The Summer Strategy to Never Turning on Your Oven

published Aug 23, 2016
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(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

The main goal of summer cooking is simple: Buy all the fresh vegetables you can and try to not turn on the oven. At all. If you must, boil some pasta or sauté the vegetables on the stovetop, but that hot box should remain off as much as possible. How to cope? There are outdoor grills if you have a yard, but I advise to focus the bulk of your efforts on the fine art of assembling, which is basically cooking without the heat.

The desire to not turn on your oven combined with the tumble-down avalanche of summer produce means that cooking-as-assembly is not at all a problem. In fact, it’s a fun and inspirational challenge to see just how long you can go without turning your kitchen into a sauna in the middle of August.

For example, last night’s dinner involved the following: A platter of sliced tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and strewn with herbs and salt; a simple green salad with shaved radishes and fennel; fresh green beans barely blanched in boiling water and tossed with pesto; and a loaf of crusty bread, a nice cheese, and a decent bottle of rosé. There you have it — a pretty delicious dinner, with just the tiniest bit of applied heat.

It’s popular to call this “lazy cooking,” but I’m not a fan of the term. Instead I see these simple, assembled meals of summer as responding appropriately to the present circumstances. In other words, this is smart cooking, this is inspired cooking, this is living-in-the-moment cooking. No apologies necessary.

No-Oven Inspiration

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)