Easy Summer Recipes - The New York Times

May 30, 2024
Dining & Wine
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More fun, less drudgery. That’s my goal for the summer — and specifically for my summer cooking. In my dreams, I’m whisking together a vinaigrette in a seaside cottage with a big breezy kitchen and a farm stand down the road (think Diane Keaton’s place in “Something’s Gotta Give”). While that’s not the reality for most of us — myself included — you can still welcome that relaxed sensibility in the recipes you cook and how you cook them (barefoot, good music playing, windows thrown open — or the A.C. on full blast).

We’ve rounded up 100 of our most delightful summer salads, desserts, easy dinners, grilling and no-cook recipes that will excite, not exhaust, you. The vast majority — with the exception of the desserts, most of which take about an hour — can be made in 30 minutes or less. (No kidding!) Quite a few travel well and taste great at practically any temperature, making them perfect for picnics. But since summer can look a lot like the rest of the year, with more sweat and sunblock, all are the kinds of dishes you can throw together on a busy weeknight when the kids are worn out from day camp and the traffic was hellish.

Pizza Salad. Get this — you can sizzle pepperoni strips, then toast bread crumbs in their fat. Sprinkle them over a crunchy-tangy mix of romaine lettuce, pepperoncini, black olives and red onion in a grated tomato vinaigrette, and you have this all-star salad.

Chicken and Herb Salad With Nuoc Cham. Sweet and tangy, a bright dressing of sugar, nuoc cham, lime juice and chile dresses a simple salad of rotisserie chicken, bell pepper and cabbage.

Citrusy Couscous Salad With Broccoli and Feta. This happy make-ahead salad can be served hot, cold or at room temperature. Orzo works great in place of pearl couscous.

Zucchini Salad With Pecorino, Basil and Almonds. “Zoodles” get soggy, but zucchini sticks maintain their pleasant bite, especially when tossed with a garlic-caper vinaigrette as it is here.

Chopped Salad With Chickpeas, Feta and Avocado. “This is one of the best salads I’ve ever had and definitely the best I’ve ever made.” Make it yourself and find out what Erica, a reader, is raving about.

Niçoise Salad With Basil and Anchovy-Lemon Vinaigrette. The key to a niçoise that tastes great from start to finish? Dressing the haricots verts and potatoes while they’re still warm so they absorb all of the flavors of garlic and anchovy.

Tomato and Peach Salad With Whipped Goat Cheese. Chunks of juicy tomatoes and peaches rest atop a bed of goat cheese blended with a touch of heavy cream and lemon zest. A summer dream come true!

Chickpea-Chicken Salad With Green Harissa Dressing. Tayb o’hari, a traditional Moroccan street food, inspires this sensational salad of shredded rotisserie chicken, spiced chickpeas, tomatoes, olives and a snazzy green harissa dressing.

Spicy Watermelon Salad With Pineapple and Lime. A party salad if there ever was one, this watermelon, pineapple, jalapeño and feta situation goes great with practically anything hot off the grill.

Avocado Salad With Herbs and Capers. You need four perfectly ripe — not too soft, not too hard — avocados for this lush, yet fresh salad, so set them aside and keep watch. It’ll be worth it.

Spicy Corn and Shishito Salad. Lightly sautéed shishitos are tossed with raw corn, an earthy cumin-lime vinaigrette and pebbles of feta for a salad that one reader called “stupid delicious exactly as written.”

Zucchini Salad With Sizzled Mint and Feta. Raw zucchini gets paired with feta and a za’atar-like mix of dried mint, toasted sesame seeds and crushed red pepper in this bright, light dish. It travels well, and eats well, at almost any temperature, so double up for your next picnic.

Tomato Salad With Cucumber and Ginger. Thai papaya salad inspires this blend of tomatoes and cucumbers, dressed with a zingy mix of lime, fish sauce and chile, then tossed with peanuts, ginger, basil and cilantro.

Corn Salad With Mango and Halloumi. A jumble of flavors that works together beautifully: soft halloumi, sweet mango, crunchy corn and cucumbers and salty pita chips. Sub in fresh peaches for the mango if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a perfectly ripe one.

Puttanesca Chickpea-Tomato Salad. Classic puttanesca ingredients — tomatoes, capers, olives and garlic — are combined with chickpeas and Parmesan nubs for a substantial desk (or poolside if you’re lucky) lunch.

Southern Broccoli Salad. Sometimes known as “candy broccoli” because of the on-the-sweet-side mayo dressing, this classic picnic salad is loaded with bacon, red onion, Cheddar, raisins and sunflower seeds. The recipe calls for blanching the broccoli briefly, but if you’re in summer mode, letting it sit for a few hours in the fridge will soften it.

Cucumber-Avocado Salad. In this five-ingredient dish, crunchy cucumbers and silky avocados get a smattering of chopped scallions, a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper.

Chopped Wedge Salad. All of the delightful parts of a wedge salad without any of the fork-and-knife gymnastics.

Dooymaaj Salad. An Iranian childhood snack of bread combined with herbs, cheese and walnuts, dooymaaj inspires this zesty bread salad where toasted lavash chips meet loads of green herbs, walnuts, feta and a tangy buttermilk vinaigrette.

Chopped Salad With Jalapeño-Ranch Dressing Put your houseguests or older kids to work chopping the ingredients for this plentiful salad inspired by those piled-high salads at California Pizza Kitchen.

Nutella Brownies. Nutella, flour, eggs and salt are all you need to make these impossibly moist brownies.

Strawberry Pretzel Pie. Inspired by strawberry Jell-O pretzel salad, which is found at church potlucks and picnics across the South, this joyful pie has a pretzel press-in crust, a cream filling and is topped with fresh strawberries.

Lemon-Blueberry Bars. As if lemon bars weren’t lovely enough, these are dotted with blueberries, which create jammy little pockets of delight.

Best Peach Cobbler. Put away your rolling pin, this peach cobbler belongs in the cake-style category, so all you have to do is spread the easy batter on the bottom of the pan, nestle in the fresh or frozen peaches and bake.

Gochujang Caramel Cookies. Like snickerdoodles with a little how-do-you-do, these classic chewy sugar cookies get a touch of heat from Korean red chile paste.

Mango and Sticky Rice Popsicles. Make this fantastic ice-pop version of mango sticky rice, the much-loved Thai dessert.

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Cake. Take store-bought crushed cookies, ice cream and ice cream sandwiches, layer them and freeze, for an impressive and riffable treat.

Summer Berry Buckle. Pick a berry, any berry and fold it into lemony, buttery batter for this simple cake. (It’s called a buckle because of the way the surface “buckles” where there’s a berry. Isn’t that cute?)

Magnolia Bakery’s Banana Pudding. Packaged vanilla pudding mix is the not-so-secret star of the New York bakery’s famous banana pudding, which will remind you of the best days of your childhood.

Brookies. Brownies plus chocolate chip cookies equal Brookies. Because no one should have to choose.

Salted Margarita Bars. Everyone’s favorite summer cocktail in dessert form.

No-Bake Lemon Custards With Strawberries. Does the thought of turning on the oven make you want to stay home and read in front of the air-conditioner? These no-bake custards are for you.

Easiest Vanilla Ice Cream. OK, so maybe the “easiest” ice cream is a pint from the store, but this eggless Philadelphia-style ice cream is the next best thing.

Sugar Cookie Bars. Children of all ages love these tender and too-sweet-in-a-good-way sugar cookie bars. Sprinkles are definitely not optional.

Lemon Poppy Seed Poundcake. This one-bowl, no-mixer-required sunshine cake is your new go-to summer dessert. Serve big slabs with berries and whipped cream.

Chez Panisse’s Blueberry Cobbler. Using only one-third cup sugar, this super-simple classic recipe lets the little sapphire berries shine.

Atlantic Beach Pie. Kind of like lemon meringue’s country cousin, this six-ingredient pie has a Saltine cracker crust and is piled high with whipped cream.

Fruit Galette. Tuck peaches, nectarines, sour cherries or practically any other fruit into the butter crust and bake for an elegant, effortless dessert.

Rice Krispies Treats. Browned butter and plenty of salt make this basic sweet anything but.

Strawberry Spoon Cake. Stir together a quick six-ingredient batter, then top with mashed strawberries and bake for an ooey-gooey summer delight.

Seared Scallops With Jammy Cherry Tomatoes. This dish just screams “impromptu summer dinner party.” Cook the tomatoes until they’re sweet and sticky, transfer them to a bowl, sear the scallops, then return them to the pan. That’s it.

Skillet Meatballs With Peaches, Basil and Lime. Meatballs go on a summer vacation in this breezy, very adaptable recipe. Serve over rice or noodles.

Bulgogi Cheese Steaks. Everything you love about the original, but with classic salty-sweet Korean flavors. Blistered shishito peppers stand in for bell peppers.

Cold Noodles With Tomatoes. In this satisfying mash-up of gazpacho and naengmyeon, the chilled Korean noodle soup, nothing gets in the way of peak tomatoes at their raw and juicy best.

Spicy Shrimp and Chickpea Salad. Quick-cooking shrimp, canned chickpeas and a three-ingredient citrus dressing make it possible to get this warm salad on the table in about 15 minutes.

Greek Chicken With Cucumber-Feta Salad. Garlicky yogurt does double duty as a quick marinade for pan-seared chicken, and as a dressing for the cucumber-tomato-feta salad.

Sheet-Pan Baked Feta With Broccolini, Tomatoes and Lemon. Baked feta is a just-this-side-of-melted delight. Combined with tender broccolini, tangy lemon slices and jammy tomatoes, it’s a veggie lover’s dream.

Dumpling Tomato Salad With Chile Crisp Vinaigrette. A little like a spicy panzanella, but with dumplings instead of croutons, this reader favorite is the kind of dish you’re going to make — and riff on — again and again.

Coconut Fish and Tomato Bake. Plop a few fish fillets — salmon, snapper, haddock or anything similar — and a pile of cherry tomatoes onto a sheet pan, then slather them with a fragrant sauce of coconut milk, ginger, garlic, turmeric and crushed red pepper. Heavenly.

Crispy Cheddar Tacos. Shredded cheese is cooked until crisp-edged and deep golden brown, then topped with tortillas and filled with chicken. Put a napkin in your lap to catch all of the shattery bits.

Fish Skewers With Herb and Lime. Cooking chunks of marinated fish on a skewer means the interior stays juicy, while the edges crisp and brown. Serve with a pile of fluffy white rice.

Mayo-Marinated Chicken With Chimichurri. Mayo, that miracle elixir, is spread over chicken cutlets before grilling to improve browning and evenly distribute seasonings.

Spicy Citrus Steak. Run-of-the-mill grilled steak is great, but, doused in a mouthwatering sauce of tangerine, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sambal oelek, ginger and garlic, it’s a marvel.

Shrimp Burgers. With more than 1,000 ratings, readers call these easy and adaptable shrimp burgers “phenomenal.”

Mushroom Beef Burgers. Chopped button mushrooms add an earthy, umami flavor to grilled burgers. Accidentally, or on purpose, you end up eating less meat.

Honey Butter Grilled Corn. Drenching grilled corn in melted honey butter creates a glaze that makes even supermarket corn shine.

Grilled Chicken With Tomatoes and Corn. Once you’re done grilling chicken breasts, slide them onto a bed of fresh tomatoes and corn. The juices drip down onto the vegetables, seasoning them with no effort on your part.

Spiced Grilled Halloumi. As simple as can be. Top slices of ruby red tomatoes with singed halloumi, then sprinkle them with coriander, cumin, crushed red pepper and a pinch of sugar.

Grilled Harissa Shrimp. A quick dip in harissa, honey and lemon juice before grilling takes run-of-the-mill grilled shrimp to the next level.

Souvlaki. Chunks of boneless chicken marinate in yogurt, garlic, cumin, oregano and rosemary for impossibly tender, fall-apart meat. Pork also works beautifully here.

Tajín Grilled Chicken. Tajín, that beloved Mexican seasoning made from dried red chiles and lime, is swirled together with agave, citrus, chipotles and garlic for a spicy-sweet glaze for grilled chicken.

Abdoogh Khiar (Chilled Buttermilk Cucumber Soup). This classic Iranian soup, made with buttermilk, yogurt, cucumbers, herbs and walnuts, is a hearty, but not at all heavy, too-hot-to-cook meal.

Fruit Sandwich. Sandwich strawberries, mango and kiwi in a layer of whipped cream-mascarpone between two pieces of Japanese milk bread for the cutest little dessert-adjacent meal you’ve ever had.

Marinated Feta With Herbs and Peppercorns. Cube feta, toss it with preserved lemon, peppercorns and chile, and refrigerate overnight. Pile it onto toast or alongside grilled chicken.

Sardine Toasts With Tomato and Sweet Onion. Buttery and salty canned sardines, sweet and juicy tomatoes and crunchy red onion play together nicely in these open-faced sandwiches.

Naan-o Paneer-o Sabzi (Bread, Feta and Herb Platter). Assemble a gorgeous platter of briny cheese, fresh herbs, walnuts and flatbread. Watermelon, grapes and crisp Persian cucumber add a summery flair.

Herby Feta and Yogurt Dip With Sumac. Fresh parsley, mint, scallion and lemony sumac are blended with feta and yogurt for an exciting dip for crudité or a lively sauce for grilled meats and veggies.

Shrimp Salad. Using both lemon zest and juice is the key to this creamy yet zippy shrimp salad. Toss in a pound of cooked orzo or ditalini for a potluck pasta salad.

White Bean Hummus With Tahini and Coriander. Instead of traditional chickpeas, white beans are used in this creamy dip. Miso, if you have it, lends a welcome earthy undertone.

Greek Goddess Dip. This bright green herby-feta dip is so good you’ll want to eat it with a spoon.

Watermelon Chaat. Juicy watermelon tossed with bold seasonings like jalapeño, cumin, paprika and black pepper make for a just-this-side-of-sweet fruit salad.

Ceviche. For a Mexican-style ceviche, combine fresh fish with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, jalapeños and lime juice. Serve with extra sturdy tortilla chips.

Kimchi Tuna Salad. Jarred kimchi does most of the work in this bold tuna salad that’s great rolled up in a sheet of gim or piled into a soft bun.

Sabich Bowls. The traditional Israeli pita sandwich of fried eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, tomato-cucumber salad, pickles and tahini sauce inspired these jumbly, delicious bowls.

Cowboy Caviar. Also known as Texas caviar, this black bean, corn, tomato and jalapeño salad is a cinch to make and travels well, making it great for picnics, potlucks and road trips.

Cold Tofu Salad With Tomatoes and Peaches. Silken tofu stands in for mozzarella in this vibrant vegan dish inspired by Italian caprese salad.

Furikake Tomato Sandwich. A sandwich of scarlet red tomatoes and white bread is practically perfect, but adding a sprinkle of furikake makes “the tomatoes taste even more of themselves, according to Eric Kim.

Ham and Jam Sandwich. Adding a generous smear of jam, Dijon mustard and a twist of freshly ground black pepper lends a little “je ne sais quoi” to this sweet riff on a jambon beurre.

Chickpea Salad Sandwich. Forget tuna, forget chicken. Combine chickpeas with a little tahini, Parmesan, celery and scallions for a vegetarian version of the old-school diner favorite.

Best Gazpacho. With more than 12,000 ratings, this wildly popular Spanish-style gazpacho doesn’t disappoint.

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