In the heat of summer, cooking can be an unpleasant chore even for those who like to cook. Fortunately, many wonderful meals require little or no cooking—chilled or room-temperature foods are one of summer’s great pleasures. And there are ways to minimize kitchen heat when we do cook during the summer, saving ourselves from discomfort and unnecessarily high air-conditioning bills.

To keep cooking from heating up your home this summer…

COUNTERTOP COOKING

Countertop cooking appliances generally emit much less heat than ovens and stovetops, and they perform a wide range of cooking chores very well…

Toaster ovens can stand in for full-size ovens on most smaller cooking jobs. And they don’t just limit kitchen heat—they also limit serving size, a good way to avoid overeating.

Example: I freeze cookie dough in rolls, then cut off slices to cook four cookies at a time in my toaster oven.

Microwaves emit virtually no heat and can do much more than just heat up frozen foods.

Example: I use my microwave to steam vegetables. Just wash the vegetables, put them in a microwave-safe bowl, add one tablespoon of water, cover the bowl with a plate or a lid, then microwave for the amount of time that you would have steamed the vegetable over boiling water—around five minutes for broccoli or three to four for asparagus.

Electric pressure cookers and rice cookers emit much less heat than ovens and stovetops. And rice cookers can be used for more than just rice—they’re good for cooking oatmeal and for slow-cooking soups, beans and stews. Some rice cookers come with steamers to cook vegetables or shrimp and fish fillets.

Countertop grills/griddles. A good example is the George Foreman grill. You can cook a chicken breast in four to six minutes.

Warning: Electric coffeemakers emit more heat than you realize. Turn off your coffeemaker as soon as it’s done brewing, and pour the coffee into a thermos to keep it warm. Not only will this keep your kitchen cooler, it will save on electricity and make your coffee taste better because the coffee won’t be overcooked.

MORE COOL STRATEGIES

When you do cook on your stovetop, use pots that are as small as possible, and keep those pots covered (assuming the recipe permits). And of course, backyard barbecue grills remove the heat of cooking from the home entirely. Also…

Choose lean proteins and thin cuts of meat, which tend to cook quickly. Examples: A pounded cutlet, thin fish fillet or thin-sliced chicken breast is likely to require only minutes of cooking.

Replace slow-cooking side dishes such as potatoes and brown rice with faster-cooking ones such as quinoa and couscous.

Prepare cool sauces and soups in your blender or food processor rather than hot ones on your stovetop.

Here, great summer recipes that require little or no cooking. Each recipe serves four people.

CHICKEN PAILLARD WITH WATERCRESS & TOMATO SALAD

This dish tastes great and looks great on the plate—yet it doesn’t take much time or produce much heat. The thin-cut chicken breast can be cooked in minutes on a countertop griddle/grill or on a barbecue grill outside.

1¼ pounds thin-cut skinless, boneless chicken breasts

1 clove garlic, minced

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¾ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 large bunch watercress, tough stems removed, coarsely chopped (approximately 4 cups)

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

Combine the chicken, garlic, one tablespoon of the olive oil and one-half teaspoon each of the salt and pepper in a bowl, and toss to coat. Grill the chicken over medium-high heat until just cooked through—two to three minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the grill, and sprinkle with one tablespoon of the lemon juice.

In a bowl, toss the watercress and tomatoes with the remaining two tablespoons each of olive oil and lemon juice, and the remaining one-quarter teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Distribute the chicken among four plates, and top each breast with one-and-a-half cups of the salad and one to two tablespoons of salad liquid.

Recipe and photo from So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week (Wiley).

HERBED TUNA STUFFED PEPPERS

No cooking is required for this simple, garden-fresh meal.

4 red bell peppers, stemmed and sliced in half crosswise

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 six-ounce cans chunk-light tuna in water, drained

1½ cups lightly packed baby arugula leaves, roughly chopped

1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, minced

1 cup lightly packed fresh parsley leaves, minced

3 Tablespoons loosely packed fresh tarragon, minced

Remove the seeds and membranes from the red pepper halves.

In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper, and whisk to incorporate.

Add the tuna, arugula and minced herbs and stir. Spoon approximately one-half cup of the tuna mixture into each pepper half and serve.

Recipe from So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week (Wiley).

BLT WITH AVOCADO SPREAD

BLTs need not be unhealthy. In this recipe, the mayo has been replaced with a buttery avocado spread, which provides fiber and nutrients. And you don’t use much bacon—two slices per sandwich. Cook the bacon on paper towels in the microwave (follow the directions on the package).

1 very ripe avocado, peeled and pitted

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

⅛ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 slices whole-wheat bread, toasted

8 slices bacon, preferably nitrate-free, cooked and drained

4 medium leaves romaine lettuce

2 ripe medium tomatoes, sliced, 4 slices per tomato

In a bowl, mash the avocado with the lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Spread one tablespoon of this avocado mixture on each slice of toast. Place two pieces of the cooked bacon on four slices of toast, then top with a folded lettuce leaf and two slices of tomato. Top with the remaining toast. Cut each sandwich in half, and serve.

Recipe and photo from Comfort Food Fix: Feel-Good Favorites Made Healthy (Wiley).

GAZPACHO WITH SHRIMP

The blender, not the stovetop, is used for this zesty cold tomato soup. You can use precooked shrimp—fresh or frozen.

2 scallions

1 English cucumber, seeded and cut into chunks

1 large red or orange bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into chunks

¼ teaspoon finely chopped garlic

1 quart low-sodium tomato juice

4 medium tomatoes (1 pound), diced

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 teaspoons red wine vinegar, or more to taste

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Hot sauce to taste

½ pound cooked peeled shrimp, cut into ½-inch pieces

Thinly slice the green part of one scallion, and set it aside to be used as garnish. Cut the remaining white part of the scallion and the second whole scallion into chunks. In a food processor, combine the scallion chunks and the cucumber, bell pepper and garlic, then pulse until coarsely chopped. Add tomato juice, and pulse until the vegetables are finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl, and stir in the tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar. Season to taste with salt, pepper and hot sauce.

Pour into bowls. Top with shrimp and scallion greens.

Recipe and photo from So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week (Wiley).