I'm hosting a dinner party this weekend, but it's too hot to turn on my oven. I'm going for a mostly cold, no-oven menu. Any ideas?

I've been contemplating a Mexican theme: cold cucumber-avocado soup with jalapenos and cilantro, make-your-own fish tacos, cold drinks, etc. Not at all wedded to Mexican. Ideas welcome!

  • Posted by: Rivka
  • June 1, 2011


ChefJune June 5, 2011
Sounds delicious, but my brain always goes to Provence in a heat wave. I think it's the perfect time for a Granc Aïoli. (See this week's finals for my Aïoll recipe)

Steamed shrimp (or grilled) veggies, both raw and grilled, butterflied leg of lamb, poached cod are all traditional for dipping in the Aïoli, but you can gussy it up any way you want!
healthierkitchen June 4, 2011
sounds great! Thanks!
Rivka June 3, 2011
it's the whole wheat tart crust from Karen DeMasco's recent recipe in Bon Appetit (1.5 sticks butter, 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup ww flour, 1 egg, 1 T milk, 1 T sugar); her almond cream recipe (3.5 T butter, 3 T almond paste, 3 T sugar, 2 T flour, 1 egg all blended); and a strawberry-rhubarb compote with some cornstarch added. Par-bake the shell, spread the almond cream in a smooth layer, top with compote, bake off. Can't wait to try it!
healthierkitchen June 3, 2011
Will you share the recipe? It sounds delicious!
Rivka June 2, 2011
Well, I broke my own rules and turned on the oven (it's only 60 degrees out for the next 12 hours!) but it was worth it: made strawberry rhubarb tart with a layer of almond cream in a whole wheat crust. Adapted from a few difft recipes - from the looks of it, a success.
Thanks all, for the advice and recs!
obleak1 June 2, 2011
If you do serve watermelon for dessert, chuck some fleur de sel on it. Makes it "fancy" and tastes delicious!
wssmom June 2, 2011
My go-to recipe is a Caesar pasta salad (4 c chopped romaine, 8 oz ziti, cooked and cooled; 1/2 pound ham or salami, diced; 1/2 cup sliced olives, 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cubed; chopped fresh parsley, maybe some diced tomato, 1/2 cup shredded parmesan, creamy Caesar Salad dressing to taste) but more importantly, can I come? (Just kidding)
KaleHog June 2, 2011
I like making corn salads and serving them cold. Start with a crunchy sweet corn and add things you like, diced or smashed avocados, chopped tomatoes, white beans, black beans, beans period, onions and then add a little oil. When I have time, I like to get ears of corn and cut the kernels off myself, that way you will have big chunks of corn. Enjoy the heat, it's cold and rainy in Seattle today.
Rivka June 2, 2011
Thanks, healthierkitchen and nutcakes! Great suggestions. I'm going to see if I can find good zucchini for the soup, and I like the idea of keeping the chunks larger.
nutcakes June 2, 2011
I think the Mexican theme is a good one. If you aren't set on the soup, this is a fantastic cold soup (I like it warm too.) you can use a couple of seeded jalapenos or what I use, a poblano. Deborah Madison's original calls for water or chicken stock for the liquid--I like the chicken stock. If you use water, be sure to salt it to taste to bring out the flavor.

I love salads of roasted corn, tomatoes and peppers. black beans in that is good to.
healthierkitchen June 1, 2011
I've made Merrill's salpicon a number of times and we really love it. Sometimes we use it as an appetizer or light dinner with tortilla chips, But I often serve it as the filling for a variation on a fish taco with corn tortillas, avocado slices and slaw. To use as a fish taco I keep the fish chunks on the larger size. I just checked and I guess I never put my lime based slaw on this site but it's on my blog if you don't already have one. Just add cilantro, which I do when I serve it with this. http://healthierkitchen.blogspot.com/search/label/slaw

Also, Patty Jinich has a nice chop chop salad on her blog which I've also served with this.
babytiger June 1, 2011
One of my favorite no-cook party is to host a chocolate party. I put out the chocolate fountain with a bunch of dippers (fruits, cakes, cookies, pretzels, candies, etc.). Throw in a couple of apps (antipasto plate, mini meatballs, finger sandwiches, etc.) and everyone is happy.
skittle June 1, 2011
What about a caprese salad with fresh tomatoes, basil, and extra virgin olive oil?
LucyS June 1, 2011
I love the ceviche idea! When I make Mexican food, I usually do chicken, so I'll just add another idea to the pool. Cut it into strips, sauté in oil with jalepeno, lots of cumin, some cilantro, and green and red pepper strips. It makes a sort of liquid that drips all over when you eat it. It's really great for make your own fajitas! My family does this all the time.
mrslarkin June 1, 2011
rivka, those pickled veggies are the bomb. I make them all the time.
Sam1148 June 1, 2011
Would broiling or boiling some corn on the cob be out?
A corn and black bean salad is good. A can of black beans (drained) and an equal amount of corn kernels. A dressing of lime juice, olive oil, a touch of cumin salt/pepper.
Additions can included diced tomatoes, green onions, cilantro or parsley. (I use parsley for a group as there will always be a cilantro hater in the crowd).
Ahh..I see Syronai covered that.

Watermelon is great! as Peter mentioned...and is also a way to display some finishing salts for tasting. My favorites for watermelon are Black Lava salt, and Maldon Sea Salt.
And if you have some good balsamic vinegar..a few drops of that on water melon is excellent!
Rivka June 1, 2011
Too funny, Anitalectric -- I actually have young fresh coconut and was planning to use it in the soup!
Anitalectric June 1, 2011
To go with your cold food only theme, you could serve the salpicon inside leaves like radicchio or endive or just green lettuce. That way you don't have to toast tortillas.

Also, if you can find young coconut meat, that in your cuke-avocado soup will help to bring it all together and give a nice creamy texture.
Rivka June 1, 2011
and mtrelaun, I love your idea of the Asian-inspired menus. Those were my other option when I first decided to host. Had been considering this dish of rice noodles, fish, and pickled vegetables: http://www.food52.com/recipes/1153_vietnameseinspired_sweet_spicy_catfish_with_pickled_vegetables
Rivka June 1, 2011
As much as I love the French picnic idea (really - I came this close to buying little potatoes for salade nicoise just now!) I think I'm sticking with Mexican. I'm actually thinking instead of ceviche, I'll make Merril's salpicon: http://www.food52.com/recipes/7630_fish_salpicon and offer a cilantro-y cabbage slaw, two salsas, and guac for fixings. The cuc-avo soup will also work. Now the question is, what to serve alongside the salpicon?

Voted the Best Reply!

Peter June 1, 2011
Don't underestimate how much people love picking up a big, cold slice of watermelon for dessert. No dirty dishes when preparing, no dirty dishes when serving, and really -- most people are stuffed by the time dessert shows up at a dinner party and they leave half of it on the plate... but there's always room for some watermelon!
withinseason June 1, 2011
cook with acid! y i highly recommend cevishe -- it has a party flair and best of all -- no heat. you can make this as fancy or simple as you like, and you can use all different kinds of fish. ceviche needs to be prepped ahead of time (some recipes call for 4 hours, others for longer).
clintonhillbilly June 1, 2011
Ooh a French picnic dinner sounds great. Mexican food is a good
choice for cool and flavorful too-- how about ceviche? You can do a traditional style with cilantro, tomato, onion and lime (add avocado to make it extra good). Serve a Mexican fruit salad with it -- melons, mangos hot chili powder, lime juice, and salt. Cucumber gazpacho goes nicely with these too. I'd also recommend chalupas -- the Mexican way, not the school cafeteria Taco Bell mind. I had some terrific ones in Mexico once-- a fried corn tortilla topped with shredded chicken, shredded lettuce, and pickles chipotles and onions with a sweet pickling liquid. For dessert, you can make a nice chocolate pudding with a stovetop pudding recipe adding cayenne and cinnamon, or make it vegan by subbing silken tofu ( in that case you don't need the stove for anything but melting the chocolate, you just do it in the blender). Other good ceviche variations are adding ginger instead of cilantro (Peruvian style) or thinly slicing sashimi grade tuna and marinating with a little soy and pineapple).
mrslarkin June 1, 2011
How about a French picnic basket dinner? Radishes, butter and crusty baguettes required.

This popped into my inbox just now: http://www.saveur.com/article/Kitchen/Picnic-Basket-Menu-Early-Summer-French?cmpid=enews060111
beyondcelery June 1, 2011
I make a version of this (closet to my recipe I could find on the web):

Mine always has plenty of cilantro, some tomato and cucumber, and a hefty dose of ground chipotle for spice. With the smoky chipotle, it goes very well with an outdoor meal. I've also use this salad as a fresh taco filling. If you don't want to do papaya, mango, melons, and pineapple also go well in it.
Nozlee S. June 1, 2011
If you wanted to do a French-ier feel, I looove this raw carrot salad and this ginger-carrot-avocado soup:


This raw kale salad too, which would be great with a cold soup:


You could also do a great big Nicoise Salad with good-quality canned tuna in olive oil (you'd just have to boil the potatoes and green beans) and serve it alongside baguette and various cheeses -- summer's a great time to nibble on little dishes. Or a Cobb Salad!

Or have you thought about make-your-own sushi hand rolls? It'd require some prep, but the only thing that would need cooking is the rice, and it's vegetarian-friendly.
mtrelaun June 1, 2011
You could try a Vietnamese or Thai menu. I'm thinking DIY cold Spring rolls with grilled shrimp or tofu (http://bit.ly/kDBW9r ), cabbage salad with lots of herbs (http://bit.ly/lBx7o6), and maybe monkeymom's banh mi (http://bit.ly/kNzkCE). To drink, this Thai Ginger Lime Cooler (http://bit.ly/ktHMIg) or sweet iced coffee. Can I come over?
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