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Las Vegas chefs share cool dishes that take some heat off summer

Keith Richards once famously opined, “If you gotta think about being cool, you ain’t cool.” And while he wasn’t talking about the weather, his wisdom applies there as well. Sultry Las Vegas summers keep us focused on cool-downs — even when deciding what to eat.

Selecting the right meal on a 100-degree day can be tricky. (One can only consume so much ice cream and cold beer.) So we asked a few local chefs what dishes they choose when the summer sun gets oppressive.

Emily Brubaker, executive chef Cured & Whey/MGP Foods — When we’re going out, there’s nothing like fresh sushi on a hot day. My favorite is Sushi Neko. Their all-you-can-eat is really affordable, especially for how fresh and quality the fish is.

If we’re staying in, a cheese plate is the way to go. The prep is minimal, I don’t have to heat up the house, and I get a full meal on a single board. Both options are a win-win for me and my family.

Josh Crain, chef de cuisine Bouchon Bistro — My mom’s made (a dish) as far back as I can remember as a kid. It’s cherry Jell-O, as we call it. And it’s just your normal cherry Jell-O pack, and then she throws in cut, fresh Bing cherries and toasted slivered almonds. I’ve eaten it my whole life. And she made it a few years ago for (my wife) Rachel, and Rachel freaked out on it. And now, when every summer comes around and my mom asks, “What can I bring over for dinner?” that’s the first thing on Rachel’s list.

Donald Lemperle, chef/owner VegeNation — My favorite cold dish during the summer is chilled soba noodles. When I’m at home, I cook up a bunch of the veggies I have in my fridge. I let them cool, add them to the chilled soba noodles and then dress it with a Thai peanut sauce. We’re adding a version of this to the VegeNation menu during an upcoming po-pup because I love it so much. The VegeNation dish will include tofu, crispy peanuts, bok choy, shitake mushrooms, zucchini, charred pineapple and red onions. It’s the perfect dish for hot summer days.

Ann Alenik, owner Pasta Shop Ristorante — I love our wild berry salad. We make the citrus vinaigrette with fresh oranges & limes and it reminds of a warm summer day. And it’s garnished with candied almonds and feta cheese. The feta cheese gives a little oomph to it. And the whole mixture is very refreshing.

Matt Hurley, executive chef Cut by Wolfgang Puck – For me it would be a tomato salad. Great olive oil, but for me (the key) is great tomatoes. Juicy tomatoes, all different varieties: heirlooms, cherry tomatoes, that’s what makes it. If I’m at home, for me, my kids and my wife, it’s great.

As far as seafood, it would be ceviche. Some great fish, a lot of acid, a little bit of habanero, that’ll cool you down.

Robert Camacho, executive chef Fleur by Hubert Keller — Fleur has been running a watermelon gazpacho as a summer special for the last few weeks and it’s one of my favorite cold dishes for the hot weather. The gazpacho is made with watermelon, king crab, avocado and pickled Fresno peppers.

My go-to dish to make at home during the summer is a fresh heirloom tomato salad with peaches, cucumber, feta, opal basil and sherry vinaigrette.

Jonah Resnick, executive chef Sadelle’s and Carbone — One cold dish that I love is the caprese salad from Carbone. Heirloom tomatoes are by far one of my top summer ingredients, and the way we make it at Carbone is my favorite version. It also helps that the mozzarella is made to order for every salad. This is a dish that Mario Carbone and I created the first summer at Carbone in New York City, and the recipe hasn’t changed since. It’s definitely a classic that I get excited for it every year.

At Sadelle’s, the tea sandwiches are a great option on a hot day. We serve three types of them: chicken salad, which is my personal favorite, egg salad and tuna salad. Sandwiches are one of my favorite types of food, and these simple versions served on challah bread are perfect for hot summer day in Vegas.

Silva Chamanian, owner Bok Bok Chicken Quinoa eech is perfect for summer. It’s normally a salad made with onions, tomatoes and bulger, which is cracked wheat. But years ago, because of my daughter not being able to digest the cracked wheat in the bulger so well, I started to experiment with quinoa so my daughter could enjoy it. The quinoa is stewed with tomatoes and lots of spices and then served cold. It’s great, in that you’re able to get in a delicious light grain without weighing you down in the heat of the summer. It’s super flavorful, light and delicious. And I add a little bit of kick in there — not too strong and not too light — with a little bit of jalapenos and just a little hint of Sriracha.

Tom McGrath, chef Frites Las Vegas — My favorite Frites dish for a hot day would be the chips ’n dip: our house-made potato chips served with our chilled deviled egg sauce and crisp bacon, paired with our root beer float, (which is) locally brewed, tapped root beer with French vanilla ice cream. My favorite summer chilled dish outside of Frites would be a cucumber watermelon salad with a white balsamic vinaigrette.

Contact Al Mancini at amancini@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter.

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