Beating the heat can be challenging, and many people don’t want to waste their extended daylight hours slaving over a hot stove. With the abundant availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, summer is definitely a time when it’s easy to skip the cooking and snack on cold meals.
However, even those who love raw produce may grow tired of eating nothing but melons and crudité. The good news is that restaurants can offer a wide range of more substantial meals while still delivering summer recipes that are best served cold.
Here are a few cold summer entrees that could tempt diners to give your establishment a try.
Poke is a Hawaiian dish that has fortunately made its way to the mainland. An explosion of poke restaurants hit the mainstream market pre-pandemic, introducing landlubbers to this raw seafood delight.
Meaning “chunks” or “cut into chunks” in Hawaiian, poke, pronounced poh-keh, is a dish that features raw fish, rice, seaweed, and a range of ingredients, making it easy to personalize.
This dish was originally made with seasoned ahi tuna and sometimes cured octopus, but it may now feature salmon, shrimp, crab, spicy tuna, or any number of other proteins.
Modern poke restaurants offer a veritable buffet of toppings not traditionally found in poke bowls — from cucumbers, onions, and edamame; to fruit like mango and pineapple; to a range of sauces and even crunchy add-ons like Cheetos dust. It’s really become a free-for-all, but consumers are eating up this cold, customizable dish.
Cold Soba Noodles
Soba, made from buckwheat, is a thin noodle used in Japanese cuisine. It’s a common ingredient in hot noodle soup, but when cooked and chilled, soba noodles can also be served in a variety of cold recipes.
Among the easiest ways to serve cold soba is in a flavorful dressing of soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and pepper, garnished with sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds.
As with poke, it’s easy to add a variety of toppings such as edamame, shredded carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, shrimp, grilled chicken, sliced pork tenderloin, and more. It also pairs beautifully with a range of dressing options, from sesame to ginger to spicy peanut sauce.
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Simple focaccia may serve as a starter to many an Italian meal, but hot pasta entrees are hardly a staple of summer dining.
The good news is that this hearty flatbread can also act as a base for a delicious and filling cold meal when paired with juicy tomatoes, sliced mozzarella, fresh basil, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Additions like balsamic vinegar and freshly ground pepper amp up the flavor.
Grilled Chicken Salad
Grilled chicken is a must-have when it comes to cold summer entrees. Chefs can easily grill up a batch for the week and use it in countless ways. In particular, cold, chopped chicken can be added to all kinds of salads to create a range of appealing flavor combinations.
For example, grilled chicken makes a basic Caesar more robust, thanks to added protein. It can also be subbed in for fried chicken in a Cobb salad. Sweet Chinese chicken salad is a perennial fave when the weather is balmy, and grilled chicken also pairs well with peppery arugula, summer fruit, feta, and a lemony vinaigrette.
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Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
This flavorful summer salad features a rainbow of produce, including sweet cherry tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, bell peppers, red onions, and kalamata olives on a bed of quinoa. Chickpeas and feta add protein and contribute to a complex flavor profile, especially when topped with a zesty, lemon-mint vinaigrette or a creamy tahini dressing.
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean consumers can’t have the tasty and filling entrees they enjoy the rest of the year. With a few simple tweaks, cold summer dishes deliver outstanding flavor and appeal.