August’s late summer days string along under sweltering heat, earning the name “the dog days of summer.”

If you think its moniker has to do with lazy, overheated pooches, think again. Rather, the nickname dates to ancient Rome, where Sirius — the brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere and part of the Canis Major constellation (meaning “big dog” in Latin) — appeared in the sky at sunrise during August. According to the ancient Romans, the “big dog” was responsible for late summer’s scorch.

Heat, fire, and ways to manage the two were at the center of the annual Aug. 23 Roman festival Vulcanalia, named for the ancient Roman god of fire — and volcanoes!

We’ve compiled 9 of our favorite August recipes, including a host of summer salads, to minimize your time in a hot kitchen. And you’ll also find recipes that are ideal for “firing up” the grill for end-of-summer outdoor get-togethers. Each one features a “star-studded” lineup of peak season produce: juicy, ripe tomatoes, crisp snap peas, cooling cucumbers, tender squash, sweet corn, refreshing watermelon, and plump peaches.

With dishes this good, it’s time to unleash the dog days…

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Theresa Gambacorta is a freelance food writer, a veteran of New York City restaurants, and cookbook co-author to chef Joey Campanaro's Big Love Cooking (Chronicle) and James Beard-nominated chef Nasim Alikhani's Sofreh: A Contemporary Approach to Classic Persian Cuisine (Knopf). She is currently working on a forthcoming vegan cookbook to be published by Simon Element.

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