Sometimes we have a hard time arguing that people should cook in the hottest summer months. Why bother turning on the stove when you could let peak-season raw tomatoes shine in all their savory-sweet, tangy glory? Why haul out your Dutch oven when you could relish a cooling, crunchy bite of shredded green papaya, dressed with chiles and a balancing squeeze of lime?
But it’s worth it to turn the oven on on Sunday morning so you can enjoy a big pan of butter mochi at your next picnic, and tart-sweet raspberry buns for dessert all week. And summer’s not really summer until you fire up your grill to make Yotam Ottolenghi’s justifiably hyped Eggplant With Buttermilk Sauce, a cover girl of a dish if we ever saw one.
All of this is to say, the recipes you really need right now are a mix of no-cook options for steamy evenings and worth-it bites that more than justify the heat required. Below, we’ve rounded up a few of our all-time favorite recipes to make in the summer—recipes that we love so much, we can’t imagine getting to September without them. While we spend most of our time developing new recipes and combing through brand-new cookbooks, here we’ve focused on cookbook stalwarts: the recipes that we make over and over again as soon as the air conditioner kicks on and the grill gets going. Maybe they’ll become classics for you too.
Roasted Nectarines With Labneh, Herbs and Honey from Simply by Sabrina Ghayour
Sabrina Ghayour says she doesn’t know whether this dish is a salad or dessert—the truth is, I don’t know either. What I do know is that ever since I made it for the first time last year, it quickly became a staple in my summer cooking repertoire. Ripe nectarines roast until they become tender and caramelized along the edges before they’re placed on a bed of tangy Greek yogurt. Everything gets topped with a drizzle of olive oil and honey—and a sprinkle of nuts, herbs, and salt—to create a sweet-and-savory plate you can snack on at any time of day. —Tiffany Hopkins, assistant editorSabrina Ghayour
Marinated Tomatoes from Night + Market by Kris Yenbamroong
I love this dish because it’s so flavorful and punchy—and you can make it without having to turn the stove on. I usually have all the ingredients on hand, and I think it is just such a fantastic way to showcase peak summer tomatoes. This recipe is always a hit at dinner parties, and guests are always asking for more! —Rachel Gurjar, associate food editorKris YenbamroongGarrett Snyder
Oven-Roasted Zucchini from Vegetable Kingdom by Bryant Terry
I’m always looking for ways to upgrade my weeknight cooking routine in a way that changes things up without too much extra work. I love the roasted zucchini with collard-peanut pesto from Bryant Terry’s latest cookbook, which takes one of the all-time classic easy weeknight staples (roasted seasonal vegetables) and turns the volume way up with a simple pesto packed full of greens and lots of flavor. —Sonia Chopra, executive editorBryant Terry
Raspberry Jam Buns with Crème Fraîche Frosting from Small Victories by Julia Turshen
I haven’t cooked from Julia Turshen’s new cookbook yet, but like many people, I return to her first, Small Victories, over and over. As I flip through the book, many of the dishes feel familiar, but I find that Turshen’s recipes only really come alive when you actually make them. They’re simple and easy to prepare, but somehow way better than the thousands of recipes you’ve seen that sound exactly the same (yes, I stan those Turkey Meatballs like everyone else).
Which brings me to these jam buns. They involve a fairly simple yeasted bun recipe (which Turshen walks you through with signature care and lack of pretentiousness; if you’re afraid of yeast, she’ll teach you not to be) filled with a store-bought raspberry jam. Top the whole thing with crème fraîche mixed with powdered sugar and a bit of vanilla and you’ve got dessert (or breakfast). Maybe it sounds regular, but it is transcendent. The dough is soft and pillowy and not too sweet, the jam pops through bright and zingy. And the crème fraîche is a welcome deviation from cream cheese: The thinner frosting seeps into the cracks of the buns, making them moist and luxurious.
Here is a summer baking project for when you can have family members stay over again. A thing to bake when you want an impressive project that requires care, but you also don’t want to panic or spend all day rolling out dough. Make them once, and they’re sure to go in your regular special-breakfast repertoire. —Emily Johnson, senior commerce editorJulia Turshen
Eggplant With Buttermilk Sauce from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
You have probably seen this dish before; it’s been shared and pinned and posted to death because it’s both (a) the cover girl for the cookbook, and (b) just so dang attractive. I make it at least once every summer when the eggplants at the farmers market are too perfect to ignore, and it works just as well with larger globe eggplants as tiny fairy tales and skinny Japanese eggplants. You can do this in the oven or on a smaller sheet pan on the grill, and it nails the hot/cold and creamy/fresh combination. —Kendra Vaculin, staff writerYotam Ottolenghi
$35.00, Chronicle Books
Sinuglaw from I Am a Filipino by Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad
Kinilaw is a Filipino dish of raw fish cured in a bracing, bright citrus or vinegar dressing. Add grilled pork belly to the mix and the dish becomes sinuglaw. Nicole Ponseca’s version includes fresh ginger, green chiles, cucumber, avocado, and cilantro, plus red onion and fish sauce for a full-flavored and refreshing bowl. Coconut milk softens the dressing and gives the whole dish some floral undertones. It’s an ideal surf-and-turf situation: cold and hot, charred and fresh, tangy and savory. I love to eat it with sticky rice or serve it next to a big bag of tortilla chips. —Joe Sevier, associate editorNicole PonsecaMiguel Trinidad
Corn, Tomatoes, and Clams on Grilled Bread from Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden
There is a cookbook I reach for so often, it’s covered in stains and has pages stuck together from god knows what: Six Seasons by vegetable whisperer Josh McFadden. Although I love to make many recipes from his book, in the summer I always reach for his Corn, Tomatoes, and Clams on Grilled Bread recipe, because it encapsulates everything that’s perfect about summer. It’s one of those dishes that improves any occasion, whether it’s a solo dinner or a whole dinner party. —June Kim, VP, digital video programmingJoshua McFadden
Butter Mochi from Aloha Kitchen by Alana Kysar
It’s a good thing this recipe makes a big 9x13" pan: This butter mochi is that one dish at the barbecue or picnic that everyone just can’t stop eating. The texture is marvelously chewy-sticky-creamy-bouncy thanks to the combo of mochiko flour and coconut milk. It’s fragrant with vanilla and super-easy to make—no mixer required. And if you serve the butter mochi right after cooling, it retains a compelling crunch at the top from a flurry of toasty coconut. —Maggie Hoffman, digital directorAlana Kysar
$30.00, Penguin Random House
Som Tum from Night + Market by Kris Yenbamroong
When the summer comes around and we find ourselves planning meals to cook in our un–air conditioned New York City kitchen, this papaya salad recipe is always at the top of our list. No cooking necessary. Just a mortar and pestle and we have lunch for a week. —Jonathan Wise, director of programmingKris Yenbamroong
Originally Appeared on Epicurious