Food The Bite:

21 Easy Summer Recipes to Make Weeknight Cooking a Breeze

I can’t tell you how much I have depended on and appreciated these easy summer recipes over the years. They are my staples, the ones I turn to again and again for their ease and simplicity. Moreover, I promise that even the novice cook can navigate these delicious, health-focused dishes. But, if you are weary, I’m here to help!

You can watch my EyeSwoon unplugged videos on Instagram or YouTube where I reveal the simple steps, cooking tips, flavor profiles, and plating ideas you need to create these easy summer recipes (and more) at home. (Or you can also buy my book, Cook Beautiful!) Believe it or not, the most elaborate-looking dishes are often the simplest. The main ingredient? Mother Nature. Investing in the freshest, seasonal produce from your local farmer’s market will always result in the most delicious, lip-smacking meals you’ve ever tasted—trust me!

So, keep reading for my easy summer recipes and if you make one, please share it and tag me on Instagram with the hashtag #eyeswooneats — I just love to see your creations!

Johnny Miller for Cook Beautiful
Johnny Miller for Cook Beautiful

GREEN BEANS WITH PISTACHIO MINT PESTO

“This green beans recipe isn’t your average. Trust me. I made a slightly heartier pesto by adding pistachios, and mint, leaving it on the coarser side. I also sprinkled some crushed pistachios on top for added crunch. The key here, and with string beans in general, is to cook them for such a short amount of time, and then immediately throw them into an ice bath to preserve their texture and color. The ice bath might sound like a step purely for theatrics, but I promise you it’s the only way your beans will pass the test. Keep reading for the green beans recipe and enjoy!” — Romilly Newman

FETA CUCUMBER SALAD WITH CORIANDER AND FENNEL SEEDS

This feta cucumber salad with coriander and fennel seeds is the simplest, the crunchiest, and the tastiest. It’s also a reminder that you do not have to make these laborious recipes for something to be super delicious. I initially had a salad very similar to this at Lilia Restaurant from Missy Robbins and it has forever been imprinted on my mind and tastebuds. Just the other day I visited a friend and made a heavier bolognese which I wanted to pair with something that was simple and refreshing on the palette to complement it. Today’s recipe is a little bit different from my usual flavor profiles but it’s unique combination of flavors are so simple and really explosive on the palette.

ZESTY TOMATO SALAD

Nothing beats market-fresh tomatoes in the summertime. They’re bursting with brightness and a sun-ripened sweetness that can only be enjoyed this time of year. With so much natural flavor, color, and juiciness, I prefer to let the ingredients do the talking and not manipulate them too much. Today’s recipe is a perfect example of that. But don’t be fooled by its simplicity. Your tastebuds will be surprised by its complexity of flavors that span the spectrum from spicy and sweet to zesty and tangy—all of my go-to tenets for a successful dish.   

21 Easy Summer Recipes to Make Weeknight Cooking a Breeze

Pasta Alla Gricia 

“The Alla Gricia recipe is basically a mixture of Carbonara and Cacio e Pepe. It takes what I believe to be the two best parts of both, and combines them in a simple fashion. Now, I added peas, fresh herbs, and lemon zest to my recipe to make it summery, but traditionally these items would not be present. I also used parmesan, because that’s what I had on hand. The traditional dish is made with pecorino, and I’m really hoping Athena’s Italian mother is not upset with this swap. All of this is to say, Alla Gricia, in its simplest form, is a perfect dish.” — Romilly Newman 

CANTALOUPE AND CUCUMBER SALAD WITH RICOTTA SALATA

Often it’s the simplest ingredients that deliver the tastiest results, especially if they’re in season! This recipe is an example of that. The combination of melon and cucumber fuses sweet with crunchy, then top that with Aleppo pepper, sumac, a drizzle of olive oil, and the creaminess of ricotta and you have the perfect summer salad. Enjoy!

CHARRED EGGPLANT WITH ZA’ATAR, HERBS, AND GOAT CHEESE

Eggplant on the grill is a favorite in our household. Its firm skin protects its creamy interior but practically melts away in the heat of the fire. These veggies absorb just about anything they come in contact with, making them a great vehicle for a variety of favors. Here za’atar, a thyme- and sesame-based Middle Eastern spice blend, lends the vegetable both tangy and aromatic notes. The yogurt-tahini sauce, meanwhile, provides deeply nutty and cooling accents. Finally, sumac, a lemony herb that’s also a mainstay of Middle Eastern cuisine, brightens the dish with a hit of acid. And if you feel like switching things up—or have a glut of squash in your garden—this recipe can also be prepared with zucchini in place of eggplant. It doesn’t get much simpler or more delicious than this easy summer recipe.

SUMMER TOMATO SALAD

Don’t let summer pass you by without enjoying its star ingredient, the heirloom tomato. With so many varieties on offer this time of year, I wanted to create a recipe that celebrates their sweet, complex, and sometimes slightly smokey flavors. Make sure you buy different colors, shapes, and sizes for this salad to enhance the visual appeal, too. Remember, we eat with our eyes first! Enjoy.  

A DUO OF SUMMER CROSTINI

If you’re looking for something quick and delicious to whip up for impromptu guests or for a simple, healthy snack then look no further than crostini. Use whatever you have on hand from the farm stand or your CSA box, this this case I had fresh blueberries and ricotta from the Italian market which I combined with fragrant herbs from the grand. Use this recipe as your loose blueprint to create whatever your tastebuds desire with seasonal fruits and veggies. 

STRAWBERRY BURRATA SALAD

Warm weather cooking at its core is about simplicity. Seeing what’s available at the market and just playing and riffing—balancing flavor and opposing texture. There are six tenets I follow when I create a dish: something seasonal, something spicy & sweet, something tangy or briny, something textural, something fresh and vibrant, and always an allium. Today, I’m using all of them to create this delicious strawberry and burrata salad that has to be eaten to be believed. Trust me!

STRAWBERRY AND SUN GOLD TOMATO SALAD WITH HONEY-LIME CITRONETTE

Inspired by the iconic recipe from chef, Dan Kluger (formely at ABC Kitchen in Manhattan), this unexpected combination of crunchy cucumber with sweet delicate strawberries and creamy goats cheese has to be tried to be believed. But it’s also the honey-sweetened lime citronette dressing that really elevates this salad and gives it that zippy, refreshing punch. 

GRILLED CLAMS WITH JALAPENO-HERB BUTTER

This recipe is the epitome of “meal in minutes” and when you’re cooking in summer, this is music to your ears. Anything that can limit sweat-inducing time over a stovetop is a win-win. Simply toss these onto a smoking grill and once cooked, dot them with scrumptious herb-flecked jalapeño butter which melts into their briny juices to form a delicious sauce. Serve with toasted baguette! 

PEACHES AND BURRATA WITH PICKLED SHALLOT

Ridiculously aromatic and so tender at the height of the season, peaches are without a doubt one of the most seductive fruits. This modern Caprese salad is a love letter to those golden jewels. The sweet and tangy pickled shallots mingle effortlessly with the ripe peaches and burrata for a result that is intensely satisfying and super simple to throw together. 

BUCATINI WITH SPICY SUMMER TOMATOES

Who said pasta was only relegated to the warmer months never tried a summer variation like this spicy tomato bucatini. It’s the only pasta recipe in the summer chapter of Cook Beautiful and that’s because its the one I turn to again and again—all summer long! The key is to cook the cherry tomatoes until they burst open and infusing them with a touch of fresh Chile and a bright punch of lemon.

MUSTARDY SMASHED NEW POTATOES WITH JALAPENO GREMOLATA

Introducing your next big summer romance. These smashed potatoes are golden roasted and crispy all over and then you add the mustard, parsley, dill, diced jalapeño, and garlic for a delicious flavor explosion in your mouth. The combination is so irresistible that you won’t think twice about stepping away from the grill to turn on the oven in the middle of summer. And anyway, who doesn’t want potatoes with their grilled steak?

CHARRED AND RAW CORN SALAD WITH TOMATILLO RELISH

This recipe is another reason why it’s so important to throw out the rule books, experiment, play, and make mistakes in cooking—oftentimes it ends with the most delicious results! Take this simple corn salad for example which came about almost by accident when I was making tomatillo salsa. Not realizing that tomatillos are supposed to be roasted first, I chopped them up raw and let them macerate in vinegar with scallions and was blown away by the flavors—then I tossed in some corn and a salad was born! 

21 Easy Summer Recipes to Make Weeknight Cooking a Breeze

HONEYDEW, FENNEL, AND CAPER BERRY SALAD

in high summer, melons are amazingly sweet and refreshing—so why reserve them for snacks? To lend the fruit some savory glory, I used one of my favorite tricks: pickling. It does such sublime things to ingredients like honeydew. And the cooling fennel here helps beat the heat of the serrano, while also offering a fresh crunch. The final surprise: caper berries, which add a uniquely briney touch. To ensure your melon is ripe, follow your nose: The fruit should smell sweet and slightly floral. 

GRILLED SCALLOPS WITH PICKLED MELON

When I first bought scallops from the Amagansett fish market, I had absolutely no idea how I would prepare them. Once home, I foraged within the fridge to find some honeydew melon, a single Kirby cucumber, a jalapeño, and a knob of ginger. With this, I began to play and fell down the swoony rabbit hole of creation. I was chopping and slicing, nibbling, and adjusting as I went. The end result was just as delicious as it looks. 

21 Easy Summer Recipes to Make Weeknight Cooking a Breeze

GRILLED RIB-EYE WITH BURST TOMATOES AND CHIMICHURRI

Grilling season wouldn’t be complete without throwing a juicy steak on the fire. Neither I nor my carnivore of a son will ever turn down a succulent rib-eye, especially when it’s served with fresh chimichurri! A mélange of peppery arugula, bright parsley, garlic, shallots, and hot red pepper, the Argentinian sauce provides just the right acidic contrast to the rich meat—think of it as the yin to the steak’s yang. Some blistered summer tomatoes, still clinging to their vine, bring the plate that much closer to perfection. 

GRILLED WHITE FISH WITH TOMATO, CORN, & BASIL

This grilled white fish recipe is so easy and delicious that I make it at least once or twice a week for my family, especially at the end of summer. These sweet farm-fresh ingredients will only be around this season so you should likely make this recipe now!

NECTARINE & LEMON SALAD WITH PICKLED SPRING ONIONS

As you’ve likely noticed, I am a sweet and savory kinda gal. And one of my favorite ways to play with contradictory flavors is to add fruit to my summer salads. Here sweet nectarines play well with the bright acidity of paper-thin lemons, the zing of coriander pickled spring onions, and impossibly creamy buffalo mozzarella.  And yes, you are meant to eat the whole lemon, rind and all, in every bite, promise! You can expect me to riff on these robust flavors to make easy summer salads all season long.

This post was originally published on Mar 17, 2020, and has since been updated.

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