There are many perfectly satisfying Italian dishes that don't require cooking during the heat of the summer. You can throw most of them together one or a few of them in just a few minutes. I'm not talking about eating only gelato for dinner (though I admit that I have done that before) -- take your pick of a few of these light dishes -- perhaps with the addition of a loaf of crusty Italian bread -- and you can put together any number of well-balanced meals.
There are even several... refreshing dessert options.
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Italian meals often include an antipasto misto platter, which often contains an assortment of vegetables that have been pickled or preserved in olive oil: onions, carrots, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, or sun-dried tomatoes, for example.
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Italian Cold-Cut Platter
Another great no-cook dish (often included as part of an antipasto misto platter) is an plate of affettati misti: an assortment of thinly sliced salami, mortadella, prosciutto, coppa, etc.
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Prosciutto and Melon or Prosciutto and Figs
This is such a wonderful combination, and especially refreshing when the cantaloupe is sweet, flavorful, and well-chilled. Serve wedges of chilled melon with slices of high-quality prosciutto, or ripe figs wrapped in a slice of prosciutto. Accompanied with crusty bread or breadsticks and a green salad, and you have a light, no-cook meal.
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This perennial classic is always a winner -- slices of fresh mozzarella, slices of tomato, and fresh basil leaves - drizzle it all with extra-virgin olive oil and perhaps a little balsamic vinegar as well.Continue to 5 of 22 below.
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Buffalo Mozzarella with Cherry Tomatoes and Arugula
I love to make this twist on a caprese on hot days: a bed of fresh, crisp, and peppery wild arugula topped with bocconcini (bite-sized balls) of buffalo mozzarella (I usually halve them), halved cherry tomatoes, and extra-virgin olive oil.
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The only limit to what you put on your crostini is your imagination, but fresh ricotta cheese is a great start and pairs with so many different things. Pictured: Fresh ricotta crostini topped with lemon zest, black pepper, and extra-virgin olive oil.
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Another timeless classic: fresh, diced tomatoes and basil on slices of crusty bread (usually lightly toasted or grilled and rubbed with a halved raw garlic clove), drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil. (Note that it is pronounced brew-SKEH-tah, not brew-SHEH-tah).
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Panzanella - Tuscan Bread Salad
This traditional Tuscan summer recipe uses hardened leftover bread to make a refreshing and filling salad. You can add whatever you'd like (olives and burrata would make nice additions), but it's traditionally made with tomatoes, onions, and cucumber. (A classic recipe here.)Continue to 9 of 22 below.
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A bit like a Niçoise salad in sandwich format, this sandwich is great for picnics, the beach or a quick meal on a hot summer's day.
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Friselle are sort of like a cross between panzanella (Tuscan bread salad) and bruschetta -- these twice-baked ring-shaped breads from Puglia are briefly soaked in water to soften them, then topped with diced fresh tomatoes, capers, fresh oregano, and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil. (More information and recipe here.)
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This Italian crudité salad is so simple and fresh: just cut crisp, raw vegetables into finger-food sizes and serve with a small bowl of extra-virgin olive oil topped with salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can use any combination of vegetables you like, but I personally love it with finocchio (fennel) the best.
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Bresaola with Arugula and Parmesan
This salt-cured, dried beef (it's known as viande des Grisons or Bündnerfleisch elsewhere in Europe) is usually eaten with fresh, peppery arugula, thin shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.Continue to 13 of 22 below.
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Classic raw-beef carpaccio as invented at the famous Harry's Bar in Venice. (Recipe here.)
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Italian-Style Beef Tartare
It's important to use a very high-quality beef for this carne cruda, a finely-chopped, raw-beef dish which is essentially an Italian-style tartare. (Recipe here.)
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Puntarelle - Roman Chicory Salad
Puntarelle are a form of slightly-bitter chicory traditionally eaten in a pungent raw salad with anchovies in Rome. (Recipe here.)
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Chickpea, Caper and Tuna Salad
A refreshing and nutritious salad of extra-virgin olive oil-packed tuna, chickpeas, capers and tomatoes served on a bed of crisp watercress. (Recipe here.)Continue to 17 of 22 below.
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Fennel, Citrus and Arugula Salad
This is a refreshing salad where the sour-sweet pink grapefruit or oranges balance well with crisp fennel and peppery arugula. You can swap the arugula for watercress or any lettuce. (Recipe here.)
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This classic, creamy dessert is so easy to make! The only "cooking" it requires is brewing the espresso -- the rest is just whipping and assembly.
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Burrata with Fresh-Berry Coulis
Burrata, a fresh mozzarella filled with rich cream, can be used in savory or even sweet dishes, as in this sumptuous dessert served with a fresh berry sauce. (Recipe here.)
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Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar
This combination might sound strange, if you haven't yet tasted really high-quality, aged balsamic vinegar, which is rich, complex, syrupy and somewhat sweet. (Recipe here.)Continue to 21 of 22 below.
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Peaches, Nectarines or Oranges in Marsala Wine
Sliced peaches, nectarines or oranges are macerated in Marsala wine and then served chilled, topped with walnuts.
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This refreshing drink is served as an aperitivo, palate cleanser between courses, or dessert. (To make one: pour 1/2 cup chilled prosecco and 1 tablespoon chilled vodka into a chilled flute glass. Add a small scoop of lemon sorbet--about 2-3 tablespoons--and garnish with a fresh mint leaf.)