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17 CHEFS SHARE THEIR EASIEST SUMMER MEALS

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Here’s a common scenario: it’s a good 95 degrees outside, friends are on their way over, and you’ve got about 20 minutes to throw together something delicious. And when it’ssticky-sweltering like that, absolutely no one is trying to eat a heavy porterhouse or rich-and-creamy lasagna.

With that scenario in mind, we consulted a handful of well-seasoned professional chefsto get the skinny on their favorite super-simple summertime dishes for feeding the hot and hangry.

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Fresh & light Italian

“Summertime for me is all about freshness, a way of keeping my body and mouth fresh without having to indulge in heavy meats or sausage. What I like the most? Caprese salad, almost every day. I was born in Palermo, and Sicilian tomatoes are famous for their sweetness. I use buffalo mozzarella, the best tomatoes, fresh basil, and drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. That scent of fresh basil still brings me back to where I come from. No balsamic of course, as its base is red wine which isn’t very refreshing, especially in hot weather.” — Daniele Puleo, chef/owner at CiboDivino Marketplace (Dallas, TX)

Taco time

“For me, summer is all about the grill. My favorites simple dishes are grilled corn with jalapeño crema, crumbled feta, and cilantro, and grilled skirt steak tacos with guacamole and salsa roja.” — Yvan Lemoine, executive chef at Union Fare (New York, NY)

Peachy pork shoulder & juicy sides

“All summer long I eat watermelon with avocado, lots of lime juice, and big, flaky sea salt, and sometimes I’ll top it with some sliced jalapeño. I also love tomato, cucumber, and red onion sandwiches with lots of Duke’s mayonnaise and salt and pepper. Every summer, we go to the beach with my entire family and I cook the whole time for them. I like to put a pork shoulder in the Dutch oven at a low temp and leave it cooking all day while we’re at the beach. When we come home, I serve it with my Tangy Peach Glaze sauce (available for online purchase), watermelon salsa, and tortillas. It’s really simple to make and everyone raves about it year after year.” — Vivian Howard, chef/owner at Chef & the Farmer and the Boiler Room Oyster Bar (Kinston, NC)

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Guac & margs forever

“Two of my favorites during the summer are guacamole and margaritas! For guacamole all you need is a ripe avocado, white onion, jalapeño, lime juice, cilantro, and preferably cotija cheese and radish to capitalize on traditional guacamole. The sharpness of cheese adds another layer and also reinforces the creaminess of that avocado. You mash the avocado in a molcajete or mortar and pestle, add in the jalapeño, lime juice, white onion, and top with the radish, cotija, and cilantro. For the margaritas, we use all fresh lime juice and agave nectar to curtail the bitterness or sourness that people generally associate with traditional margaritas. Add your favorite tequila, line the glass with your favorite salt or salt mix, and you’re ready to rock and roll!” — Aarón Sánchez, celebrity chef & chef/partner at Johnny Sánchez (New Orleans, LA)

The perfect picnic

“Awesome salami, prosciutto, speck, an artisan cheese plate with fresh figs, a great baguette, and a great bottle of Barolo. It’s what my wife and I call our ‘picnic dinner.'” — Rob Weland, chef/owner of Garrison (Washington, DC)

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Sweet & savory sides

“I love to toss local Maryland strawberries with olive oil, feta, fresh mint, and a splash of vinegar for a savory-and-sweet BBQ dish.” — Dimitri Moshovitis, chef/founder at Cava Mezze & Cava Grill (Washington, DC)

Dessert first

“When I think about summer, it’s always about having something easy. Right now we have awesome strawberries — we only ever use strawberries in season, never in the winter — so maybe we’ll make strawberries with a waffle and some ice cream, and that’s it. It’s all perfect and it’s all good.” — Frank Bertram, executive chef at Restaurant Slowman at the Reichshof Hotel Hamburg (Hamburg, Germany)

Super-simple strawberries

“Summer for me is all about berries. When in season they’re absolutely perfect on their own, but you can always make something really simple to elevate it. I make a super-simple mascarpone cream, add a little balsamic vinegar, and chocolate mint. My tip is to visit your local farmers market and get some fresh-picked.” — Thiago Silva, pastry chef atUnion Fare (New York, NY)

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Summer’s favorite fruit

“Tomato salad is a staple in my refrigerator all summer long. It’s refreshing, healthy, there is no cooking necessary, and it holds well for the entire week. I use tomatoes, onions, lots of herbs, good olive oil, and lemon, but you can spice it up with olives, artichokes, hearts of palm, corn, avocado, or anything else that you’re feeling in the moment.” — Rodrigo Nogueira, executive chef at Burke & Wills Australian Bistro (New York, NY)

Dukkah deliciousness

“Lately I’ve been making my own dukkah blend — chile flakes, smoked paprika, sesame seeds, cumin, coriander, and pistachio — which is awesome sprinkled on top of heirloom cucumbers, melons, and tomatoes from the farmers market along with fresh herbs, salty feta, and a squeeze of Meyer lemon. It’s super simple to make and great alone or as a side dish.” — Bruce Kalman, head chef/partner at Union and Knead & Co. Pasta Bar + Market (Pasadena & Los Angeles, CA)

 

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Crowd-pleasing couscous

“I do a great Israeli couscous salad with grilled vegetables. I keep a bag of Israeli couscous in the kitchen and then pick up any vegetables that are in season, grill them, and toss with a balsamic vinaigrette. It’s a crowd-pleaser.” — Stu Zirin, chef/owner at Dive Bar (Chicago, IL)

No oven, no problem

“As a baker, one of my favorite things to do on a hot summer day is to NOT turn on any ovens! Instead, I would rather be enjoying the outside and all that comes with it. My favorite summer meal usually includes my version of a fresh-grilled pizza. I start by making some fresh pizza dough (although you can usually find some at the deli counter at your local grocery store). I’ll pick some fresh herbs like oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary and blend them in a food processor with some olive oil and fresh garlic. I’ll get the pizza dough going on the grill, and cover it with the herb mix and some super-ripe tomatoes from the farmers market, and there you have it. All you need now is a deck to enjoy it on and a glass of rosé in your hand. Summer perfection.” — Meredith Tomason, pastry chef/owner at RareSweets (Washington, DC)

 

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Hot off the grill

“Something we always do while sitting by the pool is get some pineapple, watermelon, cucumber, and carrots and season them with lime juice, salt, and Tajin, a chili powder from Mexico now found in most grocery stores. We keep it cold and it’s the perfect snack for a hot day. For a meal, we do grilled asparagus, some kind of potato (sweet potato or yukon golds), and then grill some chicken breasts, do a simple balsamic and olive oil vinaigrette, and serve everything right off the grill.” — Abraham Salum, chef/owner atSalum Restaurant (Dallas, TX)

Seaside swordfish sam’mich

“I grew up on the East Coast on the water, and when we get fresh swordfish in the summer, I love to make a club sandwich out of it. We make applewood-smoked bacon, heirloom tomatoes, I use a little Green Goddess dressing, some nice lettuce, and rye toast. I just quickly saute the fish — I do mostly everything in cast-iron pans like an old French guy. And it has to be medium-rare, of course.” — John Tesar, celebrity chef & executive chef/partner at Knife at The Highland Dallas Hotel (Dallas, TX)

Oyster sundaes

“On hot days, I gravitate towards items from the raw bar for speed, simplicity, and something light, yet satisfying. Among my favorite snacks are Kumamoto oysters with watermelon sorbet. Sourced from Japan, Kumamoto deliver a slightly sweet flavor profile with a hint of honeydew that pairs perfectly with a tablespoon of light, refreshing sorbet.”— Koji Kagawa, corporate sushi chef at SUSHISAMBA NYC (New York, NY)

 

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Easy: elote

“My favorite simple summer meal? Easy: grilled corn. I make elote — grill some corn, put some tortillas on there, maybe a little mayonnaise, and some cheese. Done.” — Jacob Verstegen, chef de cuisine at LondonHouse Chicago’s LH rooftop tri-level bar (Chicago, IL)

Produce at its peak

“During summer, my favorite easy dish is a grilled corn, grilled white peach, and Sungold tomato salad topped with ricotta salata. On vacation and at home, this salad is on constant rotation, as it takes advantage of both grilling outside and capturing the season’s best produce at its peak.” — Thomas Lim, executive chef at Ruby’s (New York, NY)

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