To me, summer is the smell of a smoky grill and the feeling of sticky pineapple juice on my fingers. To you, it might be the sound of ice cubes clinking in a glass of sweet lemonade or the wet thwack of dripping feet fresh out of the pool.
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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.
No matter what your summer signifiers may be, the August/September issue of Cook’s Country magazine is here to cater to them. From bright and tangy San Diego Fish Tacos to frosty Palm Springs Date Shakes, this edition contains the sounds, smells, and flavors of an afternoon spent lounging in the shade.
To help direct you to the very best of our sunny spread, our editors and test cooks share their favorite recipes and explain why you should love them too.
Summer Vegetable Pasta
Summer Vegetable PastaA traditional French stew provides inspiration for a vegetable-laden summer pasta.
Lawman Johnson’s Summer Vegetable Pasta is inspired by the Provençal dish ratatouille, which is one of my favorite things to make when eggplant and zucchini start taking over my garden. Here the zucchini and eggplant are cooked until they break down, and then canned crushed tomatoes are stirred in to create a luscious sauce with long-cooked flavor. The sauce is mixed with pasta (mafaldine is the shape of choice because its curly edges catch the sauce), kalamata olives, capers, and fresh basil for a light-but-substantial, full-flavored dish. Piled in a bowl with grated ricotta salata on top, this vegetable-forward pasta is a dish I’ll be making often this summer.
Palm Springs Date Shakes
Palm Springs Date ShakesThe taste of California sunshine in a creamy milkshake.
What do I love about our Palm Springs Date Shakes, developed by Morgan Bolling? Let me count the ways . . . The shakes are simple—just ice cream, milk, dates, and a pinch of salt—but deliver a depth of satisfaction that’s hard to describe. The dates pair with the vanilla (in the ice cream) to provide a caramelly flavor that’s rich and not overly sweet. Plus, I love how these shakes are a regional treat (if you’re ever in Palm Springs, California, check out Shields Date Garden for all kinds of date goodies, including shakes). Oh, and don’t sleep on our grown-up version that includes a good glug of rum—cheers to summer! (P.S. These shakes are also great with plant-based ice cream and milk.)
Brown Sugar Pavlova with Stone Fruit
Brown Sugar Pavlova with Stone FruitThis dessert is as airy as a ballerina’s tutu, but it tastes way better.
I made Jessica Rudolph’s Brown Sugar Pavlova with Stone Fruit when I first met my boyfriend’s family (on the Cook’s Country team, we test each other’s recipes before they’re published to assure they’re failproof—usually I do not test recipes for events with such high stakes). Even before the recipe was 100 percent finalized, it helped win over Tim’s family for me. The pavlova has this amazing textural contrast: It’s light and airy yet a little soft and marshmallow-y. It looks like it’d be hard to make, but it’s very forgiving, and it’s both rustic and elegant at the same time. Especially with good summer peaches and plums, it’s an incredibly satisfying, yet not overly heavy, dessert.
Diner-Style Patty Melts
Diner-Style Patty MeltsThis old-school favorite combines the best of smashed burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches.
The Diner-Style Patty Melts are my dream sandwiches. I mean, what’s not to love about a sandwich that is essentially a cheeseburger ratcheted up several levels? This burger has it all: buttery, crispy, griddled rye bread; layers (plural!) of melty, creamy Swiss and American cheese; and jammy, quick-caramelized onions cooked in the juices of the beef patties. It’s an American diner classic for a reason. But with a failproof recipe for a truly exceptional version you can make at home, you no longer need to seek out the services of a short-order cook.
San Diego Fish Tacos
San Diego Fish TacosThese delightfully complex tacos are a family affair at Karina’s Cantina.
It was right around lunchtime on a busy Wednesday in the Cook’s Country test kitchen. I had a few things in the oven, but my stomach was growling. Luckily, my colleague and Cook’s Country’s Executive Food Editor Bryan Roof came to the rescue. He had just finished cooking through his recipe for San Diego Fish Tacos, inspired by his trip to Karina’s Cantina, and started slinging them left and right. Not only did these tacos cure my hunger, they also immediately transported me to a sunny California day near the beach with a cold beer in hand. These are my perfect summer go-to when I want bold flavors that aren’t too heavy. Pair these tacos with sunshine, friends, and (of course) a round of cold beers.
Pad Gra Prow (Holy Basil Stir-Fry)
Pad Gra Prow (Holy Basil Stir-Fry)Make this ultrapopular, ultraflavorful Thai street food in your home kitchen.
Stir-fries are one of my absolute favorite dishes, both to cook and to eat. I had the pleasure of cooking Matthew Fairman’s pad gra prow recipe for the upcoming season of Cook’s Country TV, and in a word: wow! This recipe doesn’t disappoint—fragrant basil, ground pork, and umami-packed sauces all come together in this delicious dish. If that isn’t enough, it can be topped with a fried egg for good measure. Pad gra prow is great anytime: Its quick-cooking ingredients and fresh flavors make it the ideal meal in warmer months, while the spiciness hits just right in those colder months. This dish checks all my boxes and then some.
Grilled Potato Wedges with Lemon-Dill Mayo
Grilled Potato Wedges with Lemon-Dill MayoIf you’re not already grilling your potatoes, this is the recipe to get you started.
I love learning unexpected ways to prepare familiar things, such as making yogurt in your Instant Pot, jam in your toaster oven, or pizza on the grill. That’s one of the reasons I love Matthew Fairman’s Grilled Potato Wedges with Lemon-Dill Mayo. Giving the spuds a head start in the microwave softens them without introducing any additional moisture (which could promote sticking on the grill), and a stint over high, direct grill heat gives these potatoes a surprising hint of smokiness, delightfully roasted exteriors, and supercreamy insides.
Coconut Snack Cake
Coconut Snack CakeWith three forms of coconut, this everyday cake boasts big flavor that will keep you coming back to snack.
I’m a sucker for any type of snack cake: They represent the perfect balance of welcoming, casual comfort I always hope for my cooking to convey. And if they come together quickly and with minimal dishes, all the better. This Coconut Snack Cake by Amanda Luchtel does all that and more: no mixer necessary, no creaming butter and sugar, no nonsense. The moist, fluffy cake stands on its own but is made all the more decadent with a quick food processor cream cheese frosting. And it tastes so good. Any flavor of snack cake is welcome on my counter, but with its triple dose of tropical coconut flavor, this one takes the . . . well, you know.