Favorite Quick Summer Dishes

Summer always seems to imply a certain amount of leisureliness. Multicourse dinners that linger as twilight shimmers its way into dusk. Weekend picnics that morph from lunch right into supper.

But it doesn’t always turn out that way.

Sometimes work keeps you until well after the sun sets. Sometimes kiddos babble or fuss until you can barely pull together your thoughts, much less a full-blown meal. It just so happens that both of those scenarios came into play the other day, which prompted me to pull together a list of my lickety-split, go-to dishes.

Here are eight of our favorites that come together in 20 minutes or less.

Grilled Fish in Parchment with Cherry Tomatoes and Corn
Flaky white fish are tough to grill, but that doesn’t mean they need to be left out of the summer repertoire. Here’s how …

Open-Faced Tomato Avocado Sandwich
This sandwich embodies all sorts of nutritional virtues: whole grains, healthy fats and fresh vegetables. But really it does even more than that . . . it exemplifies how enjoyable even the simplest fresh food can be.

Obscenely Good Eggplant-Ricotta Tartine
This sandwich should come with a rating–and not because it’s topless (tartine is the French word for open-faced sandwich), but because it’s that good.

Honey-Roasted Fig Tartine with Prosciutto
Drizzling figs with honey and popping them under the broiler gives them an impromptu jammy quality; especially good paired with gooey cheese and crisp prosciutto.

Alberto’s Grilled Marinated Asparagus

Use this asparagus–easy and addictive–as part of an antipasto dish, tossed with pasta, or simply for snacking on out of hand.

Mississippi Caviar with Black-Eyed Peas & Cider Vinaigrette
This zesty, summery dish comes together in a flash when you use steamed, ready-to-eat black-eyed peas and precooked brown rice. A perfect summer salad or side.

Big City Souvlaki
When I lived on Corfu, souvlaki meant skewered cubes of grilled, marinated pork. But on a trip through Athens seeking out the best street food and mezedhes, we found this lamb version to be utterly addictive; moist and tender with just the right amount of spice.

Asian Pesto
I first developed this recipe out of desperation with an abundance of end-of-the-season Asian basil (it freezes wonderfully). Now it’s one of our summer staples … especially now that Noemi loves being in on the action.

What’s your go-to summertime supper that helps you unwind at the end of a hot, crazy day? Let us know!

Three Tips for Greener Summer Entertaining

Now that we’re in the dog days of summer, I thought it a good time for a post on how to make your summer get-togethers a touch more green. For help, I turned to our new Green Entertaining Expert, Nicole Aloni, author of the website and upcoming book A Conscious Feast and passionate advocate of environmentally-wise entertaining.


Greener Grilling

“Natural gas or propane is the most environmentally-friendly choice,” says Nicole. Yet she acknowledges the smoky appeal of charcoal. If you must go gasless, a good solution is to use lump charcoal, which is made from hardwood (you can find bags in most hardware and grilling stores nowadays). “Regular briquettes use fillers that let off toxic fumes into the environment . . . and your food.” Skip the lighter fluid, which Nicole says is also “a big no-no” for the same reasons as briquettes, and use a chimney starter instead; you’ll be surprised how effective it is despite its simplistic design.

Greener Picnicking

While disposable paper plates are the embodiment of ease, they’re not the most friendly on the environment. But don’t feel like you need to spring for a set of eco-groovy bamboo or palm leaf dishes (although boy they are nice) every time you picnic, instead just tote along the dishes you normally use. We stack cloth napkins in between our plates to keep them from knocking together and wrap them (after scraping off the food) in the tablecloth when we’re done. If your dishes are especially messy (or your tablecloth especially nice), Nicole suggests wrapping them tight with plastic wrap and tying them up in a garbage bag. “That way they don’t rattle around and slosh goo all over the car.” Either way, just unwrap and run through the dishwasher when you get home.

Greener Bug Control

We’ve all had cookouts tainted by the scent of bug spray. Instead, swap the can for a spade and plant a hedge of alliums coffee-burningor marigolds, suggests Nicole. They’re beautiful for guests to behold but unappealing to many pests. If it’s yellowjackets you’re plagued by, fill small bowls with dry ground coffee and light them on fire so they smolder, then set them around the yard. I picked up this gem of a tip while at Rancho La Puerta and was astounded by how well it worked.

So light up your gas grill (or fire up your chimney starter), pack up your porcelain plates and light some coffee . . . then cook up these savory chicken legs for a green summery feast.