I recently moved to a new apartment in Los Angeles, and one of its major perks is its proximity to the beach—I can hop on my bike and be on sand in half an hour. Needless to say, I've been spending a lot of time there—sometimes just a few hours, sometimes an entire day. Either way, you can bet I'm bringing refreshments.
Any snack or drink that comes to the beach with me has to meet some requirements. Food should be casual, easily portable, and tasty at room temperature—salsas and hummus, for instance, make a lot of sense. Other finger foods, like chips and nuts, are also likely candidates. While you soak up the sun, you'll want to drink something cold and crisp; if your beach of choice, like mine, prohibits alcohol, that drink should be something zero-proof yet delicious, like limeade or an Arnold Palmer. On the other hand, if your local beach does allow imbibing, don't pass up an opportunity to bring along a bold ginger- and cardamom-infused sangria—no fruit chunks, so it's light enough to enjoy all afternoon—or a more traditionally summery white sangria made with ripe white peaches. In the mood for a beach trip yet? Here are 19 recipes you'll want to consult before you go.
Charred Salsa Verde
This smoky, spicy, and bright salsa verde is one of our favorite dips. Though this type of salsa is often made with boiled tomatillos, we prefer charring them under the broiler to heighten the sweetness and smoke. They're blended with charred onions and serrano or jalapeño chilies, plus cilantro, then the whole mix is poured into hot oil to intensify its flavor.
Israeli-Style Extra-Smooth Hummus
Hummus is ubiquitous these days, which means that subpar hummus is also ubiquitous. It's hard to find the right balance of good texture and good flavor: Store-bought versions tend to be creamy but bland, while homemade ones often have better flavor but a chunkier consistency. In this hummus, a perfectly smooth texture comes from overcooking the chickpeas and puréeing them while they're still hot. As in all Israeli hummus, the tahini sauce is key—we make ours by blending tahini paste with lemon juice and whole, unpeeled garlic cloves.
The Best Baba Ganoush
Though I like hummus, it's not my favorite of all Middle Eastern dips—that honor goes to baba ganoush. Baba ganoush ought to be rich and creamy, with plenty of smoky flavor and minimal bitterness. To get there, start by cooking the eggplant longer than you think is necessary in order to fully soften it and eliminate any astringency. A salad spinner helps to drain excess moisture from the eggplant before it's blended with garlic, lemon juice, tahini, and olive oil, for a thick, flavorful dip that's perfect with raw vegetables or warm pita.
Native to the South, but gaining in popularity across the country, pimento cheese is creamy, slightly spicy, and dangerously crave-worthy. This is a classic formula, incorporating only cheddar cheese, mayo, diced pimento peppers, hot sauce, and cayenne. Be warned—this makes a big batch, so consider halving it if you don't want to be tempted by leftovers every time you open your fridge.
Extra-Crunchy Potato Chips
What's the point of packing a tasty dip if you don't have something equally tasty to dip in it? Making your own crunchy chips at home is surprisingly easy—the trick is to slice them thick, then boil them in vinegar-spiked water before frying. The boiling step washes away starch, which allows you to fry the chips till they're shatteringly crisp, without burning them.
Thai Red Coconut Curry Popcorn
Thanks to a lesson from Daniel, I'm a convert to DIY microwave popcorn, using a simple brown paper bag. Once freshly popped, it's ready to be flavored any way you like—we have a number of different suggestions, but this spicy Thai-inspired mix of coconut, chili powder, lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, ginger, and garlic is a real winner.
Sea Salt and Vinegar Peanuts
Nuts are light and easy to carry (not to mention a delicious match for cold beer), so they're ideal for tossing into a beach bag. In an adaptation of salt and vinegar potato chips, we first soak these peanuts in vinegar, then fry them, sprinkle them with more vinegar for extra kick, and season them with sea salt, an appropriately briny finish for a beach snack.
Olive-Rosemary Spiced Cashews
The complex flavors of these roasted cashews start with a very light sugar glaze, to which we add salty oil-cured olives and heady rosemary, both of which get dried in the microwave and pounded with a mortar and pestle. That grinds the rosemary down into a vibrantly green powder and coaxes oil from the olives to form a deeply flavorful paste. Coat the roasted cashews with it and you're in business.
Great Deviled Eggs
Deviled eggs aren't quite as simple to transport as chips or nuts, but they're so satisfying and filling, you might find them worth the effort. In addition to a fairly classic recipe using mayo, mustard, vinegar, hot sauce, and olive oil, we have nine different genius variations on deviled eggs, including carbonara (featuring crispy pancetta and Parmesan), Benedict (with ham and brown butter), and confit tuna and olives. My personal favorite is the everything bagel version, with sesame, caraway, dried onion, and smoked salmon.
Easy Tomato and Smoked Feta Tart
Looking for something more substantial to pack? This simple, brightly colored and flavored tart is easy to carry and tastes great at room temperature. It's constructed on our quick-to-make Easy Pie Dough using juicy cherry tomatoes, Dijon mustard, and smoky feta. The most reliable way to infuse feta with smoke flavor, we've found, is also the easiest: Just add a touch of high-quality liquid smoke.
Ultra-Flavorful Fresh Lemonade
It's certainly possible to make lemonade just by mixing lemon juice, sugar (or, preferably, simple syrup), and water. For the purest and most intense citrusy flavor, though, your first step should be to macerate spent lemon rinds in sugar to make a powerful lemon syrup. Then combine the syrup with water and lemon juice to make a lemonade concentrate, and dilute it over ice to serve. If you want a frosty, thirst-quenching beverage under the summer sun, you can't do much better than this.
Ultra-Flavorful Fresh Limeade
For a cool drink with a floral, tropical twist, use the exact same technique described above with limes. Want to make this an overnight project? You can let the cut limes (or lemons, if making lemonade) macerate for up to 12 hours—beyond that, the syrup will verge into unpleasantly bitter territory.
The Best Cold-Brewed Iced Tea
Hot brewed tea that's been cooled down has an unfortunate tendency to turn out bitter and stale-tasting. Brewing your tea in the sun yields slightly better results, and sure, it sounds cool, but the flavor isn't ideal, and the warmth of the sun can encourage bacterial growth. Luckily, the best way to make a clean-tasting, refreshing iced tea is also the simplest—just let the tea steep, cold, for about five hours in the refrigerator.
The Best Arnold Palmer
Armed with a great lemonade recipe and a great iced tea recipe, we'd hardly be fulfilling our duties if we didn't provide you with the perfect Arnold Palmer recipe, too. Simply combining those two elements gets you good results, but not awesome ones. For a really flavorful Arnold Palmer, don't add water to the lemonade concentrate; instead, just mix the tea straight into the lemon syrup and juice. That creates a powerful base for the drink that will dilute just the right amount when poured over ice.
At its best, the Mexican rice- and almond-based beverage horchata is sweet without being cloying and creamy without being heavy, making it a terrific option for beachside refreshment. It's also ripe for variation. This version is steeped with dark-roast coffee beans and a cinnamon stick, so not only does it have a richer, spicier flavor than regular horchata, it'll also give you a jolt of caffeine to power you through your day trip.
Fresh Watermelon Sangria
No boozy beverage feels more like a celebration of summer than sangria, and this one, made with delicately sweet watermelon juice and añejo rum, is especially appropriate for the occasion. A little lime juice underscores the pucker in the white wine, and a garnish of fresh mint leaves gives it a bright, herbal touch. The resulting cocktail is fruity, tart, and not too strong.
White Peach Sangria
If your farmers market, like mine, is offering some beautiful stone fruit this time of year, plan on mixing up this peach sangria at your earliest opportunity. It's made with a healthy dose of London Dry gin, which gives it an herbaceous, astringent edge to offset the sweetness of ripe peaches. A generous addition of fresh rosemary amplifies that herbal character.
While many sangria recipes call simply for mixing raw fruit into the liquid ingredients, roasting the fruit first, as we do here with plums and star anise, gives it more depth of flavor. We combine the plums with rosé wine and top the sangria off with ginger beer instead of seltzer; a little Maraschino liqueur gives the drink a subtle nutty sweetness.
Ginger-Cardamom Red Wine Sangria
For many, sangria has almost come to be identified by the fruit chunks in each glass. But if you'd rather your drink be, well, a drink, and not an exercise in fishing slippery bits of apple and orange out of a wine glass, try this recipe. Here, we replace the fruit cup with fresh orange juice, which lends just enough sweetness to red wine, while Carpano Antica sweet vermouth adds body and a syrup of ginger and cardamom punches it up with lots of spicy, rich flavor. Lighten it up for the beach by adding a little seltzer if you like.