Weeknight Cooking

A (Basically) No-Cook Dinner Party

August 11, 2014

We're throwing no-stress weeknight parties for anyone, anytime, and (almost) every kitchen. You're invited.

Today: Inspired by Bravo’s Top Chef Duels premiere hot-cold challenge, Brette makes a cold, no-cook dinner party -- because it is far too hot out. 

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It's August, which means it's time for every food and recipe thing on the internet to talk about the heat and the weather, to scream "No-Cook!" in their headlines, to use the phrase slave over the stove so many times that I begin to picture the entire world as chained to their burners, staring longingly at the just-out-of-reach tomatoes on their countertops. 

Yes, it's hot out. Yes, the stove and oven produce more heat. But for me, and for a normal, weeknight dinner, popping over to the stove for a few minutes -- or even turning on the oven, just for a little -- isn't truly oppressive.

And then I carry this sentiment into my dinner parties. 

And then I'm sweaty and smelly and chasing down bits of corn in the corners of my tiny kitchen, and people are arriving, and there is so much body heat and oven heat that people are pretending that it's fine (which is always the worst), and then I'm completely disheveled and my corn isn't charred and my pie is still in the oven and I just want to shower and be mute and never cook again. And the night has just begun.

So I present to you the basically no-cook dinner party (you're just turning on the oven for 10 minutes well before your guests arrive). Pour yourself a glass of rosé. Sit back. Wear the dress that shows sweat stains. You are the coolest hostess there is.

The Menu

Gazpacho Panzanella
White Bean Dip with Fresh Herbs
Caprese Salad
Patricia Wells' Zucchini Carpaccio with Avocado and Pistachios
Radish and Arugula Salad with Pecorino and Lemon
Ice Box Cake

The Plan

Up to a week before your party: Make the lemon salt for your zucchini carpaccio. 

The night before: Make your icebox cake. Leave it in the fridge to set and meld. Shake together your dressing for your Radish and Arugula Salad.

The morning of your party: Make your garlic-basil-cucumber-tomato mixture for your panzanella, and stick it in the fridge. Rip up your stale bread, so that it gets even staler!


When you get home from work: Start marinating your zucchini for your carpaccio. Toast your rags of bread, and toss with the rest of the ingredients. Let it sit at room temperature. That's it for cooking!

An hour before your guests arrive: Marinate the tomatoes for your Caprese Salad in olive oil and salt. Blitz together your White Bean Dip, and slice your vegetables for dippage. 

When it's time for dinner: Slice your mozzarella, and pour off the tomato-olive oil goodness. Shake to create an emulsion. Plate the mozzarella and tomatoes, scatter with basil, drizzle with tomato emulsion and olive oil, and sprinkle with flaky salt. Plate the zucchini with the avocado and pistachios. Toss together your Radish and Arugula Salad.  

Time for dessert:
 Bring out your icebox cake. Lick the platter clean.


This article was brought to you by Top Chef. Tune in Wednesdays at 10/9c on Bravo.


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    Brette Warshaw
Brette Warshaw

Written by: Brette Warshaw

I'm a reader, eater, culinary thrill-seeker, and food nerd.


ATG117 August 11, 2014
Your writing and the sentiment is spot on, as usual. I'm wondering, though, whether you would serve these as courses, in which case I'm curious as to what goes where, or all at once buffet style.
Brette W. August 11, 2014
What a nice compliment :) I'd serve this all buffet style, minus the dip, which can be hors d'oeuvre-y when people start arriving :)