Throughout much of the country right now it’s hotter than a four-peckered billy goat, and all we’d like to do is lounge in our underoos and eat popsicles for dinner. The Takeout staff, of course, comprises of responsible adults—we’re advocates of a well-balanced meal, as opposed to deriving our caloric intake solely from orange dreamsicles.
So this inspired a discussion about foods to eat when it’s stupid hot outside. Pot roast, no. Salads, yes. Roast chicken, maybe? Why do some dishes feel more appropriate than others? To me it comes down to several things, and it’s not just about the temperature of the dish. A great summer dish, methinks, is about lightness and brightness. To mix my metaphors, I’m looking for food with more treble than bass. Anything with a nice hit of acid—a dish that requires a squeeze of citrus—is hot-weather appropriate, so a Baja-style fish taco or seafood ceviche hits the spot. I also think Japanese tempura, though deep fried, makes for a great hot-weather dish: It’s gossamer light and the tempura dipping sauce is cooling with nice upper-register tang. Let’s see what the rest of our staff thinks. [Kevin Pang]
When it’s thighs-sticking-to-the-lawn-chair hot, I become a master of cold grain salads, a.k.a. quinoa or farro or barley mixed with a bunch of other stuff. The only heat involved is for boiling the grains, which you can do in a big batch and keep in the fridge. Then, I add whatever veggies looked good at the farmer’s market; this week it was kale and snap peas. Then, I sprinkle in an irresponsible amount of crumbled goat cheese, plus some herbs if I have them, and a quick vinaigrette dressing. Boom—a dinner that’s healthy, cool, and really filling, even if you don’t add shredded chicken. [Kate Bernot]
Even with all my years of adulthood, I’ve only had central air for the past few years, as I am historically drawn to vintage buildings equipped with clanky radiators and few ceiling fans. To make matters even worse, I absolutely wilt in the heat; summer is my least favorite season (winner by a sizable margin: autumn). Trapped in a small kitchen wearing the lightest clothes possible and drowning in sweat, often I’m not even really that hungry—as opposed to winter, when I can polish off a Stouffers’ frozen family lasagna easily. So often in summertime, I make my dinner light as well: I eat like a French person. A hunk of crusty bread; some pricey, smelly cheese, like Camembert; prosciutto and/or salami; and some fruit (cantaloupe or berries) and vegetables (well, olives) to round it all out. My indoor supper picnic satiates me, doesn’t heat up my kitchen (or anything else), and makes me feel cosmopolitan, like I’m about to knock off a few chapters of Hemingway’s A Movable Feast while smoking a clove cigarette. In actuality, I’m probably going to watch Kimmy Schmidt again after chipping a freezer-burned popsicle out of my icebox for dessert, but we all have to do what we need to to get through the summer. [Gwen Ihnat]
The easy-to-the-point-of-boring answer is a bratwurst with fancy-ass mustard—I’m currently low-key obsessed with the Oberon brats from Finn’s Ranch, which sets up shop at my local farmer’s market. But one cannot live on encased meats alone, and when it’s really hot, I usually crave cold noodles with peanut sauce. I use Mark Bittman’s recipe, which is insanely simple, and I make it a little on the spicy side. It’s so easy and so good that if I had any sense at all, I’d keep that sauce in the fridge at all times. [Allison Shoemaker]