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Carpaccio gets the raw end of the deal.

Often overshadowed by its flashier cousin tartare, the traditional Italian preparation of paper-thin raw meat may strike some as dated, in that same sad camp as raspberry coulis. But it doesn't have to be that way; the dish can be endlessly interpreted.

Carpaccio is ripe for a makeover, starting with the protein. The original version, developed at Harry's Bar in Venice in the '50s and named for the painter Vittore Carpaccio, calls for beef tenderloin. We prefer lamb top round, a leg muscle with a full flavor and tender, buttery texture (see the recipe). You'll want to find a trustworthy butcher who will trim the meat of any excess fat and sinew, and from there your work is minimal—it's all about assembly.

First, freeze the meat for about an hour before slicing. This helps it to firm up and slice cleanly. Use your absolute sharpest blade to cut the lamb into ¼-inch thick medallions. Place the pieces between two sheets of parchment and give them a few solid whacks (a heavy-bottomed pan works well in lieu of a dedicated meat mallet) until they're very thin.

Top round isn't particularly gamy, but it should have a gentle grassy flavor, so decorate it accordingly. A quick aioli-esque sauce made with egg yolks, olive oil, lemon, capers, garlic and anchovy drizzled on the meat with a light hand brings out the lamb's subtle funk. You want the assertive flavors in the sauce to complement the meat, not overwhelm it.

Dot the plate with some meaty, sweet chopped lucques olives, fresh figs for a pop of juicy flavor, a dusting of lemon zest and crunchy fleur de sel. A few glugs of fruity olive oil, and the dish is done—balanced, rich, meaty and bright.