Easy Summer Dinner Ideas – New York Times
When temperatures approach 80 degrees, it’s okay to use the word “cooking” loosely. At this time of year, dinners are often prepared quickly anyway, after a day in the garden or by the pool. The New York Times recipes below adhere to those unwritten rules of summer cooking: it should be bright and fast, with no oven needed at all.
Discover more summer dinners at New York Times Cooking.
In this six-ingredient recipe, Ali Slagle uses a straightforward technique for delicious results. Simply placing well-marinated, just-grilled meat on top of fresh summer produce creates more tender, juicy vegetables without any additional cooking.
Is it even summer if you don’t make the occasional taco dinner? Yewande Komolafe combines cumin and chili shrimp with a tangy slaw of lemony pickled cabbage for a taco with plenty of verve.
recipe: Shrimp sandwiches
If you have to operate the stove, it’s best to simplify it where possible. That’s what Ali Slagle does here, throwing lentils and orzo into the same pot of boiling water so that only one burner is lit. All the other elements in this vibrant vegetable salad, including the zucchini, are left uncooked, so there is a variety of textures and temperatures.
recipe: Orzo salad with lentils and zucchini
This Seville-style gazpacho from Julia Mosquin makes a perfect lunch or dinner on days when turning on the stove seems sacrilegious. This chilled, creamy (but no cream!) soup takes 20 cold minutes to blend, season, and strain.
Few recipes rival the simplicity of a cooling block of silken tofu slathered in sauce that comes together in mere seconds. While the beauty of this dish is how little work it requires, Hetty MacKinnon has plenty of suggestions on how to spice it up: Add fresh herbs, top with crunchy peanuts or fried shallots, or serve with something pickled, like kimchi and pickled mustard. Root or refreshing radish.
recipe: Silken tofu with spicy soy sauce
A well-prepared salad can be a light but filling summer meal. “Plus the chorus of people saying this sauce is amazing!” One reviewer wrote about the umami-rich combination of cashews, garlic, mustard, miso paste, and caper brine in this recipe from Becky Hughes. If it’s too hot to turn on the oven for the toppings — crispy chickpeas and rustic toast — you can make them quickly on the stove.
recipe: Vegetarian Caesar salad with crunchy chickpeas
A satisfying way to prepare fresh summer tomatoes is to grate them. Tejal Rao seasones what is essentially an uncooked sauce with coconut oil, mustard seeds and curry leaves to create an aromatic base for lightly fried paneer pieces.
recipe: Paneer with tomato
As one reader wrote, this recipe from Ali Slagle is “great for a hot summer day.” Cooking required is minimal. Simply mash the chickpeas and peanuts in a skillet for five to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Everything else is a heat-free breeze: just a little smashing, a little chipping and some painting.
recipe: Mashed zucchini with chickpeas and peanuts
Tuna salad recipes are incredibly personal. Some skip the mayonnaise entirely, while others use celery and onions aggressively for extra crunch. Naz Deravian infuses them with fresh herbs and pickles for brighter, tastier bites. In this sandwich, the most flavorful element may be the crushed salty potato chip topping, which makes every bite taste like summer camp.
You can approach this shrimp salad from Melissa Clark one of two ways: leave the shrimp whole for an elegant dinner salad over your favorite lettuce, or roughly chop them up for sandwiches similar to tuna salad. it’s your choice!
recipe: Shrimp salad
Cai Chun takes the strong flavors of Vietnamese green papaya salad and applies them to a wide range of produce for a cooling salad that is as good on its own as it is served as a side dish. Mango, peas and avocado tossed in fish sauce sit atop crisp lettuce leaves, for a texture that ranges from refreshingly crunchy to meltingly creamy.
recipe: Mango and avocado salad with lemon vinaigrette
Hetty McKinnon takes no-cook tomato salad to new heights with a crunchy topping of sunflower seeds, pepitas, almonds, pistachios, oat granola, and sesame seeds seasoned with chili flakes. Canned chickpeas and feta add protein and make this a satisfying and light dinner.
recipe: Tomato salad with chickpeas and feta
When in doubt, arrange your favorite fruits and cheeses on a plate and call it dinner. Flavors here are such an integral part of the Iranian table that the perfect morsel of herbs, walnuts, salty cheese and flatbread has a name in Persian: luqma. Do just as Naz Deravian does, or use her recipe as a template, and incorporate whatever fruits or vegetables look best on the market.
recipe: Naan-o-paneer-o-sabzi (bread, feta and herb dish)
A crunchy BLT with perfectly ripe tomatoes is a no-brainer in the summer, so allow us to tempt you with a less obvious suggestion: turn the sandwich into pasta. This twist on a classic from Colu Henry keeps the seasonal vibes going with cherry tomatoes and will only take 30 minutes to prepare.
Much like a Bomb Pop or a plate of watermelon slices, tomato toast is a perfect summer food. Follow Melissa Clark’s lead and garnish your food with sardines, some sliced onions, and torn basil, and you’ll have a classic pantry meal.
recipe: Toast sardines with tomatoes and sweet onions
A few pantry and refrigerator staples—garlic, soy sauce, black vinegar, red pepper flakes, green onions, and herbs—do a lot of work in this deceptively simple dish from Hetty McKinnon. Hot oil is poured over the wide noodles and stabilizers – yu bo mian means “noodles drizzled with oil” – extracting the complex flavors from the simple ingredients without any cooking required.
recipe: Yu Bu Mian
Kimchi bibim kuksu from Daron Kwak is spicy, adaptable, and quick to put together. Bibim guksu, which means “mixed noodles” in Korean, doesn’t usually include kimchi, but in this case, you’ll be glad it’s there to provide tang and heat.
recipe: Kimchi bibim goksu
Mayonnaise is the secret ingredient in this grilled chicken recipe. Ali Slagle brushes it on boneless, skinless chicken, which flavors the meat, encourages browning and prevents other seasonings — grated ginger and lemon peel — from burning on the grill.
recipe: Ginger and lemon chicken
This tuna salad, created by Chef Scarlett Lindeman’s Tejal Rao, isn’t the kind you put between two slices of white bread or spread on a Ritz cracker. It’s bright, fresh and juicy, and worthy of the best oil-packed tuna you can find. Chilled cucumbers and creamy avocado complete a meal prepared for evenings when you decide not to cook.
Jasmine Fehr clearly had weekday summer evenings in mind when she developed this warm, herbaceous salad. The dish is prepared in just 15 minutes, leaving you plenty of time to pull up some patio chairs, make a drink, and enjoy dinner al fresco.
recipe: Spicy shrimp and chickpea salad
The beauty of a big bowl of rice vermicelli is that it’s good at any temperature: hot, warm, “leave on the counter for 30 minutes” or cold. In this recipe from Genevieve Coe, the noodles, along with sliced pork, carrots and a generous amount of tender herbs, are tossed in fish sauce, maple syrup, shallots, chili peppers, garlic and lemon juice.
recipe: Rice noodles with seared pork, carrots and herbs
Using the best produce and seafood that summer has to offer means you don’t have to do much when it’s time to cook it. These burnt scallops and tomatoes from Ladyy Heuck are a great example of this, requiring nothing more than shallots, garlic, wine and lemon juice to really shine.
recipe: Seared scallops with jammy cherry tomatoes
Orzo is a hugely underrated pantry player that deserves a place on your dinner menu. Kai Chun uses it as the base for a salad inspired by the flavors of peperade, a Basque dish of braised peppers, onions and tomatoes. Finishing the dish with crumbled feta cheese adds a welcome saltiness.
recipe: Orzo salad with peppers and feta
Inspired by potato salad, this chickpea salad from Ladyy Heuck is lighter and has more protein. Top with spoonfuls of leafy greens, as you would with tuna salad, or spread a thick layer between two slices of lightly toasted sourdough for a picnic-ready sandwich.
This soy milk noodle dish is enjoyed during the summer in Korea, and for good reason: it’s a cold, refreshing, five-ingredient soup that you can prepare in half an hour if you plan ahead. The prep work boils down to soaking the soy beans overnight, which serves as the base for a nut-rich broth. From there, this recipe from Kay Chun became super easy.
recipe: Konguksu (cold soy milk noodle soup)
Alison Roman’s gently poached fish won’t keep you hovering over the stove for long. Any mild, white, meaty variety of fish—cod, haddock, pollock, halibut, and flounder—will taste delicious when cooked in a tomato-marinated fish sauce broth.
recipe: Boiled fish with tomatoes, chili oil and herbs
“One of the best flavor-to-effort ratios of any meal I’ve prepared,” one reader wrote about this highly-rated, highly adaptable fryer from Ali Slagle. While the chicken and asparagus combination is foolproof, you can easily substitute it with diced pork and green beans, or tofu and peas.
recipe: Turmeric and black pepper chicken with asparagus
Put in-season beefsteak tomatoes to work in this nostalgic recipe from Francis Lam. Scrambled eggs are added to the ginger and tomato sauce, creating a delicious and sweet final dish. Serve over steamed rice or with a piece of buttered toast.
recipe: Tomatoes and fried eggs Chinese style