Bread, olives, hummus, mozzarella, salted meats, roasted peppers, and bread

Delicious, No-Cook Dinners

Say good-bye to a hot kitchen and hello to these tasty ideas for quick and easy meals with no cooking required.

Let’s face it. Sometimes it’s just too hot to cook. But the good news is, you can enjoy a great dinner without turning on the oven or standing over a hot stove. All it takes is a little planning and a well-stocked kitchen to turn a hot summer night into a smorgasbord of cool menu options.

You can always turn to sandwiches stacked with layers of cold cuts and fresh vegetables for inspiration. For more ideas, we asked John Taylor, a member of the Panera Bread Food Team, to share some of his favorite no-cook summer meals.

Antipasti: Simple but Fabulous

“One night when my wife and I were in Florence, Italy, we went to a grocery store and bought fresh fruit, prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and a great loaf of bread. We sat outside in a piazza and ate one of the best meals I’ve ever had,” John says.

Putting together cold antipasti is easy and fun. “You can go with an Italian theme—salami, roasted peppers, fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, and basil—or host a Mediterranean night with plates of feta cheese, hummus, olives, and pita bread,” adds John.

Salads: Surprisingly Satisfying

Entrée salads are another great way to beat the heat. Fill half an avocado with crab or chicken salad (make your own or buy one that’s already prepared). Or, toss some tuna, tomatoes, a hard-boiled egg, onion, and olives with fresh greens. Dress with equal parts fresh lemon juice and olive oil; season with salt and pepper.

“Almost any type of salad can become an entrée, simply by adding in some protein,” John says. Another one to try is a protein-packed Asian salad of tofu, cabbage, carrots, and bean sprouts dressed in peanut sauce.

Soups: A Bowl of Cool Flavor

Chilled soups—made in the blender or food processor—are a great choice as well. For something truly unique, John suggests this recipe for Watermelon Gazpacho:

  • 2 1/4 cups chopped and seeded watermelon
  • 1/4 cup chopped and seeded red bell pepper
  • 1/2 jalapeño, chopped and seeded (optional)
  • 1/2 cup Roma tomatoes, diced large
  • 2 cloves of garlic, whole
  • 1 tablespoon mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • Balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Puree 2 cups of watermelon in a blender. Add bell pepper, jalapeño (optional), tomatoes, garlic, and mint. Puree until smooth. Season with lime juice, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate, covered, for 2 to 3 hours before serving, or puree with ice cubes to serve immediately. Garnish with the remaining watermelon and mint, if desired.

Turn to Your Personal Chef

And, of course, there will always be those times when even the simplest preparation is too much. For those occasions, John’s top tip is to visit your local Panera Bread bakery-cafe. “Let us do the cooking for you!” he says.