The sun may be shining, the birds may be chirping and the produce may be bountiful, but sometimes you need a cozy, comforting meal to fill your belly and soothe your soul. (And let’s be honest, a salad just won’t do.) Here are some dishes that celebrate summer’s best produce while also making you feel like you just took a long nap.
Tomatoes and zucchini seem to be everywhere right now, so make wonderful use of them in this heartwarming dish from Martha Rose Shulman. Roasting the zucchini instead of frying means less oil and less fuss. Martha includes a recipe for sauce, but feel free to use your favorite recipe or even better, store-bought.
Tender and sweet, this zucchini bread from Alison Roman is a cinch to put together, and eating a slice warm from the oven and slathered in melty butter might just be more effective than therapy. This recipe makes two loaves so you can share or freeze one for later.
Recipe: Classic Zucchini Bread
Sometimes known as Texas caviar, this happy hodgepodge of beans, corn, bell pepper, tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeño and onion dressed with a tangy-sweet red wine vinaigrette is one of those dishes that just seems to (poof!) disappear. For a little creamy richness, add cubed avocado.
In this surprising from dish from Melissa Clark, juicy pork meatballs play with sweet peaches, fresh basil and tangy lime for a savory-sweet meal that hits all the notes. Use any ground meat you like, and feel free to substitute ripe nectarines or plums for the peaches. (Just make sure they’re super ripe.)
This watermelon margarita from Alexa Weibel is everything you want in a summer cocktail: refreshing, lightly sweet and just spicy enough to keep it interesting. (For those abstaining from alcohol, try this cucumber and watermelon punch.)
Recipe: Watermelon Margarita
Dan dan noodles are traditionally made with ground pork and pickled vegetables, but in this tasty vegan riff on the Sichuan classic from Hetty McKinnon, pan-fried eggplant steps in for the pork. The recipe calls for tahini, but smooth almond or peanut butter will work in its place.
Recipe: Vegan Dan Dan Noodles With Eggplant
This cobbler from Edna Lewis, the chef from Virginia whose books helped define the Southern culinary canon, features a pie crust topping that lets the stone fruit’s flavors shine. Ms. Lewis liked to make it with a lattice top, with bits of raw dough tucked into the filling, which cook into dumplings while thickening the fruit juice.
This gorgeous dish was inspired by panzanella, the much-loved Tuscan bread salad, but Hetty McKinnon brilliantly swaps out the bread for pan-fried store-bought gnocchi — and we love her for it. Shelf-stable gnocchi work best, but frozen will work, too; just don’t disturb them while they cook so they don’t fall apart.
Recipe: Crispy Gnocchi With Tomato and Red Onion
In this 30-minute vegan recipe, Jocelyn Ramirez sears meaty oyster mushrooms in a pan so they become as crispy and delightful as chicharrón, or fried pork belly. If you’re hungry, consider doubling the mushrooms, as they shrink quite a bit while cooking.
Recipe: Crispy Mushroom Tacos
Comfort me with fried chicken. In this riff on veal Milanese from Melissa Clark, chicken cutlets are pounded into an even thickness, then breaded, fried and served with a simple tomato-mozzarella salad dressed with basil oil.
Recipe: Chicken Milanese With Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad
Get to shucking. Two pounds of fresh corn kernels go into this classic casserole from Ali Slagle that’s made with corn and a simple but rich batter of flour, Cheddar, sour cream, eggs and butter. Bake until bubbly, then eat directly from the pan until your mood improves.
Genevieve Ko’s spicy-sweet kung pao chicken, which she adapted from Grace Han and Pearl Han, comes together in just 15 well-spent minutes. Krysten Chambrot, associate editor of New York Times Cooking, made it the other day: “It was so delicious and easy and made me feel like I was taken care of.”
Recipe: Easy Kung Pao Chicken
If you haven’t made Marian Burros’s famous plum torte, what are you waiting for? This recipe first ran in the paper in 1983, but it’s been reprinted several times because readers clamored for it. It’s wildly adaptable: It works with practically any summer fruit (pears and apples, too), you can bake it in pretty much any shape pan and it’s very hard to mess up.
Recipe: Original Plum Torte
Tomato and basil, summer’s cutest couple, star in this classic risotto from Martha Rose Shulman. One clever reader added a little fresh mozzarella for a caprese-style risotto. Making risotto takes a little time and attention, but maybe all that stirring will be soothing? One can hope.
This ice cream cake from Ali Slagle is so fun to make because it’s really just assembly, and you can use whatever store-bought ice cream flavors you like. Start with a cookie crust, a layer of ice cream, a layer of ice cream sandwiches, then another layer of ice cream. Drizzle with Magic Shell (and maybe colorful sprinkles?) before serving. Trust us: Even the grouchiest guest will love it.
Recipe: Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Cake
Millie Peartree’s classic mayo-based macaroni salad was inspired by the ones served at the Kennedy Fried Chicken restaurants. It’s perfectly balanced: savory from the mayo and lightly sweet from carrots and a touch of sugar. “As comforting a dish in summer as mac ’n cheese is in winter,” one reader wrote.
Recipe: Macaroni Salad
“Who knew you could do ribs in a slow cooker, and they could be this succulent and luscious with a comical lack of effort?” one reader asked. Sarah DiGregorio, that’s who! This is the ideal recipe for rib lovers who don’t own a grill and don’t want to heat up their kitchen. (These beauties need a quick broil, but only for a couple minutes.) A pressure cooker version can be found here.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Hot Honey Ribs
Bibim guksu, or “mixed noodles” in Korean, is the perfect summer meal. It’s cold, it’s spicy and it’s very easy to make your own. Bibim guksu does not typically include kimchi, but in this recipe from Darun Kwak, it provides welcome spicy and sour notes.
Yes, this is a recipe for a tomato sandwich. This one, from Melissa Clark, is based on pan con tomate, and “involves rubbing the guts of a ripe tomato all over garlicky toasted bread,” then topping with more tomato, onion, mayo and, if you like, bacon.
Recipe: Tomato Sandwiches
Melissa Clark saves us again with this ridiculously easy no-machine-needed peanut butter ice cream. The secret ingredient? Unsweetened oat milk creamer. The end result is lush and creamy and lovely.
Recipe: Easy Vegan Peanut Butter Maple Ice Cream
These crisp fritters from Vallery Lomas are made with fresh corn, Cheddar, scallions, cayenne and a straightforward batter, then pan-fried until golden and crunchy. Eat them on their own or as a side to barbecued chicken.
This gooey dessert from Jerrelle Guy is not quite spoon bread and not quite cake, but nestled somewhere happily in between. It can be made with pretty much any fresh or frozen ripe summer fruit, but serve it with a spoon because it’s too soft and yielding to cut with a knife.
Recipe: Strawberry Spoon Cake
Get thee to the farmers’ market. Two whole pounds of eggplant and zucchini go into this hearty weeknight meal from Kay Chun. The secret to nonsoggy eggplant is to sauté it slowly in a nonstick skillet until it softens and caramelizes without adding a lot of oil.
Recipe: Eggplant and Zucchini Pasta With Feta and Dill