Summer may officially begin on the solstice, the longest day of the year, but the unofficial start to the season is the long Memorial Day weekend, when many home cooks dust off their grills and declare that cookout season begun. This year might look a little different — maybe you’re cooking for your “quaranteam” or just yourself — but here are our best Memorial Day recipes, from side dishes to desserts and everything in between.
Snacks are required. Dips are always a good idea, and salsa, guacamole, sour cream and onion dip and spinach artichoke dip are classic winners. This Greek goddess dip (above) from Melissa Clark will go quickly. Our roasted feta with honey is so simple; you’ll be amazed by how the feta transforms into a creamy spread when hit with a little heat. Hummus, you bet. Wings? No question. No one ever thinks to make deviled eggs for themselves, but there are never any left at a cookout (bonus points if you serve them on one of those cute deviled egg platters). And pigs in a blanket? You win.
Grilling and BBQ Recipes
Fire it up! Meat eaters will find everything they need here: recipes for steaks, ribs and chops; barbecue, brisket, pulled pork and chicken. And burgers, of course. Sam Sifton’s basic (in a good way) barbecue sauce can be used on just about anything: whether beef, ribs or chicken. Speaking of the bird, if you think chicken breasts are sad and dry, you should try these grilled chicken breasts with turmeric and lime (also fried chicken!). One of our best-loved steak recipes is Melissa Clark’s sweet and spicy flank steak. Seafood lovers? Mark Bittman has a lot to choose from including grilled tuna with herbs and olives, salmon fillet with fresh salsa, spicy grilled shrimp or miso-glazed scallops. And if Memorial Day just isn’t a holiday to you without hot dogs, we recommend giving these Mexican hot dogs a shot. They can be made in the oven or on the grill.
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Vegetarian Grilling Recipes
Melissa Clark’s platter of sweet-and-spicy grilled vegetables with burrata will please absolutely everyone. Her ultimate veggie burgers are quite a bit of work, but they are delicious, and we don’t mean in a “for a veggie burger” kind of way. They hold up beautifully on the grill. Grilling pizza is fun, and you can load it up with vegetables and cheese (the one above is topped with red onions and feta). For a superstar centerpiece, try Mark Bittman’s grilled vegetable torte, in which you grill eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini and mushrooms, then stack them together in a springform pan and bake. It’s a showstopper. Grilled halloumi with vegetables is a chewy, salty delight. More vegetarian grilling recipes can be found here.
Side Dishes and Summer Salads
If we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s really all about the sides. Potato salad, macaroni salad, pasta salad and coleslaw belong on every table. For an Italian summer vibe, whip up a caprese salad or panzanella. Corn, grilled or in a salad (above), is always welcome. This addictive broccoli salad with garlic and sesame from Melissa Clark pretty much cooks itself. One reader made it six times in two weeks! If you want to serve something warm, slide heaving pans of baked beans or macaroni and cheese onto the picnic table and watch them disappear.
If you’re having trouble getting farm-fresh fruit this year, don’t fret. Dawn Perry has three excellent desserts that can be made with frozen fruit. We can never get enough of the kind of desserts you can make in a 9-by-13 pan. Reader favorites include Denver sheet cake, magic cookie bars (a.k.a. Hello Dolly bars) and no-bake chocolate mousse bars. It might be a touch early for local strawberries in your neck of the woods, but if you just can’t wait to cook with them, Melissa Clark’s strawberry gingersnap icebox cake and Samantha Seneviratne’s fresh strawberry pie were a big hits last summer, and supermarket berries will do fine. If you’re a traditionalist, bake blueberry cobbler (above), strawberry shortcake or classic poundcake. Top everything with a scoop of homemade ice cream.
Cocktails and Nonalcoholic Drinks
Every summer needs a signature cocktail. A Paloma, made with just tequila and grapefruit soda, is an easy and refreshing candidate. A Tom Collins is a tad more work — you need simple syrup — but the lightly sweet and fizzy gin and lemon cocktail is, to this writer, the ideal summer drink. (Careful, though: It’s stronger than you think.) Margaritas, single or batch servings, never go out of style. And sangria: Try traditional, rosé or strawberry-peach. Teetotalers shouldn’t miss out on the fun. Here are plenty of nonalcoholic drinks to keep you hydrated and in good spirits. Our favorite is this dirty horchata, horchata spiked with cold brew concentrate or espresso. It really packs a punch.
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