The good news is that summer is finally here. The days are longer, the sun is shining, and we’re looking for every excuse to stay outside well into the evening. But while issuing dinner invites left, right, and backwards is tempting, the humidity is building, and entertaining gets trickier. Now comes the part where you have to figure out what to make on a hot and sticky evening that won’t leave your guests (and the cook!) hot and sticky as well.

Here are a few ideas to keep up your sleeve (or your tank top) for those sultry nights when cool is the order of the day:

Cold soups: Even the biggest soup fans often forget that soup doesn’t have to equal hot. Think about gazpachos, chilled pureed soups, cold bisques filled with veggies. While there may well be some cooking involved, the cooking takes places long before the meal, so that both you and the soup have a chance to cool down before the guests arrive.

Some soups to try:

Chilled Summer Soup from With Food & Love

Chilled Strawberry Soup from This Mess is Ours

Chilled Asparagus Soup from Catching Seeds

Salad, salad, salad: Salads can of course go way beyond a bowl of greens, and in the summer are prime targets for a refreshing main course. Composed salads are elegant and beautiful, and offer up a great variety on the plate. A big platter makes a dramatic main course, and basically provides and edible centerpiece for a buffet or dinner table. Then there are creative riffs on tuna, chicken, pasta, or seafood salads. The beauty is, of course, that all of these are served at room temperature, so you can make it ahead, cover it with plastic wrap, and sail forth into your diner party knowing that dinner is done.

Cucumber Noodle, Watermelon and Feta Salad from Two Peas and Their Pod

Thai Cucumber Salad from The Mom 100

Summer Orzo Pasta Salad from A Cedar Spoon

Antipasti and Mezze: Most antipasti are also designed to be made ahead of time, with very simple preparations, so that the kitchen time (or grill time) is kept to a minimum, and can be done long ahead of time. Mezze are simply the appetizers of the Eastern Mediterranean region as a whole. And few things look prettier than a series of gently cooked vegetables and grains on plates, complemented by some cheese, sliced salumi, and bowls of sparkling olives…which of course require no cooking whatsoever. Mix and match to create your perfect spread.

Vegetarian Mezze Platter from What’s Gaby Cooking

Tzatziki from Gimme Some Oven

An Antipasto Platter from Half Baked Harvest

 

And of course, don’t forget the cocktail!