Strategies, techniques, and tips on all things summer—from the Real Simple Test Kitchen to yours.

By Ananda Eidelstein
June 29, 2018
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A

Agua fresca is our drink of summer. Blend watermelon, cucumber, or cantaloupe with lime juice and a little sugar; strain and serve over ice.

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B

Beets of all types, shaved raw with a mandoline, bring texture to a leafy green salad. Add them anywhere you’re craving a bit of color and crunch.

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C

Cucumbers soak up even more flavor when smashed, then sliced. Toss with apple cider vinegar, a sliced shallot, and a pinch of salt for a bracing take.

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D

Dollop a spoonful of homemade whipped cream over fresh summer fruit, like halved strawberries or sliced stone fruit, for the easiest dessert ever.

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E

Eggplant charred whole on the grill makes a silky base for baba ghanoush. Discard the skin, then blend the flesh with 2 tablespoons each tahini and olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grilled pita.

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F

Figs are a real summer treat eaten raw out of hand or grilled and drizzled with honey and flaky sea salt.

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Gazpacho

Gazpacho made with ripe tomatoes or cucumbers is a savory way to cool down. Process 4 chopped green heirloom tomatoes or 4 chopped mini seedless cucumbers, 2 slices white bread, cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and teaspoon cayenne in a blender until smooth. Serve chilled, topped with a spoonful of sour cream.

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H

Herbs are at their best this time of year. Mix and match tender varieties, like basil and mint, and use them as you would salad greens.

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I

Ice cream scoops easiest with a hot scoop; dip one in a bowl of hot water between each serving to make scooping a breeze.

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J

Jams keep summer going long after it’s gone. Cook 2 pounds plums, pitted cherries, or tomatoes with 1/2 cup sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a pinch of salt until thickened. Refrigerate or freeze to enjoy through the fall.

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K

Keep lemonade and a bottle of sparkling wine in the fridge at all times. You’ll be ready to pour a quick refreshment whenever unexpected guests drop by.

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L

Leafy greens of all kinds, such as Bibb, Boston, and red leaf lettuce, crop up at markets throughout summer; try them in sandwiches or as the main attraction in a tossed salad.

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M

Melon, like honeydew or cantaloupe, isn’t just for snacking: Toss with olive oil, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper to make a side salad.

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N

Nasturtium leaves and flowers add peppery notes when tossed into salads or tucked into sandwiches—look for them among the other greens at the farmers market.

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O

Oregano, when fresh, bursts with flavor and is a surprising substitute for basil or parsley. Have extra? Tie a bunch with kitchen twine and hang it to dry for DIY dried oregano.

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P

Packing for a picnic is easier with an insulated thermos big enough to hold the gazpacho. It'll stay chilled until you're ready to serve.

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Q

Quiche with roasted peppers and corn helps use up extra bushels. Whisk together 6 large eggs, 3/4 cup half-and-half, 2 sliced roasted peppers, 2 cups raw corn kernels (from 3 ears), and 1 cup shredded Cheddar. Season with salt and pepper and pour into a premade crust. Bake at 350°F until just set in the center, about 45 minutes.

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R

Radishes with softened cultured butter and flaky salt are an easy and sophisticated hors d'oeuvre for any gathering. Keep the radish greens attached for added wow factor.

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S

Strawberries can get mushy and grow mold more quickly if stored wet. Avoid washing them until ready to eat, and keep them in a partially covered container lined with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture.

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T

Tomatoes sliced and seasoned with salt will always be the juicy stars of summer.

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U

Upside-down cakes hiding fresh fruit, like nectarines, apricots, or peaches, show off summer's bounty.

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V

Vinaigrettes can perk up more than just salads. Use them to marinate meats before grilling or drizzle over corn for a surprise finish.

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W

Wax beans are a stunning companion to regular green beans. Look for yellow and purple varieties for a modern rendition of your three-bean salad.

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X

Ximenia is the plum-like fruit you’ve probably never heard of. Halve it, grill it, and serve it with ice cream.

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Y

Yogurt can go sweet with fresh fruit or savory with veggies and grilled meats; season with salt, pepper, and a clove of grated garlic.

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Z

Zucchini and summer squash can be shaved into ribbons and eaten raw. Toss with a lemon vinaigrette and a handful of toasted pistachios or almonds.

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