If you follow our Easiest Summer Ever series, you know that we love simple recipes in the summer. More than any other season, this is the time to keep your cooking projects light—the weather's too good to spend all day in the kitchen and great fresh produce doesn't need to be messed with much anyways. Sticking with five ingredients (plus salt, pepper, and oil) might sound too constraining, but you'd be surprised how far it will get you. From Caprese salad to braised beans and fried chicken, keep reading for 18 of our favorite summery 5-ingredient recipes.
Sweet-Sour Macerated Cherries With Marcona Almonds, Mint, and Ricotta
Equally appropriate as breakfast or a light dessert, in this recipe we top good ricotta with cherries macerated in a mixture of honey and red wine vinegar. We also add fresh mint, crunchy Marcona almonds, and a generous grating of black pepper. If you have any Maldon or other flaky salt on hand, this is a good time to break it out.
Tomato and Bacon Breakfast Sandwiches
Perfect summer tomatoes don't need anything more than a little salt and olive oil, but if you want something just a bit more involved, try pairing them with crispy bacon and creamy mayo. Be sure to layer the tomatoes, mayo, and salt onto the English muffins before starting the bacon so that the tomatoes have plenty of time to drip juice into every nook and cranny.
Classic Caprese Salad
The worst thing you can do to a Caprese salad is overwork it—once you have the tomatoes, all you need is the best mozzarella and olive oil you can find, fresh basil, coarse sea salt, and black pepper (keep your balsamic out of here). We like to use a variety of tomatoes for contrast.
Tomato, Apricot, and Feta Salad With Mint
This variation on the Caprese swaps the mozzarella and basil for feta and mint and adds juicy apricots to the party. The briny feta is a perfect match for the sweet fruit. Like with the Caprese, a mix of tomatoes is the way to go.
Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad
The combination of feta and mint might have had you thinking of this traditional summer salad. Like with a tomato salad, quality of the fruit is important—you need dense, sweet watermelon for this recipe. The salad's secret ingredient is finely chopped lemon zest, which brings out the floral quality of the watermelon and the tanginess of the feta.
Fig, Melon, and Spanish Ham Salad With Basil
This recipe plays on the classic combination of cantaloupe and prosciutto by pairing complex jamón Serrano with intensely sweet Charentais melon (though cantaloupe will work if that's all you can find). We add some fresh black mission figs to the plate and finish with olive oil, salt, and basil.
Figs With Marcona Almonds, Aged Goat Cheese, and Hot Honey
Here we take more figs—the best ones we can find—and arrange them with goat cheese, Marcona almonds, basil, and Mike's Hot Honey. Rather than the chevre you might be used to seeing at the supermarket, seek out a nutty aged goat cheese like crottin.
Cherry and Jicama Salad With Lime and Macadamia Nuts
This unusual salad is made with juicy red cherries, crisp jicama, crunchy macadamia nuts, and fresh basil. A healthy squeeze of lime juice helps balance the sweet fruit. We cut the jicama into batons, but you can try it other ways—the fun of five-ingredient recipes is using your imagination.
Grilled Radicchio With Cherry Gastrique
We take cherries in a different direction here, cooking them down into a sweet and sour gastrique to spoon over grilled radicchio. We leave the radicchio on the fire until it starts to wilt and char in spots and takes on a deeper flavor. The bitter radicchio and sweet-sour sauce make for an assertive side dish, so serve it with something that can stand up to strong flavors.
Chilled Carrots With Tahini-Ginger Dressing
Carrots might be more commonly associated with winter, but they're in season now and there's no reason to wait until roasting weather to eat them. This summer-appropriate side dish is made with lightly blanched carrots that we chill and serve in a tahini-flavored vinaigrette. Careful with the tahini—it's strong stuff and you only need a couple of teaspoons.
Sautéed Corn With Chorizo, Cilantro, and Lime Juice
All throughout corn season one of my favorite tricks in the kitchen is to cut the corn off the cob and sauté it with just about anything I can find in the refrigerator. All sorts of ingredients taste great with charred corn. Case in point: this recipe pairs corn with fatty, paprika-flavored Spanish chorizo; fresh cilantro; and bright, acidic lime juice.
Charred Broccoli Salad With Sardines, Pickled Shallot, and Mint
Whenever I find broccoli on sale, I instantly know I'm eating this salad for lunch in the next few days. Quick, simple, and healthy, it's nothing more than charred broccoli, sardines, mint, and shallot. The shallot is quick-pickled—get it soaking first thing and it will be ready by the time the broccoli is done.
Summer Squash Salad With Goat Cheese, Fennel, and Dill
Charring broccoli is easy, but a sizzling skillet isn't my favorite thing on a hot day. If the temperature is making the thought of cooking unbearable I turn to this raw salad of summer squash, fennel, goat cheese, and dill. I would definitely recommend picking up a mandoline if you don't already have one to make short work of the vegetables.
Braised Long Beans With Tomatoes, Garlic, and Mint
It's tempting to leave summer produce raw or minimally cooked, but sturdy long beans can stand more heat than you might think. Here we braise them with crushed tomatoes for about half an hour—it might feel like you're cooking the beans to death, but they come out incredibly flavorful and perfectly tender.
Broiled Salmon With Chile-Lime Mayonnaise
If you're looking for a healthy, easy meal with a little more protein, give salmon a try. Lots of recipes call for baking salmon, but the low heat means the fish cooks before the outside can brown at all. Broiling is a better option, especially with a chili-lime mayonnaise that both adds flavor and protects the fish from overcooking.
5-Ingredient Fried Chicken Sandwiches
Fried chicken recipes can be fairly complex, but this one manages to keep the ingredient list to an easily manageable length. There are two tricks that keep it simple. The first one is using self-rising flour, which already has baking powder mixed in. The second one involves pickles—since we already have a jar of pickles to use as a condiment, we also use the pickling juice to brine the chicken.
5-Ingredient Strawberry Shortcakes
Self-rising flour is also the key to our strawberry shortcakes—self-rising flour, cream, and sugar are all you need to make the biscuits. The strawberries macerate in sugar while the biscuits cook, and then to bring it all together we make a quick batch of vanilla-scented whipped cream.
Light and Easy 5-Minute Fruit Mousse
Not only does this mousse have fewer than five ingredients, but it barely takes five minutes to make. All there is to it is mixing frozen fruit, sugar, and egg whites in a food processor until light and fluffy. Even if you fancy the mousse up with homemade whipped cream, you still won't have any trouble with the 5-ingredient limit.