No-Cook Dinners

Food-Antipasti platter

  Antipasti platter or, in Italian, un piatta di antipasti.  A bit dear, but consummately satisfying for a special occasion. 

Every year about this time, there’s a night when we have only wine, cheese, and fruit for dinner. We eat it in the cool basement on three trays–one for each and then the cheese platter between us on the third.  An old movie plays on the tv. There’s not a salad or even a cooked vegetable and definitely not any sort of cooked meat. The wine is icy white or rosé.  Sometimes even the grill feels too much to do or too hot to light.

When the dog days of August arrive  –as they have– I always think I’ll post a simple little ditty on the blog with some of my favorite no-cook meals.


  A few sliced cold leftovers add zing to a cheese, fruit, and veggie platter for two.

And somehow I’ve never before gotten around to it. But this year, I’ve done it.  Collected a few of my favorite pretty summer fun meals. Some are truly shop and chop; others are buy some cooked shrimp and throw it all on the plate with a little more effort. Several need new photos and I’m working on them, but included them anyway as they’re just too good to not be included.

Skip the restaurants, friends. Eat at home where the wine and beer are cold, the ice is plentiful, and you can get into your loosest shorts and sleeveless tanks as soon as you hit the door.


Summer at our house–where mama and her fawns nibble our garden and the deck still isn’t finished.


Tuna-Stuffed Sweet Peppers. Lovely baked-as in the linked post, but I also like them totally fresh and crisp with sharp cheese.

Of course we can make the simplest or best-known things, too. You can do like grandma (eat your vegetables, etc.) or be a bit more sophisticated:

  • slice the best tomatoes, salt and pepper them, and put them on a paper plate with cottage cheese (Who’s washing dishes in this weather?)
  • layered smoked salmon, sliced deli-purchased boiled eggs, thinly sliced red onions, and capers; serve with sliced baguette
  • tuna or chicken salad stuffed peppers or tomatoes a la old school women’s clubs
  • come home with Thai take-out or order pizza and salad  (of course)
  • big bowl of thoroughly buttered, salted and peppered popcorn or chips and dip
  • layer sliced cheese, pickles, and cucumbers, get out some crackers and a couple of cold beers, and eat on the front porch
  • dried figs, dates, walnuts, and cheddar cheese
  • stellar homemade subs or sandwiches for the park or concert
  • gazpacho
  • pbj and crackers with sliced apples
  • green salad
  • cold fruit salad with mint and a bit of brie  (just add sparkling wine)
  • ice cream sundaes (why not?)
  • you have your own version of these meals, right? I’d love to hear about them!

But there are a few other possibilities. This post is to move those ideas from my head to your table. Some are plenty fine to share with company on the patio or to make for the crowd at the beach or the campsite. Any are lovely for just you tonight. Yes, even no-cook dishes can be beautiful. Maybe they’re the most beautiful, in fact.

Scroll through. If you need “recipes,” they’re in the links under each photograph. These are for whenever you are not cooking. No matter what.

Let’s begin with platters, which might include cheese, salad, meat, vegetables, fruit, and/or lots of other things…

There are platters and there are platters. Look for inexpensive huge ceramic, plastic, or glass platters at thrift stores; one or two are plenty. If you want to use silver platters, go ahead; it seems no one else wants them any more.  A bit of plastic wrap under eggs or ham  (or other salty meats) will prevent corrosion.


     Make-Your-Own-Salad platter from leftovers and fresh veggies

While we think of platters for parties and big groups, smaller platter dinners are perfect for two people, too.  Some possible disparate elements to incorporate into summer platters are:

 Color, texture, size, temperature, a variety of tastes (sweet/sour/salty/bitter,) heat, spice, herbs, fresh, cooked (fried, roasted, boiled…)  and so on.

Differences create interest and satisfaction. They keep us from being bored and keep our mouths happy. Sigh.

Things you might include on platters :

  • Vegetables–fresh or cooked
  • Fruit
  • Cheeses
  • Chocolate
  • Cookies
  • Candy
  • Olives or other marinated vegetables
  • Nuts-plain, roasted or seasoned
  • Sliced cold meat-leftover or deli
  • Tuna, Salmon, Roast Beef, or Chicken Salad
  • Smoked fish or spread
  • Cooked shrimp or crab
  • Leftovers
  • Boiled eggs
  • Dip, Salsa, Hummus, Spread
  • Crackers
  • Sliced baguette
  • Butter
  • Mustard
  • BBQ sauce
  • Blue Cheese dressing
  • Vinaigrette
  • Greens
  • Croutons
  • Chips
  • What else?

What makes a platter pop visually and draws folks to begin eating?  First of all, a great platter helps enormously.  Next:  grouping each element together and always contrasting colors and textures. Big mounds of bright orange carrots next to long slices of green sweet peppers.  Slices of spicy ham layered along side of tiny balls of white mozzarella and baby tomatoes. Strawberries piled in the middle of a slew of blueberries. A bowl of hot yellow mustard with slices of dark bread.  You get the idea.

      BELOW:  salads of many sorts and last, but not least, a fave cold, blended spicy soup.

Stunning and filling protein-rich salads can make fine use of canned or purchased fish, meats, or vegetables such as canned wild tuna/salmon, cooked shrimp,  rotisserie chicken, deli meats, or canned beans.  A couple of these salads do include a briefly sautéed vegetable, though you could skip that tiny bit of cooking, too.  Others are simply sliced up fresh goodness dressed with some citrus or a drizzle of oil.  Dream…


Tuna-Cado Dinner: No-Cook White Bean Salad with Avocado and Tuna


Mediterranean Chopped Tuna Salad

Greek Chicken Salad and Chicken-Guacamole Salad (above two photos)  can be made using deli rotisserie chicken and purchased guacamole.

Tuna and Cannellini Bean Salad with Feta (Scroll down in the post for this.)


Peach-Avocado Salad with Basil

Almost no-cook, but not totally: I’ve gently sautéed this zucchini, but raw will work just as well, if the squash is young. The green beans do need cooking. Regular caprese is really no-cook, naturally, if you need that!

Big Zuke and Other Caprese Salads

If you buy cooked shrimp, you can make:


If you have leftover salmon, or buy cooked salmon at the deli, you might make my Salmon Salad with Broccolini and Kale with Avocado Mayonnaise


Tapenade Salad

(Above: Ok, you’ll need to grill the bread and sauté the tomatoes for this Tapenade Salad, but if you choose, you can skip cooking any of it and use everything au natural. You can even buy the tapenade:)

Shop and Chop Instant Pickles

Red White and “Blue” Kale Salad–Healthy and happy with lots of salty feta.

Not my recipe, but mine on the blog:

Ina Garten’s Arugula, Watermelon, and Feta Salad


Spicy Cucumber with Feta Soup  –From my cookbook and made totally in the food processor or blender. You’ll be making this for a long, long time. Soup needn’t be cooked!
The time you saved by not cooking can be spent in other glorious ways–such as hiking with your dogs as we did the other day.  Happy summer!
(Equestrian camping area, Mueller State Park, Colorado.) .
 Sing a new song; don’t cook when it’s hot, love,


3 thoughts on “No-Cook Dinners

  1. Pingback: It’s Too Hot to Cook. So Don’t. (plus what I’m missing/not missing) – More Time at the Table

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