Summer Cooking & Entertaining Inspiration

Melanie's Vegetarian Tortilla Soup. Photo by Thomas Creed.

Melanie's Vegetarian Tortilla Soup. Photo by Thomas Creed.

Melanie's Vegetarian Tortilla Soup w Fixings. Photo by Thomas Creed.

Melanie's Vegetarian Tortilla Soup w Fixings. Photo by Thomas Creed.

I have been looking through my recipes and combing the internet for some new cooking inspiration as we will be hosting several get-togethers at our place over the summer, and I am generally wanting to expand my recipe repertoire these days. There is something about the change in weather that makes me want to mix up what I am cooking and eating. Given that I haven't done a recipe roundup in a while, I thought I would share some ideas with you in this week's post.  

Below is a list of tried-and-true recipes compiled over the years that we will definitely be making at our house this summer. Following that are a variety of recipes that I hope to try out soon. Enjoy!

Tried-and-True Summer Recipes


As you can see below, I am a big fan of summer soups. I like them hot and cold. Generally, I find soups to be a satisfying and easy one-pot meal option for summer. 

Asparagus Vichyssoise by Danielle Custer for Food & Wine (July 2001), served with Chive Oil

"Asparagus what?!" you say. Hear me out. This delicious, creamy, cold soup is deeply satisfying, yet light enough for summer. My oldest daughter asks me to make this soup every time summer comes around. I know asparagus can be an acquired taste, but my family loves it (minus my picky youngest child, but it is hard to make that one happy with food, unless it is mac n' cheese, so I have included my favorite mac n' cheese recipe below). The leeks, potato, and cream should moderate the strong taste of asparagus for those of you (or your kids) that are uncertain about these green stalks of goodness. I like to make a pot of this soup and serve it with a salad, crusty baguette, and some tasty cheese like a round of Camembert for a summer lunch or dinner. Depending on the size of your family, you should be able to make a couple of meals out of this recipe, especially if paired with salad and/or bread and cheese. 

Melanie's Vegetarian Tortilla Soup, a long-ago recipe from my dear friend Melanie's, Figs & Feathers blog, which was modified by her from a long-forgotten New Mexican cookbook

I love this soup (featured in the pics above). It is on regular rotation at our house and the recipe makes plenty for leftovers (always a win in my book!). The recipe is super simple; the "hardest" part is chopping up all of the vegetables. I usually make quick cornbread muffins to go along with the soup, adding diced jalapeños to one batch for the more adventurous. As I am a vegetarian, most of the meals that I cook are vegetarian, and then we add meat for those members of our family who are more omnivorous (my husband and youngest daughter eat meat, while my oldest daughter eats meat only occasionally, and only certain types of meat; yes, in case you are wondering, meal preparation and planning can indeed be a nightmare in my house). For this recipe, we usually buy a rotisserie chicken and add it to the soup bowls of those that want it. My kids love choosing and adding their garnishes and this soup is a great way to get them to eat lots of vegetables.

* A couple of notes - I usually up the pinto beans in this recipe to increase the protein quotient. I also skip the dried chiles. Instead, my husband and I just add diced jalapeños or hot sauce to our bowls as we like things spicy, but alas our kids do not.  

Main Course

Farmers' Market Pasta Salad by Southern Living, June 2013

This is a delicious and filling meal. If you are vegetarian or just want to reduce your meat intake, I suggest substituting the cheese tortellini for the chicken and penne. 

Spinach, Tofu and Sesame Stir-Fry by Martha Rose Shulman for The New York Times (*please note that the New York Times only allows you to access a certain number of articles per month for free if you do not have an account; so, be sure to print or save the recipes when you access them)

This is a delicious, healthy, and super easy summer work night stir-fry. I usually go easy on the ginger and only add red pepper flakes to the adults' plates so that my kids are more likely to eat this dish. You can serve the dish with rice or noodles, but it is also a perfectly filling meal without it. 

Sri Lankan Dal With Coconut and Lime Kale by Tejal Rao for The New York Times

I really enjoyed this recipe. Refreshing and flavorful -- with the lime, yogurt, and coconut milk -- this would be a great summer night meal. As it takes a little longer to cook, I recommend making it on a weekend. Even my kids enjoyed the dish, though we had the Serranos on the side. 

Side Dishes

I *love* these side dishes for summer barbecues or picnics. They are delicious and will go with just about anything. 

Green Beans with Parsley-Lemon Pesto by Maria Helm Sinskey for Food & Wine (November 2013)

I recommend using haricots verts instead of regular green beans with this recipe, but green beans would be fine too. Note, the recipe calls for a lot of green beans (4 pounds) and makes a lot of pesto (serving is for 10-12). Consider cutting the recipe by half (maybe a bit more), unless you are feeding a crowd. The sauce is a fun variation on pesto -- swapping out parsley for basil and adding some extra brightness with lemon juice. Delicious! 

Kale Slaw with Red Cabbage and Carrots by Martha Stewart for Whole Living (January/February 2012)

Though this Martha Stewart recipe is called a slaw, we treat it like a salad in our house. We have taken to adding about a half a cup or so of fresh pomegranate seeds to the salad at the end, if available seasonally. They add a nice pop of texture and tangy sweetness. The combination of the kale and cabbage, along with the sunflower, hemp, and pumpkin seeds, and the tart Dijon mustard and apple-cider vinegar dressing (I recommend upping the vinegar if you like it more tangy, as I do), makes a super crunchy, healthy, AND delicious salad (even my kids love it). This is the perfect side to burgers/veggie burgers, hotdogs/veggie dogs, and a variety of other tasty summer grilling options. 

Macaroni and Three Cheeses by David Walzog for Food & Wine (March 2000), aka Cauleen’s Mac n’ Cheese

A delicious Food & Wine recipe; it is named in our house after the dear friend that made it for us the first time. This is the perfect mac n' cheese as far as I am concerned. I have been making it for years and always get rave reviews and requests for the recipe. As it is time intensive, I suggest making it a couple of days before a summer party and doing the final cooking steps (i.e., steps 5 and 6) the day of the party. (V) For vegetarians, replace the Worcestershire sauce with vegetarian Worcestershire or soy sauce.

Photo by Pexels.

Photo by Pexels.


For some fun summer dessert ideas, I highly recommend you check out the book Pops!: Icy Treats For Everyone by Krystina Castella, currently available on Amazon. These popsicle recipes are so fun to make and savor with your kids. The pictures are beautiful and mouth-watering -- you and your kids will definitely enjoy scanning through the book to find popsicle inspiration. While some of the recipes are more involved, there are plenty of easy recipes too. And there are some cocktail popsicle recipes as well. You're welcome. 

Katharine Hepburn's Brownies a la The New York Times. One of my favorite and super easy treats to make for the kids. A batch of these brownies barely lasts the day in our house. The recipe had me at "rich" "gooey" and "super easy". 

Specialty Cocktails 

Blood Orange-Rosemary Fizz by Athena Calderone for Food & Wine (December 2014)

This is a super citrusy, herby, delicious, and effervescent beverage. I usually make it during the winter holidays, but it would be a great summertime drink as well. If you cannot find blood oranges this time of year, consider substituting with pink grapefruit. 

+Nonalcoholic version for us non-drinkers (simply skip the Aperol and add sparking water instead of Prosecco)

Recipes I Plan to Try Out This Summer


Cold Soba Salad with Dried Shiitake Dressing by Susan Feniger for Food & Wine (July 2012)

This looks like a great cold noodle dish to make on the weekend to have leftovers during the week (add some tofu or a vegetable for a full meal) or to serve as an appetizer for a crowd (serves 20). 

Greek-Style Watermelon Salad by Mark Bittman for The New York Times

The perfect summer salad to enjoy after an afternoon of swimming. Love the salty-sweet combination of the feta, olives, and watermelon. I will be making this soon. 

Peach and Arugula Salad With Burrata by Anna Theoktisto for Real Simple (June 2018)

A delicious blend of spicy and crispy (arugula), sweet and juicy (peaches), creamy (burrata), and salty (prosciutto). To make it vegetarian friendly, I would serve the prosciutto on the side.

Yotam Ottolenghi's Pasta and Zucchini Salad adapted by Ligaya Mishan from "Plenty," Ottolenghi's first cookbook, for The New York Times

From the god of all things vegetable-forward and flavorful, I love Israeli-British chef, Yotam Ottolenghi's, vegetable recipes. I haven't tried this pasta yet, but look forward to having it some summer night in the near future. 


As I mentioned, I am a big fan of soups in the summer (but really, year round); here are a few that I am excited about trying this year:

Green Gazpacho With Grapes, Honeydew, and Cucumber by Anna Theoktisto for Real Simple (June 2018)

Imagine dipping your spoon into this deliciousness some summer afternoon after a long, hot day. 

Summer Minestrone With Fresh Basil by Martha Rose Shulman for The New York Times

This minestrone soup looks incredibly fresh and delicious. Paired with a crusty baguette, this would make a lovely and simple al fresco meal on a summer night. I have tried quite a few of Martha Rose Shulman's recipes (she's the author of the Spinach, Tofu and Sesame Stir-Fry above) and haven't been disappointed yet. Her recipes tend to be healthy, fairly easy, and flavor-forward. 

Main Course

Curry Tofu with Fresh Mango Chutney, Real Simple (June 2018)

This curry tofu looks relatively easy to tackle on a weeknight, healthy, and tasty. I think my kids would eat it? I know I would.

Poblano and Squash Tacos by Adam Dolge for Real Simple (March 2018) 

These tacos look great. Again, another easy weeknight meal option. I really like the sound of the combination of poblanos, pepitas, squash, and crumbled cotija cheese (though I think I would substitute soft goat cheese as I like the flavor more). I'd probably have to cook two batches, one without the poblanos and ancho chile powder for my kids, and another batch with the good stuff for us. 


Summer Berry Buckle by Melissa Clark for The New York Times

Berry desserts always remind me of summer. This buckle looks quite tasty and fairly easy to make; my kind of dessert. 

Quick Mango Kulfi by Tejal Rao for The New York Times

This variation on a traditional Indian dessert looks so delectable and so easy (5 minutes, plus freezing time)! I think my kids will love this. 

Specialty Cocktails

Canchánchara Cocktail by Romulo Yanes for Food & Wine (March 2018)

Honey + fresh lime juice + añejo rum + ice + lime wedge and fresh sugarcane (optional, for garnish) = Yum. 

*For a number of other delicious-looking summer cocktail ideas, check out Food & Wine's list of Modern Summer Cocktails 

Nonalcoholic Tasty Beverages

Don't Call Them 'Mocktails' by Rosie Schaap for The New York Times Magazine (December 30, 2016)

These nonalcoholic beverages look amazing. Can't wait to try them out this summer!


Happy entertaining!


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