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Our Guide to a Delicious Summer

  • Photos by Marcus Nilsson
  • Text by Jennifer Aaronson

It’s finally summer, and you want to be outside, on the lawn or the deck. You'd like to have friends over and relax, grill, eat, and refill cocktails as needed. Our tricks, tips, and time-savers address all these desires. Let them become your go-tos for making life easier and meals tastier all summer long.

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Grill Know-How

  • Dinner on the Grill
    Dinner on the Grill

    Don't save the grill for steaks and other mains -- use it to cook everything from sides to dessert. Lucinda Scala Quinn explains how.

  • Skewering Magic
    Skewering Magic

    Rather than using a grill basket for smaller foods like shrimp and mushrooms, we prefer skewering en masse to keep food close to the fire while also making it easier to flip. Thread well-soaked skewers through an entire package’s worth of hot dogs, a coil of sausage, or any skinny items.

  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
    Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs

    When we’re grilling chicken, we almost always go with inexpensive, quick-cooking thighs. Since they’re skinless, they don’t cause flare-ups, and the dark meat stays tender and juicy -- even if (horrors!) it’s overcooked.

  • Grilled Garlic Bread
    Grilled Garlic Bread

    It’s impossible to cut back on carbs when this is around, especially at alfresco meals. Split a loaf (ciabatta is best); sprinkle it with olive oil, salt, and pepper; then grill it, cut-­side down. When it’s still hot, rub with halved garlic cloves and, if you wish, sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Watch how fast it goes!

  • Dinner on the Grill
    Dinner on the Grill

    Don't save the grill for steaks and other mains -- use it to cook everything from sides to dessert. Lucinda Scala Quinn explains how.

  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
    Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs

    When we’re grilling chicken, we almost always go with inexpensive, quick-cooking thighs. Since they’re skinless, they don’t cause flare-ups, and the dark meat stays tender and juicy -- even if (horrors!) it’s overcooked.

  • Skewering Magic
    Skewering Magic

    Rather than using a grill basket for smaller foods like shrimp and mushrooms, we prefer skewering en masse to keep food close to the fire while also making it easier to flip. Thread well-soaked skewers through an entire package’s worth of hot dogs, a coil of sausage, or any skinny items.

  • Grilled Garlic Bread
    Grilled Garlic Bread

    It’s impossible to cut back on carbs when this is around, especially at alfresco meals. Split a loaf (ciabatta is best); sprinkle it with olive oil, salt, and pepper; then grill it, cut-­side down. When it’s still hot, rub with halved garlic cloves and, if you wish, sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Watch how fast it goes!

One-Skillet Fish Dinner

Grill Know-How

One-Skillet Fish Dinner

This might just become your dinner-party go-to all summer long: Place meaty white-fleshed fish (such as cod or monkfish) atop cherry tomatoes, onion, artichoke hearts, pitted olives (try Kalamata), caper berries, and lemon slices in a pan. Pour in some white wine and olive oil. Put the pan on the grill, cover the grill, and cook just until the juices bubble and the fish is cooked through. Serve it from the pan -- with lots of crusty bread to sop up the sauce.

Arsenal

Top Grill Tools

  • 2
    Grill Gloves

    Suede gloves that come up your forearms offer protection from heat and flare-ups -- and act as pot holders.

    Grill Gloves
  • 3
    Long Spatula

    A large grill spatula, with its sturdy handle, is able to flip two burgers in a single bound.

    Long Spatula
  • 4
    Better Tongs

    Grill tongs tend to be too clunky. Instead, opt for more dexterous 16-inch locking kitchen tongs.

    Better Tongs

Best Patties

Burger Upgrade

Here's the beef -- and the turkey too -- our new favorite burgers are moist and very flavorful.

Left: Classic Combo -- a chuck and sirloin burger, paired with cheddar cheese, pickles, and our special sauce (mix equal parts ketchup and mayo). Serve on a potato roll.

Center: Steak-House-Worthy -- a sirloin-and-short-rib burger, paired with our Dijon-grainy mustard mix (combine for a sharpness and texture), blue cheese, grilled onions, and lettuce. Serve on a hearty sesame-seed bun.

Right: Turkey-Club Burger -- grinding turkey thighs with bacon amps up the flavor and adds delicious pork fat. Pair with lettuce, Swiss cheese, salted tomato, avocado, and mayo. Serve on an English muffin.

Best Patties

Grind Your Own

Try custom-blending cuts of steak, poultry, and bacon for the freshest ground meat. We've arrived at a few perfect combos that have the best proportions of flavor and fat. At home, the KitchenAid mixer's food-grinder attachment ($60, macys.com) makes short work of cubed meat. Otherwise, ask your butcher (yes, even the one at the supermarket) to grind together your choice of meats.

Drinks

Arnold Palmer Updates

It's been more than 40 years since Hall of Fame golfer Arnold Palmer popularized the lemonade-iced-tea combo. So we figure it's time to give it an update using innovative pairings of nuanced floral-tea flavors with bright citrus -- jasmine with orange juice, chamomile with limeade, and rooibos with grapefruit. All have just the right amount of sweetness -- and look beautiful on outdoor tables.

More Drinks

Fruity Summer Cocktails

  • Summer Mary
    Summer Mary

    We gave the Bloody Mary a sleek makeover for summer, freshening up the familiar flavors in a lighter cocktail that's perfect for warm weather.

  • Watermelon Slushie
    Watermelon Slushie

    Think of this as the all-American version of Venice's frosty-fruity sgroppino cocktail. Instead of the lemons used in the Italian drink, we use frozen watermelon flesh -- along with vodka and Prosecco. Doesn't that sound good?

    Watch how to make this super-summery cocktail.

  • Summer Mary
    Summer Mary

    We gave the Bloody Mary a sleek makeover for summer, freshening up the familiar flavors in a lighter cocktail that's perfect for warm weather.

  • Watermelon Slushie
    Watermelon Slushie

    Think of this as the all-American version of Venice's frosty-fruity sgroppino cocktail. Instead of the lemons used in the Italian drink, we use frozen watermelon flesh -- along with vodka and Prosecco. Doesn't that sound good?

    Watch how to make this super-summery cocktail.

Versatile Soup

Chowder Three Ways

Whether you prefer fish, clam, or corn and zucchini in your chowder, we have a recipe for you. Simply start with a sauteed base of bacon, shallots, and wine -- then add potatoes and the desired main ingredients. No matter what, finish with a splash of heavy cream for just the right touch of richness.

  • 1
    Fish Chowder

    A one-pot route to creamy, fishy deliciousness. Use skinless, firm white-fleshed fish such as cod, bass, or red snapper.

    Fish Chowder
  • 2
    Clam Chowder

    Shellfish fans will love this easy one-pot chowder made with littleneck clams.

    Clam Chowder
  • 3
    Corn Chowder

    No one will miss the fish in this rich, creamy dish with sweet corn and zucchini.

     

    Corn Chowder

Salads

Fresh-Tasting

Our tasty twists on warm-weather favorites like pasta and potato salad hold up well in the heat, can be made ahead, and taste sublime at the park or on the porch.

Top left: Soba Salad with Grilled Eggplant and Tomato (with a touch of soy, sesame oil, and cilantro)

Bottom center: Shaved Fennel, Zucchini, and Celery Salad (with butter beans)

Top Right: Rice Salad with Asparagus and Peas (made with Arborio rice)

Bottom Right: Potato-Cabbage Slaw (Savoy cabbage meets Yukon Gold potatoes, and dill adds punch)

By the Bowl and by the Scoop
By the Bowl and by the Scoop

DESSERTS

By the Bowl and by the Scoop

When we think summer desserts, cobblers, ice cream, and berries are what comes to mind. So we've made a cobbler with a cream biscuit atop jammy strawberries; frozen and blended fresh peaches into sherbet and sorbet (so easy -- no ice-cream maker needed); and macerated berries to use on s'mores, on pound cake, in a float ... the possibilities are endless.

Quick Tip

Macerated Berry Topping

Our preferred finishing touch for summer goes well with ice cream, pancakes, and shortcake.

  • Combine Berries and Sugar
    Combine Berries and Sugar

    Yep, all you need is a mixture of berries and sugar. Give it the occasional stir and watch the transformation.

  • S'Mores with More
    S'Mores with More

    Switch out the graham cracker for a biscuit cookie (we like Le Petit Beurres) and trade the chocolate for our luscious berry mixture, spooned over the toasted marshmallow. Serve open-faced, and be sure to pass the napkins.

  • One Juicy Sauce
    One Juicy Sauce

    After 45 minutes, you'll have this vibrant, juicy sauce.

  • Try a Fizzy Fresh-Berry Float
    Try a Fizzy Fresh-Berry Float

    Alternate the macerated berries with scoops of ice cream, and top it all off with seltzer.

  • Combine Berries and Sugar
    Combine Berries and Sugar

    Yep, all you need is a mixture of berries and sugar. Give it the occasional stir and watch the transformation.

  • One Juicy Sauce
    One Juicy Sauce

    After 45 minutes, you'll have this vibrant, juicy sauce.

  • S'Mores with More
    S'Mores with More

    Switch out the graham cracker for a biscuit cookie (we like Le Petit Beurres) and trade the chocolate for our luscious berry mixture, spooned over the toasted marshmallow. Serve open-faced, and be sure to pass the napkins.

  • Try a Fizzy Fresh-Berry Float
    Try a Fizzy Fresh-Berry Float

    Alternate the macerated berries with scoops of ice cream, and top it all off with seltzer.

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