An A to Z Guide to Summer Cooking
Strategies, techniques, and tips on all things summer—from the Real Simple Test Kitchen to yours.
Agua fresca is our drink of summer. Blend watermelon, cucumber, or cantaloupe with lime juice and a little sugar; strain and serve over ice.
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.
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.
Dollop a spoonful of homemade whipped cream over fresh summer fruit, like halved strawberries or sliced stone fruit, for the easiest dessert ever.
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.
Figs are a real summer treat eaten raw out of hand or grilled and drizzled with honey and flaky sea salt.
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.
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.
Ice cream scoops easiest with a hot scoop; dip one in a bowl of hot water between each serving to make scooping a breeze.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Upside-down cakes hiding fresh fruit, like nectarines, apricots, or peaches, show off summer's bounty.
Vinaigrettes can perk up more than just salads. Use them to marinate meats before grilling or drizzle over corn for a surprise finish.
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.
Ximenia is the plum-like fruit you’ve probably never heard of. Halve it, grill it, and serve it with ice cream.
Yogurt can go sweet with fresh fruit or savory with veggies and grilled meats; season with salt, pepper, and a clove of grated garlic.