Relax! It's summer. That means you can take a break from elaborate meals that require you to spend more time than necessary on meal preparation. These casual summer recipes require minimal time and effort, so you can spend more time at the pool and less time in the kitchen.

July 18, 2017
Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Quick BBQ Chicken Thighs with Mashed Potatoes

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

We speed up this cookout classic by using boneless thighs and a hot grill pan. A homemade barbecue sauce comes together surprisingly quickly and is a great way to control sodium and added sugar.

View Recipe: Quick BBQ Chicken Thighs with Mashed Potatoes

Steak, Feta, and Olive Quesadillas

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

We've given the steak quesadilla a Mediterranean spin with feta cheese, olives, and a dollop of creamy Greek yogurt. Meaty, slightly fruity Castelvetrano lives have less sodium than other oives and add a pretty pop of green. If you can't find them, try swapping in rich kalamata olives.

View Recipe: Steak, Feta, and Olive Quesadillas

Green Gazpacho with Shrimp

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Fresh bread gives gazpacho body, making it a substantial summer entrée soup. Use bread from the bakery section for the best results (bread from the supermarket aisle can be overly soft and sweet).

View Recipe: Green Gazpacho with Shrimp

Peach-Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

A sweet and savory peach glaze caramelizes on the pork as it cooks to perfection in a grill pan. We cut the tenderloin in half crosswise for easier maneuvering and faster cooking, and we tent the pork with foil to hold in more heat while it's in the pan. You could also use a cast-iron skillet if you don't have a grill pan. Serve with Watermelon-Tomato Salad.

View Recipe: Peach-Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Seared Salmon Salad with Beets and Blackberries

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

A lime-forward vinaigrette adds pucker and punch to the salmon and salad, rounded out by earthy-sweet beets and juicy blackberries. Mint with blackberries is a favorite cocktail combo that also works in a fresh entrée salad. If you have leftover mint leaves, steep in simple syrup and refrigerate for sweetening lemonade or tossing with fresh fruit for a brunch salad. The trick to perfectly cooked salmon on the stove is to keep the heat no higher than medium. This allows the skin to crisp slowly while the fish cooks to the perfect doneness.

View Recipe: Seared Salmon Salad with Beets and Blackberries

Crab, Fennel, and Basil Spaghetti

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Because this pasta toss is light and delicately flavored, it's perfect for warmer weather. Feel free to "back pocket" your way around this dish, subbing shrimp for a flaky white fish for the crab and playing with other herbs like tarragon, chives, and chervil.

View Recipe: Crab, Fennel, and Basil Spaghetti

Skillet Ratatouille

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Instead of a sauce or side, we serve this Provençal dish as it was originally intended—a simple, humble stew. It’s a great way to use up a bundle of peak summer produce. You can also double the stew and refrigerate up to 1 week ahead, then serve as is, spooned over polenta, or with baked chicken or fish. You want a hearty stew consistency rather than a soup here; reserving 1/2 cup of the canned tomato liquid will be just enough. If you’d like to use fresh ripe tomatoes, start with 2 pounds, halving and seeding 1 pound before dicing.

View Recipe: Skillet Ratatouille

Pan-Grilled Chicken with Peach Salsa

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Fresh summer peaches are turned into a quick salsa that wakes up cumin-spiced chicken breasts. Taste the peaches first, and omit the sugar if the peaches are epecially ripe and juicy.

View Recipe: Pan-Grilled Chicken with Peach Salsa