These recipes aren’t difficult, but they are dressed to impress. 

By Darcy Lenz
June 23, 2019
Jen Causey; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling Kay Clarke

One of the best things about summer is all the peak-season tomatoes, melons, peaches, berries, and corn that's so vibrant and flavorful. You barely need to do anything to them. They’re utterly delicious on their own, as-is. But if you approach your market haul with this mentality, you’re going to get maybe three light meals out of it. 

Sometimes, mic-dropping a platter of perfectly ripe sliced tomatoes on the table, dressed with nothing more than a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil, can serve as a little taste of heaven on Earth. Other times, however, maximizing the potential of your summer fruits and veggies means using them as a jumping-off point.

WATCH: How to Make a Ratatouille Tart

It’s simply a matter of dressing for the occasion. A white T-shirt paired with your favorite blue jeans may be a perfect outfit in its simplicity, but that doesn’t mean you don’t dress the look up with a few accessories and a jacket before you go out to dinner. In the same way, a handful of supporting players from your pantry can help you leverage various already-good-on-their-own pieces of summer produce to build some seriously dreamy dishes.

From make-ahead salads that can fuel your workweek to main dishes and desserts that are guaranteed to dazzle dinner guests, here are ten recipes that demonstrate why gussying up what’s already simply delicious can be entirely worth your while. 

Jen Causey; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling Kay Clarke

Tuna-and-Watermelon Poke Bowls

You’ve heard that salt really makes watermelon sing, so just imagine what a salty-savory sesame dressing will do for it. (I can tell you from personal experience, it’s something that borders on transcendent.) Piled alongside marinated sushi-grade tuna and accentuated with all of your favorite poke accouterments, watermelon stands out as a brilliant lead in this refreshing—not to mention, visually stunning—main dish. 

Get the recipe: Tuna-and-Watermelon Poke Bowls

Jen Causey; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling Kay Clarke

Bacon-Wrapped Corn-on-the-Cob

Plain grilled corn is very tasty. Grilled corn that’s seasoned with a smoky-sweet spice mixture, wrapped in bacon, and finished with a fresh pop of cilantro and lime is the stuff of cookout legends. The decision is yours. 

Get the recipe: Bacon-Wrapped Corn-on-the-Cob

Jen Causey; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling Kay Clarke

Tomato Tart With Smoked Mozzarella and Dijon

You know how mouthwateringly wonderful a ripe summer tomato is, right? OK, so this rustic take on a traditional tomato pie is how you harness that power into something that will absolutely knock your socks off. Matched with luscious smoked mozzarella and encased in a buttery-crisp, cornmeal-flecked crust, tomatoes prove that their capacity to be incredible may be well beyond what our mere human minds can comprehend. And that’s fine. They’re here for us all the same. 

Get the Recipe: Tomato Tart With Smoked Mozzarella and Dijon

Jen Causey; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling Kay Clarke

Peach-Fennel Salad With Pecorino

The juicy succulence of ripe summer peaches is not to be underestimated. Sure, it’s the factor that makes even the easiest peach cobbler taste like a divinely comforting work of art, but it can also bring the wow factor to an elegant composed salad. Peaches’ tender sweetness coupled with lively crunch from sliced fennel and celery, all accentuated by the salty bite of shaved Pecorino-Romano cheese, yields the type of revelatory side dish that may just open you up to a whole new world of peachy possibilities. 

Get the recipe: Peach-Fennel Salad With Pecorino

Jen Causey; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling Kay Clarke

Blueberry Pound Cake Muffins

If you’ve ever eaten a blueberry muffin, you’re aware that this is a supremely delightful means of enjoying plump, juicy blueberries. Now, what could be better than a blueberry muffin, you ask? A blueberry muffin that has collided with a buttery-dense old-fashioned pound cake. Take my word, these are irresistible. 

Get the recipe: Blueberry Pound Cake Muffins

Jen Causey; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling Kay Clarke

Charred Okra and Tomato Masala

Okra and tomatoes are an undeniably fine match, but so often, you see the two brought together in tasty meal-tramony and stewed down into complete mush—tasty mush, but mush all the same. Warmly spiced with traditional Indian aromatics, this vibrant vegetarian entree allows this power couple to retain a little more of their lively, fresh character. Here’s a glamorous way to showcase your farm-fresh produce that happens to come together in a snap. 

Get the recipe: Charred Okra and Tomato Masala

Jen Causey; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling Kay Clarke

Farro Salad With Cherries, Corn, and Basil

This versatile grain salad, loaded up with fresh cherries, corn, and herbs, is the hearty yet bright dish to make if: A) You’re looking to prep a highly-packable dish you can eat off of all week or B) You’re aiming to bring the most popular dish at the potluck. Either way, this is an excellent make-ahead option to put your market haul to work. 

Get the recipe: Farro Salad With Cherries, Corn, and Basil

Jen Causey; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling Kay Clarke

Grilled Lamb Chops With Plums and Hazelnut Gremolata

This is the type of recipe that even I might look at and say, “Oh, that’s a touch too fancy for me to make at home”—IF I didn’t know better. And in this case, I do. What we have here is an easy way to prepare lamb for a group, so don’t worry if you’re not the most experienced lamb-cooker on the planet. Grilling plums brings their natural sweetness to the forefront and that bright sweetness is the perfect balance to lamb’s richness. Gremolata is nothing more than a no-fuss chopped topping of nuts and fresh herbs that delivers a touch of freshness and crunch. If hazelnuts aren’t your fave, feel free to swap them for a different nut, like almonds or walnuts. 

Get the recipe: Grilled Lamb Chops With Plums and Hazelnut Gremolata

Jen Causey; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling Kay Clarke

Raspberry-Lime Tart With Pistachio Crust

Raspberries possess so much personality on their own, it’s almost a crime not to allow them to shine in their purest state. And for special occasions, there’s no reason not to showcase that personality on a pedestal of sorts (it’s not bragging, just acknowledging facts). I think most would agree that an immaculately sweet-tart lime custard tart, boasting a buttery pistachio-studded shortbread crust, is the type of platform zingy fresh raspberries warrant.   

 Get the recipe: Raspberry-Lime Tart With Pistachio Crust

Jen Causey; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling Kay Clarke

Instant Pot Pork Sliders With Watermelon Barbecue Sauce

A summer fruit-infused barbecue sauce is a wonderful thing. Barbecue that has all-day-cooking flavor but comes together in few (hands-off-cooking) hours is a wonderful thing. A watermelon dish that allows you to use not just the flesh, but some of the rind too, is a wonderful thing. Moral of the story: this watermelon barbecue-sauced pork is a most wonderful thing. 

 Get the recipe: Instant Pot Pork Sliders With Watermelon Barbecue Sauce

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