“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” was great advice from President Harry Truman. It wasn’t so hard for him to carry out, either, at least in a literal sense. America’s 33rd president had plenty of help in the White House kitchen, so spending any time at all in the kitchen wasn’t necessary.
Those of us who are compelled to be in the kitchen have devised numerous ways of surviving the heat. Instant Pots, the new cooking appliance that combines the best features of a slow cooker and a pressure cooker, help to keep the heat down by cooking quickly. Slow cookers and crockpots generate some heat, but they are portable enough that savvy cooks plug them in far away from the most lived-in areas of the house. Since the food in a slow cooker doesn’t need monitoring, it can be plugged in outside or in the garage instead of raising the temperature in the kitchen.
In the middle of August’s relentless swelter, transferring the heat to another location may seem like a large-scale game of playing Hot Potato. Drastic measures may be called for instead, like a no-cook meal.
Anyone who has spent time in a Mexican beachfront town can tell you that there’s it’s possible to cook fish without heat. Ceviche, a fish cocktail found everywhere on Mexico’s Gulf and Pacific coasts, uses the acidity of lemon or lime juice to “cook” fish or small shrimp.
Ceviche is best made with Gulf favorites like snapper, flounder and grouper, and while it is traditionally made with raw fish, it’s also a good way to use up leftover fish. For raw fish, a half cup of lime juice per pound of fish provides enough acid to cook (essentially pickle) the fish. Use less juice for already cooked fish, since the acid will break down the meat. Cooks who are squeamish about raw fish can also use frozen baby shrimp.
No-bake desserts run the gamut from ice cream cakes to ice box pies. If turning on the oven even for just a few minutes to bake a pie crust seems unappealing, cheesecake with an unbaked crust may be the answer. The crust is made from graham crackers, like many cheesecake crusts, but has a higher ratio of butter to crumbs to hold it together without baking.
The cheesecake filling is made with condensed milk, so that the sugar has already been heated into a smooth, syrupy texture. Mixed with cream cheese, the milk forms a light but creamy cheesecake that is the perfect foil for summer fruit.
One ingenious cook has even devised a way to cook ramen without turning on the stove. Matthew Bougher won honorable mention in a ramen-cooking contest for his solar-cooked ramen. Using the same technique as solar tea, Bougher layers ramen, beef jerky, carrots and spices in a glass jar, then leaves it in the sun to cook. “Put it in the sun on the picnic table. Go for a hike. Come back in three hours and you’ll have a delicious warm lunch,” Boughner says.