Cold recipes for hot weather

Closeup of a plate with a salad including chunks of watermelon and slices of jalapeno.
Salads like this spicy watermelon version with tahini help keep you cool when it’s too hot outside to function.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

I know hot weather isn’t unusual for L.A., but still, when you have to start using the air conditioner during the day, you know it’s officially too hot out. And I say this after returning from a two-week trip in France, where I experienced the much-discussed heat wave there, and let me tell you, THAT is hot. Each day felt like walking out into an oven that slowly dried you from the inside out. It was on those 104-degree days that all I wanted was cold fruit and salads and iced coffee injected into my veins.

Now that I’m back in L.A., where we’re blissfully insulated from the worst of the heat wave that virtually everyone else is experiencing beyond the mountains, I’m maintaining that habit of eating nothing but cold salads and soups for the foreseeable future.

One is my Spicy Watermelon and Tahini Salad With Pistachios and Mint, which I wrote about previously. It takes the often pallid watermelons you find at the grocery and boosts their flavor with a short maceration in sugar and salt before getting drizzled with a spicy tahini sauce that perks up the cold cubes wonderfully.

For something more substantial, there’s my Sesame Cold Noodles With Crab and Crunchy Vegetables. You can use any seafood (or none) that you want, but the cold veggies are essential to give you that crunch against the chewy chilled noodles and toasty sesame dressing. Or, if you want something more acidic and vegan friendly, try my Kale Pasta Salad With Parm and Smoked Almonds. Orzo soaks up a lemony dressing that gets better as the kale softens over days in the fridge; the smoked almonds and parm pack an umami punch to balance all the leanness of the salad, too.


My friend Paola Briseño-González has a wonderful recipe for Potato Salad With Spicy Green Goddess Labneh and Lobster that I make often, swapping in shrimp or scallops or even cooked salmon if I can’t find lobster. The dressing is extremely flavorful and the salad is as substantial as a full meal on its own.

And when I want a smoothie for lunch on a hot day (but I hate smoothies), I turn instead to this Cold Almond and Garlic Soup. It’s a Spanish classic for a reason: blanched garlic and almonds puree to a smooth soup sharpened with lots of sherry vinegar. It’s so simple and adapts wonderfully to whatever tart-and-maybe-a-little-savory fruit you have to eat with it, like figs, plums or cherry tomatoes.

Spicy Watermelon and Tahini Salad With Pistachios And Mint

This salad adds a spicy richness to lean, sweet watermelon. Sprinkling the melon with salt and sugar for 20 minutes draws out excess liquid to concentrate the melon’s flavor.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 30 minutes.

Closeup of a salad on a plate with watermelon chunks and sliced jalapeno.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Sesame Cold Noodles With Crab and Crunchy Vegetables

The Chinese sesame paste and noodles are the two components of this dish that are essential. The sesame paste is like a toastier, nuttier tahini, and the noodles provide the proper chew with all the crunchy vegetables. Use ramen noodles because they’re the easiest to find.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 45 minutes.

Closeup of a large plate with slices of onion and cucumber and shredded lettuce atop a bed of ramen noodles.
(Leslie Grow / For The Times)

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Kale Pasta Salad With Parm and Smoked Almonds

Measure out your dressing ingredients and chop your vegetables while you’re waiting for the water to boil so you can make this salad super quick. It’s a great repository for any other leftover meat or vegetables you have chilling in the fridge. Instead of Parmesan, add the same amount of crumbled goat cheese or feta.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 20 minutes.

Closeup of a bowl with kale, chunks of zucchini, almonds and cherry tomatoes.
(Ben Mims / Los Angeles Times)

Potato Salad With Spicy Green Goddess Labneh and Lobster

Commonly paired in many Latin cuisines, briny rich seafood — in this case, lobster — goes wonderfully with creamy potatoes in this salad, invigorated by a tart, creamy green goddess-style dressing. Because you only use a little, the lobster is affordable, and its flavor goes a long way, especially when tossed with lemon for a vibrant topping to the salad, garnished with crunchy rendered-and-chopped prosciutto.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 40 minutes.

Closeup of a bowl with greens, chopped bacon, potatoes and lobster.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Cold Almond and Garlic Soup

Almonds and garlic transform into a hearty but refreshing, flavorful soup in this Spanish classic. Keep the soup in the fridge until ready to serve it, and top with figs, plums or even cherry tomatoes.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour 10 minutes.

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