The 17 Best Summer Recipes: A Definitive Guide to Al Fresco Dining

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caprese salad

Now that summer produce has hit the market stands, we're all in the market for the best summer recipes -- so come into our kitchen and meet some of our favorites!

Our favorite summer recipes have a few things in common: organic, seasonal ingredients and flavor. Other than that, they're quite varied, hailing from all over the world and ranging from quick and easy to a touch more involved and impressive. Pick and choose your favorites, and let's get summer off to a big culinary bang!

Quick and Easy Summer Recipes

1. Caprese Salad

Start things off with perhaps one of the most classic summertime recipes -- a Caprese salad. The one you see pictured above is our favorite, not only because it features local tomatoes and Buffalo mozzarella, but also thanks to the spinach and basil pesto that adds a bit more oomph to the classic.

grilled pizza

Pizza on the grill image via Shutterstock

2. Grilled Pizza

Grilling just got a little easier with this grilled pizza recipe. Homemade organic dough is a cinch to make in advance, and toppings can be kept simple or jazzed up depending on your mood and the time you've got on hand. One thing's for sure -- if this recipe has made it onto our list of the best summer recipes, it's because it's a crowd pleaser!

watermelon salad

Watermelon salad image via Shutterstock: Brent Hofacker

3. Watermelon Salad

The idea of a watermelon salad may seem strange at first, but we promise, this one brings out the best in the sweet fruit with a few savory ingredients, including cucumbers, feta, lime and olive oil. A sprinkle of fresh mint and a touch of black pepper, and this quick and easy salad is on the table!

corn and tomatoes

Image: Emily Monaco

4. Warm Corn and Tomato Salad

There's nothing better than summer produce, and while you hardly have to do anything to it to make it sublime, as the summer goes on, you'll want this simple dish in your recipe arsenal. Just a few minutes of time turns summertime staples of corn and tomatoes into a delectable warm salad to enjoy.

basilveg-liano-liano

Photograph by Maren Caruso

5. Summer Veggie Panini

This sandwich may look a bit complicated to make at first, but in all honesty, all you need is a bunch of veggies and a panini press. By using the press both to cook the vegetables and make the final sandwich, you reduce your clean-up and end up with a summer veggie panini with a grilled flavor you didn't even need to turn the BBQ on for!

salad-ccflcr-glowkitchen

Photo Credit: GlowKitchen

6. Fresh Summer Veggie Salad

If you ever get tired of mayonnaise salads in the summer, this fresh and unique combo of tasty veggies is the perfect choice. We especially love this summer salad as a new twist on a picnic salad!

pasta salad

Pasta salad image via Shutterstock: Elena Veselova

7. Green Pasta Salad

Pasta salads can get a little bit tired, especially with that "little of everything" mentality. Make your pasta salad a touch more refined but just as easy to make by focusing on ingredients that go together. This green pasta salad is chromatically unified, with peas, lettuce and herbs. A touch of flavorful feta, and dinner's ready!

Gourmet Al Fresco Recipes

gazpacho-ccflcr-cyclonebill

Image Credit: Cyclonebill

8. Gazpacho

Gazpacho is the ideal appetizer for any summertime fête, and this revisited version is just different enough to add a lovely hint of novelty. Spiced up with cumin and jalapeños, this cold soup is the perfect way to show off your precious summer heirloom tomatoes.

pissaladiere-emilymonaco

Image: Emily Monaco

9. Pissaladière

When in doubt, take a culinary page out of the French book: pissaladière is a Niçois invention similar to pizza, though the tomato sauce is replaced with a caramelized onion jam, and the entire thing is topped with anchovies and olives. Delicious alongside a simple green salad!

grilled-eggplant-with-goat-cheese

Image: Kate Sears

10. Grilled Eggplant Appetizer

This impressive and flavorful grilled eggplant appetizer is actually inspired by lasagna, but it's far lighter -- perfect for summer. The eggplant portions can be served in the size that's appropriate for your dinner: bite-sized for an elegant hors d'oeuvre, or even whole for an impressive main.

potato salad

Potato salad image via Shutterstock: Cobraphotography

11. Potato Salad with Pesto and Bacon

For a new twist on a summer classic, we love this refined potato salad with pesto and bacon. A true flavor explosion, this salad plays up summer herbs in a homemade pesto and herb garnish. The bacon can be left off for an entirely vegetarian version.

shrimp noodle salad

Summer noodle salad image via Shutterstock: Eshan Phot

12. Shrimp Noodle Salad

Pasta salads can take on new shapes and forms when you get inspired from other cultures. This Asian influenced noodle salad features a Vietnamese-style seasoning and is the perfect base to which to add your favorite summer veggies: snap peas, radishes, cucumber... the choice is yours.

summer rolls

Summer rolls image via Shutterstock: xuanhuongho

13. Summer Rolls

They're not called summer rolls for nothing! These Vietnamese rolls are filled with tasty seasonal ingredients and are perfectly paired with a creamy peanut sauce or even a Vietnamese dressing.

Sweet Summer Dessert Recipes

berrycobbler_superfoods

This recipe appears courtesy of the “Superfoods Cookbook“, by Dana Jacobi, photographs by Erin Kunkel.

14. Berry Cobbler

Nothing says summer dessert more than berries -- and this berry cobbler will fulfill your wildest summer dessert dreams. A combo of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries gets jazzed up with some raspberry jam and topped with a homemade, half whole wheat cobbler batter. Can you say "seconds, please"?

yopop-ccflcr-kaylacasey

Image: kaylacasey

15. Yogurt Popsicles

Dessert is a dish best served cold, at least in summer, which is why we love these yogurt popsicles. Natural yogurt, fresh fruit and honey make these a treat you can feel good about eating -- even during bikini season!

Summer Cocktail Recipes

watermelon_cooler

Image by Sheri Giblin.

16. Watermelon Cooler

Summer drinks need to be refreshing, which is why our simple watermelon cooler highlights some key ingredients: watermelon, obviously, mint and lime. A touch of club soda and a splash of vodka (for the grownups!) and this drink is ready to be sipped by the pool.

michelada recipe

Photo by Ally-Jane

17. Michelada

If margaritas are starting to feel passé, try a michelada. This festive combo of Mexican beer, lime, and a bit of heat will have you cooling down in no time.

Caprese salad image via Shutterstock: Viktor1

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