18 best recipes to make this summer.

We’re in prime summer produce season here in the Midwest, when tomatoes are still going strong, sweet corn has a few weeks left, squashes are abundant. I love this time of year, as summer yields to fall and it seems we have the best of both. In that spirit, I give you 18 best summer recipes that you absolutely must make while all this great food is available. Don’t wait: The offerings at your farmers’ market will change before you know it!

baked corn and ricotta dip for tortilla chips | writes4food.com

Creamy baked sweet corn dip.

Into my email inbox last week landed a headline touting grilled sweet corn dip. We’ve been feasting on sweet summer corn in all sorts of ways this summer, so this Saveur recipe totally captured my attention. I hopped down to our neighborhood truck market to pick up several ears of sweet corn to go with the ricotta and Parmesan cheeses I had already on hand.

I tinkered with this recipe quite a bit, primarily by not grilling the corn as instructed. I find grilled corn to be unpleasantly chewy, and I wanted just the pure sweetness of summer corn to come through. I reduced the recipe by two thirds, though you could certainly double or triple the recipe below for a big backyard party.

Corn chips make a sort of meta accompaniment to this corn dip.

creamy baked sweet corn dip

serves 4

2 ears of corn, shucked
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cups ricotta
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Pimenton (smoked paprika) or sweet paprika
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Snipped chives (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 325°. Spray a small baking dish with cooking spray. Into a large bowl, grate one ear of corn on a box grater, being sure to extract all the juice. Cut the kernels off the remaining ear of corn into the bowl. Add the cream, ricotta, flour, thyme and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine well. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish. Top with grated Parmesan, dot with butter and sprinkle liberally with pimenton or paprika. Place the dish on a foil-lined baking dish and bake until the mixture is bubbly and the Parmesan is browned, about 1 hour. Serve with corn tortilla chips.

 

no-cream creamed corn recipe | writes4food.com

Two-ingredient ‘creamed’ corn.

Do you ever hit on a simple dish and fall so in love with it that you eat it at least once a week?

This summer, this no-cream creamed corn has been in constant rotation on our dinner menu.

My brother first turned me onto this simple cooking technique a couple of summers ago, and then I spotted something similar in The New York Times Cooking app. It’s one of those no-recipe recipes: You can tinker with it and make it your own.

The key is grating fresh corn on the large holes of a box grater. Really go at it: Be sure to get all the kernels plus the soft, starchy goodness nearest the cob and all the milky juices, to boot. That, plus butter (and, OK, two more ingredients: salt and pepper) and you’re good to go.

This creamed corn works perfectly as a “go-under” side dish: as in, it goes under everything, from grilled scallops to sliced grilled pork tenderloin. Last weekend, we used creamed corn as the “grits” in a shrimp-and-grits dinner.

It’s the summertime equivalent of mashed potatoes: starchy, filling, flavorful, with just the right amount of butter to make it satisfying. Give it a whirl!

2-ingredient creamed corn

serves 4

4 large ears fresh summer corn, husks and silks removed
4 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped fresh herbs (optional): thyme, parsley, chives, tarragon

Grate the corn on the large holes of a box grater into a shallow bowl; be sure to grate all the way down to the cob to extract the soft, starchy interior of the kernels and the milky juice. In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat; reduce heat to medium-low and add the corn. Add a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring often to prevent scorching, until the corn is warmed through, 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining butter and herbs, if using. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

recipe for white gazpacho with grapes and cucumber | writes4food.com

Cool white gazpacho.

Come summertime, I feast on tomatoes, and gazpacho is one of my favorite ways to use them. Over the years, I’ve shared a couple of recipes for gazpacho, including this super-easy food processor gazpacho and a smooth and creamy gazpacho that’s just as tasty.

Several years ago, I came across a recipe for white gazpacho in an issue of Food & Wine. I dogeared the page and recently made the recipe again. Come to find out, this version with cucumbers, apples and grapes is just as traditional in Spain as the tomato-based gazpacho. Who knew?

I made several adjustments to the original recipe, adding Greek yogurt for example. This soup is bright and flavorful, much more interesting than a basic cold cucumber soup. Give it a try!

Cool white Gazpacho

serves 4

1 cup of bread cubes, cut from stale white bread or a baguette with the crusts removed
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1 cup blanched sliced almonds, toasted
1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped cucumber
1 green apple, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup seedless green grapes
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup good olive oil (plus more for serving)
1–2 tablespoon sherry or champagne vinegar
Salt and pepper (white pepper, if you have it)
Garnishes (see below)

In a small bowl, place the bread cubes; pour the vegetable broth over and let sit while you peel/chop/prep the rest of the ingredients. In another small bowl, whisk together the milk and Greek yogurt until perfectly smooth.

Transfer bread cubes and any remaining broth, the almonds, chopped cucumber, apple, grapes, garlic and olive oil to a blender. Puree until very smooth. Place a strainer over a large bowl and pour the soup through, pressing firmly on the solids to extract as much liquid and flavor as possible. (I found that I had about 1 cup of solids left in the strainer, so I ran that back through the blender and again through the strainer to get as much liquid as I could.) Whisk in the yogurt mixture and 1 tablespoon of vinegar; add 1/4 tsp. of table salt and a pinch of pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding a splash more vinegar if you want more tartness.

Garnishes

  • snipped fresh chives
  • thyme leaves and flowers
  • nasturtium flowers
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • teeny, tiny dice of cucumber
  • a sprinkling of toasted sliced almonds
  • very fine, toasted breadcrumbs
CherryTomatoes

Join me for a cooking class next week.

It’s tomato season, people! Looking for fun ways to use this summer’s best produce, plus tips to stash tomatoes for those dreary days of winter?

Join me on Thursday, August 6 at The Cooking School at Jungle Jim’s for a demonstration class on all things tomato, from appetizer to main course to, yes, dessert! On the menu:

  • Crostini with whipped goat cheese and oven-dried tomato pesto
  • Crisp green salad with sunny day tomato dressing
  • Pasta with no-cook tomato sauce
  • Summer corn and tomato pie — one of my very favorite recipes ever!
  • Heirloom tomato sorbetto from The Findlay Market Cookbook

Class begins at 6:00, and there are just a couple of spots left. (Psst! There’s wine!) You can learn more and register here. And check the sidebar at right for more upcoming classes and events!

orzo pasta salad with summer vegetables and fresh herbs | writes4food.com

Summery herbed orzo salad.

This is what I’m craving now: Summer vegetables and bright herbs, a bite of salty cheese and a satisfying pasta base. I’ve made this recipe for herbed pasta salad (from my book,  “The Findlay Market Cookbook“) several times lately, first as a cooking demo down at Findlay Market, and then for dinner last week. This week, I’m making it again for a family picnic. Local cheesemaker Eduardo Rodriguez of My Artisano Foods shared the recipe for the book.

Cooking the orzo in vegetable stock gives it more flavor than your typical pasta-salad pasta. The chickpeas are key: they add texture and heft. Use whatever veggies and herbs you find at your farmers’ market: I think corn, tomato and sweet onion would be awesome. Either Feta or fresh goat cheese would be swell, but you could also do diced smoked gouda or mozzarella for a different taste.

Here are two keys to amazing pasta salad, courtesy of a post I recently spotted on Epicurious: First, rub the halves of a garlic clove all over your serving bowl to give just a hint of flavor without the breath-destroying fire of fresh garlic. Second, dress the salad while the pasta is a bit warm so it absorbs all that yumminess.

You’ll be eating this all summer long, I promise!

herbed orzo salad with summer vegetables recipe

(serves 6)

For the dressing:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup good olive oil

Combine all but the olive oil in a blender and whirl to combine. Add the olive oil in a thin stream and blend to emulsify.

For the pasta salad:
1 large clove garlic, smashed
4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups orzo
1 can chickpeas, drained
2 pints mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup finely minced red onion, or to taste
1 cucumber, finely chopped
1 cup minced fresh herbs (parsley, chives, thyme, basil, oregano, savory)
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
4 ounces Feta or goat cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

First, rub the smashed garlic clove all over your serving bowl. In a saucepan, bring the vegetable stock to a boil; add the orzo, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 7–8 minutes or until the orzo is done. Drain the orzo and transfer it to the serving bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and dressing to taste. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.

Best recipes for summer fruit.

This summer, my food cravings — and my culinary makings — are all about fresh fruit. I picked 10 pounds of strawberries in June and went through 12 pounds of peaches in early July. Now I’m anticipating blueberries and raspberries, followed by fall’s gorgeous honeycrisp apples. So here’s a roundup of my favorite fruit-based summer recipes so far. Enjoy!

fresh peaches with yogurt and homemade pecan granola | writes4food.com

Fresh peach parfait with toasted pecan granola.

This, this is the perfect breakfast for these steamy mornings (even coffee seems too hot to bother with). Cool, refreshing, fruity, and full of nutrition. Easy, too: Just pile sliced fresh peaches, vanilla yogurt (I love the Snowville Creamery brand) … and the topper: Homemade toasted pecan granola. Because who doesn’t love peaches and pecans together?

I’ll be making this all summer long, rotating in fresh fruit as it comes into season. Now that I’m down to my last 3 peaches, I’ll soon move on to blueberries and raspberries. The yogurt and granola, of course, will remain the constants.

toasted-pecan granola recipe

3 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup very coarsely chopped toasted pecans
1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg white whisked with 1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 325°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, mix together oats, sunflower seeds, nuts, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg white and water; add agave, honey, maple syrup and vanilla, and whisk until mixture is blended and slightly frothy. Pour agave mixture over oat mixture and, using a large rubber spatula, fold ingredients together until the dry ingredients are well-coated. Spread granola on baking sheet; if you want some clumps, press down on the mixture with a spatula. Bake for 15 minutes. Using a spatula, turn the granola gently, moving the mixture from the outer edges of the pan toward the middle and vice versa. Bake 8 to 10 minutes more until lightly browned. Reduce oven temperature to 250; return pan to oven and bake another 15 to 20 minutes until the granola is toasty brown and mostly dried. Remove pan from oven and let cool. Store in a plastic bag or container.

peach streusel bar cookies recipe | writes4food.com

Peach crumb-top bars.

These crumb-topped fruit bar cookies are the perfect use for summer peaches. Super easy, too: Just mix up the crumb ingredients in a big bowl with your hands, toss some sliced peaches with cornstarch, layer in a pan, bake. Done!

I’ve combined a couple of iterations for this buttery, crumbly bar cookie recipe, starting with Smitten Kitchen’s blueberry crumb bars and making a few alterations. I took a batch to my Grandma’s house yesterday, and she, my brother and I agreed these are delicious!

peach crumb-top bar cookies recipe

(makes about 24 bars)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 large egg, lightly beaten
5 peaches, sliced thin
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, use your hands to mix together the flour, sugars, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Add the butter and use your fingers to work it into the dry ingredients, creating a clumpy mixture. Add the egg and use your hands to toss the mixture to combine. It will be crumbly. Transfer about 3/4 of the crumb mixture to the prepared pan and press firmly into place. In a medium bowl, toss the peach slices with the cornstarch; arrange them over the crumb base in a single layer. Use your fingers to squeeze the remaining crumb mixture into clumps and scatter them over the peaches. Bake for 35–40 minutes, until top is slightly brown and you can see a little color around the edges. Cool completely in pan before cutting into squares. Store, covered, in the refrigerator or wrap well and freeze up to 6 months.

super delicious grilled pepper and egg sandwiches | writes4food.com

Grilled pepper and egg sandwich.

I think I might eat this sandwich every week through summer.

Rob and I gush over this simple sandwich recipe — a grilled, egg-filled red bell pepper with lots of cheese — every time we make it. Which is frequently. It’s just so ridiculously good.

I’m told this is a traditional Italian workingman’s lunch, one of those peasant dishes that are supremely tasty because of their simplicity.

Go. Get a red pepper, some farm-fresh eggs, sliced cheddar or American cheese, hearty English muffins. Fire up the grill. Grab a stack of napkins. The very best grilled sandwich, ever.

grilled pepper and egg sandwich

(serves 2)

1 large red bell pepper
2 fresh eggs
2 (or, OK, 4) slices cheddar or American cheese
2 English muffins, split
Salt and pepper

Preheat grill to medium, or preheat broiler. Halve the pepper lengthwise and remove seeds and ribs. Carefully remove the stem from each half, cutting as close to the stem as possible (you want a "cup" that will contain the egg). Season each pepper half well with kosher salt. Crack one egg into each pepper "cup" and season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. Carefully transfer the peppers to the grill and cook, covered, for about 12 minutes or until the peppers are lightly softened and charred and the eggs are set. (If using the broiler, check for doneness after about 8 minutes.) Top the peppers with cheese and grill or broil briefly to melt. Remove the peppers to a platter and let sit for 10 minutes. Toast the English muffins on the grill or broiler; butter each half. Place one pepper-egg on a muffin half, top with the other half.