Summer is easily one of my favorite seasons. The weather is nice, beaches are open, it’s the perfect time to vacation, I could go on and on. But it can get hot. Very hot — like sticky, sweaty, messy, feels-like-the-bowels-of-hell-have-opened hot. And the very last place anyone wants to be in the heat is a kitchen with a stove on or oven running.
Because of this, I’ve always found meal planning during the summer months to be a major challenge. Especially since we live in the city and are not allowed to have a grill in our building. Takeout every night would be a dream, but that’s obviously not financially feasible. But below are a few tips I’ve picked up for making stress-free summer dinners.
Keep it cool
The goal is to avoid turning on the oven. Large, savory salads like antipasto or cobb are perfect for this. Charcuterie boards with various cured meats, cheeses, and other grazing foods are another good option — they offer something for everyone (a lifesaver in a household with multiple picky eaters), are easy to prepare, and leave minimal cleanup.
Try one-shot meals
If you have to turn the oven on, one of the hacks I use is making dinners cooked in one pot or on one baking sheet. I call them one-shot meals. Sausage with summer veggies on a baking sheet is a great go-to, as is foil-wrapped chicken or salmon with asparagus. One-shot meals are also wonderful because you’re using less cookware, and who doesn’t love fewer dishes to wash?
Mix and match temperatures
Cold side dishes are my best friend this time of year — pasta salad, potato salad, slaw, couscous. Doing a quick Google search for them will bring in a ton of options. Every night that I have the oven going, I make sure at least one side is a cold one. And the best thing about this is that you can get them premade at supermarket delis — less prep, less stress, total win-win.
Know what produce is in season, and look for recipes that center around them.
Dining out does not have to be expensive. There are a number of places that are seasonal, outdoor-dining eateries with prices that won’t break the bank. Sullivan’s on Castle Island is one of my family’s favorites.
Be on the lookout for a cookout — after all, ’tis the season for them!