The boys and I drove to Assateague Island National Seashore yesterday. On the way home, we stopped at a farm stand and loaded up on watermelons, tomatoes and peaches.

Dinner was a no-brainer:

produce salad

A sweet/savory salad made with the melon, tomatoes and peaches, then tossed with wisps of fresh basil and my favorite balsamic dressing from Trader Joe’s. It was fresh, filling and oh-so-simple. An added bonus (especially for the end of July): I didn’t have to go near an oven.

Here are four other perfect, simple dishes for a summer kitchen:

1. No-Cook Tart

summer fruit

empty pastryToss the freshest berries and stone fruit you can find with a touch of sugar and vanilla. Then spread a prebaked pastry shell with your favorite jam (I love any of Bonne Maman’s preserves). Tumble the fruit over the crust and serve — alone, with whipped cream or with a sour cream, brown sugar & honey mixture.

2. Toast & Toppings


Toast up best-quality bread. Spread with good unsalted butter, then top with whatever sounds good. Thick cut tomatoes and dollops of blue cheese would be delicious. We love vinegar-cured white anchovies packed in olive oil.

3. A Sassy Sauce


No, not quite a “dish,” but you’ll use this flavorful sauce in all manner of ways. Simply pulse two bunches of cilantro with a quarter cup of red onion, a couple cloves of garlic, the juice of three to four limes and enough olive oil to make the mix pourable. Your kicky cilantro sauce is perfect spooned over fish, chicken or beef; stirred into vegetable soups; tossed with udon or soba noodles; or spread on bread. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week — assuming you can keep leftovers!

4. Corn & Pepper Toss

sauteed corn

Alas, this dish does require a stove, but just barely. Slice the kernels off two to three ears of corn, then saute them in hot olive oil along with scallions, garlic and red peppers. When everything is tender and slightly charred, stir in the juice of one lemon or lime, a couple tablespoons of fresh basil and parsley, and some feta cheese.

It’s summer in a bowl, and you won’t have broken a sweat!