Hearty chilis and belly-filling pasta bakes make for delectable dinners—but admittedly, sometimes it’s not the cheesy, carb-y meals that you crave, especially when temperatures are soaring. In the summertime it’s all about meals that make the most of the season’s fresh fruits and vegetables, ideally without having to turn on your oven—or even your stovetop.
Your go-to salad might do the job on a hot night, but mixing things up every once in a while will keep dinner exciting. And it doesn’t have to require a lot of work either—that means more time that you can enjoy relaxing with a drink in hand outdoors. Here, eight chefs share their favorite dishes to make when they want something refreshing.
“I love a big soba noodle salad on a summer night with a glass of wine,” says Alison Cayne, founder of Haven’s Kitchen. It’s a versatile recipe, too—you can add in whatever vegetables you’d like, and the miso sauce will tie it all together.
Aaron Hutcherson of The Hungry Hutch gives his tomato salad a little extra crunch and zing with Persian cucumbers and red onions. It doesn’t get much more straightforward to prepare, but if you’re craving a heartier dish, you can add your own twist. “Feel free to customize it by throwing in some fresh herbs, cheese, or beans,” he says.
“I’m currently living in Mexico, so I’m very inspired by all the amazing flavors of this beautiful country,” says Alison Wu. Her current go-to? A bright salad of shrimp, avocado, and tomato, which she enjoys with tortilla chips—especially ones she makes herself. “It takes the salad to the next level,” she notes.
Pasta cravings happen year-round—which is why chef Chloe Coscarelli enjoys whipping up a veggie-filled take on mac and cheese when a salad just doesn’t sound exciting. “The combo of tossing hot conchiglie pasta with a fresh no-cook spinach-parsley sauce gives me that comforting mac and cheese satisfaction, but with a healthy chlorophyll-packed twist,” she says.
When you’re craving crunch, there’s nothing like a good spring roll, according to Jessica Hylton-Leckie of Jessica in the Kitchen. “They’re an easy way to get in lots of fresh and hydrating veggies—plus that amazing sauce!” she says. “Peanut sauce is one of my favorites, and it can even be made ahead of time.”
A burrata salad is a classic come summertime, but Holly Erickson of The Modern Proper likes to take it up a notch by incorporating juicy peaches with ripe tomatoes and fresh mozzarella for a simple yet delectable meal. “It’s a seasonal bounty at its finest and a feast all on its own,” she says.
“All of our summer family parties revolved around this dish—sweet, aromatic pork grilled in the sun while our many little cousins ran around screaming and our uncles huddled at tables drinking Henny and Heineken,” share Vanessa and Kim Pham, cofounders of Omsom. Consider your next cookout even more delicious.
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