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Even those of us who love to cook can wither at the thought of turning on the oven during the hottest days of summer. Sure, there’s always the option to order in, grab a roasted chicken from a blissfully cool grocery store deli, or eat popsicles for dinner. There’s no shame in making yourself a sandwich, eating hummus and carrot sticks, or assembling whatever salad the garden or farmers’ market inspires. But good food doesn’t require heat – it’s possible to create something more involved without the ignition of a single burner or a minute in the microwave. You can keep your cool – because cooking doesn’t have to actually involve cooking.

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Tomato and Watermelon Gazpacho

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Serves about 6

Tomatoes and watermelon are a delicious pair; a blender soup makes use of overripe or squidgy tomatoes and the end of a too-big melon, with some bread torn in for extra body. Don’t use the crusts if they’re particularly chewy – eat them, with butter, while you make your gazpacho. If you’re after a deeper, richer colour and tomato flavour, add a pour of tomato purée or passata as well.

  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 pound watermelon cubes
  • 1/2 English cucumber, sliced or chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 thick slice crusty bread
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 2-3 basil leaves
  • Feta, for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the tomatoes, watermelon, cucumber, onion, garlic, vinegar and salt in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Tear in the bread and push each piece down so it’s submerged in the tomato mixture. Let it sit for about 10 minutes to soften, then add the olive oil and basil and purée again until smooth. Taste and adjust as you like, adding more vinegar, salt, basil as needed.

Refrigerate until well chilled. Serve topped with crumbled feta, a drizzle of oil and some pepper.

Ceviche Tostadas

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Serves about 4

Ceviche, a Latin American dish of chopped fish and seafood cured in citrus juices, is best made with whatever is freshest; try diced firm whitefish, scallops and prawns.

  • 1 pound fresh firm whitefish, prawns and scallops, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 avocado, pitted and finely chopped
  • 1 ear corn on the cob
  • 2 scallions or 4-6 chives, finely chopped
  • 1-2 small serrano peppers or red birds’ eye chilis, seeded and finely diced
  • Salt, to taste
  • Corn tortillas or tostadas, for serving

In a medium non-reactive bowl such as glass, toss the seafood with the lime juice and let sit for 20-30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the fish, scallops and prawns are firm and opaque. Add the bell pepper, cilantro and avocado. Scrape the fresh corn kernels off the cob into the bowl, scraping off the creamy milk underneath as well. Stir in the scallions and chilies and season with salt.

Serve with tortilla chips for scooping, or pile onto crunchy tostadas to serve.

Papdi Chaat

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Serves about 4

Chaat, a sweet-salty-sour-tangy-crunchy-soft layered snack, is substantial and addictive, yet requires little more than assembly. Usually it also has a layer of diced, boiled potato. If you happen to have one left over in the fridge, or don’t mind simmering one in a small saucepan or popping it in the microwave, chop it up and toss with the chickpeas, chaat masala and lime juice.

Mint-cilantro chutney
  • Big handful of fresh mint leaves
  • Big handful of cilantro (stems too)
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • Juice of half a lime or lemon
  • Salt
Spiced Chickpeas
  • 3/4 cup chickpeas, drained
  • 2-3 teaspoons chaat masala (or to taste)
  • Squeeze of lime or lemon juice
  • Spiced Yogurt
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon chaat masala
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely crushed (optional)
  • Papdi or puri (crisp fried crackers)
  • Sev (thin, spicy, crunchy chickpea noodles) or Bombay mix
  • ¼ cup purple onion, finely chopped
  • 1 plum tomato, finely chopped
  • Fresh cilantro (optional)
  • Tamarind chutney

To make the mint-coriander chutney, blend the mint, coriander, jalapeno, lemon juice and a big pinch of salt in a blender or food processor until well blended, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed.

Toss the chickpeas with the chaat masala, a squeeze of lime and sprinkle of salt. In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, chaat masala, garlic and another pinch of salt.

To assemble, spread the papdi out on a platter or individual plates and pile on the chickpeas, a handful of sev or Bombay mix, a light scattering of purple onion, tomato and cilantro. Spoon over some of the mint-coriander chutney and drizzle with the spiced yogurt and tamarind chutney. Serve immediately, so it stays crunchy.

White Bean and Tomato Panzanella with Burrata

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Julie Van Rosendaal/The Globe and Mail

Serves about 4

One of the best uses of summer vegetables and day-old bread, panzanella is a vehicle for a ball of burrata, a fresh Italian cows’ milk cheese that looks like (and is similar to) fresh mozzarella, but is filled with cream and stracciatella, which oozes out at the table to mingle with the tomato juices and be absorbed by the torn bread.

  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, finely crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 14 oz (398 mL) can white kidney or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small day-old crusty loaf or half a ciabatta
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 mini English cucumbers, sliced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 ball of burrata cheese
  • Fresh basil, for garnish
  • Capers, for garnish

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic and a big pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the beans and toss to coatTear the crusty loaf into large chunks into the bowl; add the tomatoes, cucumbers and scallions and toss to combine. Pile onto a platter, drizzle with more olive oil and nestle a ball of burrata into the mixture. Scatter generously with fresh basil and capers.

To serve, tear into the burrata and dish it out along with the salad – the creamy middle will ooze out and mingle with the tomato juices, oil and vinegar.

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