare, 9 for medium) and transfer to a cutting board. Add tomatoes, cucumber and pepper to the bowl with onions. Add arugula, bread cubes and ½ cup of vinaigrette and combine. Slice steak across grain, add it and Parmesan to the salad and toss to combine. Makes 4-6 servings.

Cha-Cha Charcuterie
There are those who think a cheese plate* is the way to go when looking for a low-effort/high-praise treat. But just as tasty and simple to create is the charcuterie board. Charcuterie (shar-cute-uh-ree) is French for any smoked, dry-cured or cooked meat. Or, more to the point, a delicious meat plate. Traditionally, charcuterie involves mostly pork, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. Cured sausages are charcuterie, as are dried meats, such as prosciutto. Meaty bits in containers, like pâté and terrines, also fit the bill. Of course, don’t forget some bread, jams and pickly things to even it all out. The best charcuterie boards have a little bit of everything on them. There are many ways to construct a winning platter, and creativity and curiosity will help you find your faves, but here are some suggestions to get you started.

First things first, you’re going to need a good butcher and specialty shop. You’re also going to need to sample things any time you have the opportunity as it will help you select your favorites. Plus, free samples are free.

Aim for at least three different meats on your board. Go for between 2 and 5 oz. per person, depending on what else you might be serving. Mix it up with a variety of whole-muscle meats and salami, sliced thin or cubed, and choose complementary, but contrasting, flavors and textures. Muscle cuts of meat can come thick or paper-thin, but thin is better for charcuterie boards—try bresaola (air-dried and salted beef tenderloin), guanciale (bacon and jowl), prosciutto, jamon Ibérico or lomo. For salami, try some chorizo or soppressata.

Don’t limit yourself to just meat slices, though—patés or terrines can add some mystery to the board and can be made from just about anything, including veggies. So if you feel pate isn’t your thing politically speaking, just dig a little deeper.

Don’t forget the lard. Never thought you’d be able to live by that statement, eh? Lard is an excellent addition to any platter—lard is fat and fat is flavor and there you go. Grab up some pork fatback, like speck or lardo, slap it on small pieces of toasted, crusty bread and top with sea salt.

It ain’t just about the meat. Ok, it’s mainly about the meat, but other stuff is good, too. Sweet and savory spreads round things out nicely and pair great with meats or just on a slice of bread by themselves. Spoon out some ground mustard or fig preserves or red onion jam.

You can go any number of ways here. Crackers are always easy, but homemade toasts are fun and show you really care about the bread your friends eat. Or grab a handful of breadsticks or slice up a baguette. Just make sure you’ve got sufficient carbs to pair with all that fat.

Having a crunchy texture as well as the sour bite of pickles can help cut through things and get your mouth ready for the next big bite. Cornichons are classic, but any tangy or tart pickle will do the trick. And while they’re not actually pickled, nuts can add some basic crunch to slice through some of the richness of your board.

Most people think bubbles and wine when considering the boozes to go along with your charcuterie plate. But one of the best things about charcuterie, besides the mountains of meat, is the fact that almost everything pairs well with it. Sure, you can go with Cava or a nice Pinot Gris or Barbera, but don’t ignore a Saison or Pilsner or something of your own making, should you feel so inclined. Keep it as easy or adventurous as you want. Just invite the pals over, line up the foods and look forward to a delectable evening.

If you happen to be that person who prefers a cheese plate to one of the charcuterie variety—or if you want to serve both—no shame there. Cheese is also fantastic. And a cheese plate can be easy to compose, too, if you have the right tips:

  • Cut the cheese, heh, when it is still cold and arrange the plate from “mild to wild” (mildest flavor to strongest flavor), with the first cheese at the 12 o’clock spot. Plan on about 1 oz. of cheese per person.
  • Arrange the cheese wedges on your board and cut a single slice from each and provide a separate knife for each—even though we’re not talking about it in the harmful, germ-y sense, you don’t want to cross-contaminate your cheese.
  • Do not fear the cheese selection. Grab a sheep (highest in fat, rich and round, prone to barn-y flavors), a cow (most versatile), a goat (lower in fat, can be tangy or barn-y) and a blue, and choose both hard and soft cheeses.