6 Recipes for the Perfect Summer Comfort Foods

Hot weather practically begs for meals cooked on the grill. It can be a blast seeing just how creative you can get with outdoor cookery, but it isn’t always the best option. Some days are way too hot to suffer standing over burning charcoal, and thunderstorms can also derail plans to cook out back. You’re also bound to miss some of your favorite comfort foods now that summer’s arrived. While most of those hearty dishes are too rich for this time of year, these six recipes show you some clever ways to make them just as appropriate for summer. Get ready to meet your new favorite summer dishes.

1. Summer Squash Enchiladas

Enchiladas are one of several comfort foods you can enjoy during the summer

Enchiladas | Source: iStock

Stuffed with meat and loads of melted cheese, enchiladas make a seriously satisfying dinner. As delicious as the Mexican favorite is, it’s pretty heavy for summer eating. Homesick Texan gives the dish a lighter look with a veggie filling, but keeps the rich sauce and a sprinkle of cheese over the top. It’s the perfect recipe to make when you’re craving something hearty when it’s hot out.

While the ingredient list might look long, none of the steps are difficult. We love the deep flavor of the homemade sauce, but you could always buy a jarred version if you’re in a hurry. Serve this dish with a crisp slaw to keep the meal from feeling too heavy. A little bit of guacamole wouldn’t hurt either.

Ingredients:

Sauce

  • 10 dried cascabel chiles, or 6 dried guajillo chiles
  • 1 canned chippotle chile
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • Salt and black pepper

Filling

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and diced
  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • 2 yellow squash, diced
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cayenne pepper

Assembly

  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey jack or cheddar cheese

Directions: In a dry skillet set over high heat, toast dried chiles on each side until they begin to puff, about 10 seconds per side. Add enough water to cover, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and let cool 30 minutes. Drain chiles, and add to a blender.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a skillet set over medium heat, and cook one half of chopped onion for 10 minutes. Add four chopped garlic cloves, and cook 1 minute. Place onions and garlic in blender. Add chipotle, tomatoes, broth, cumin, oregano, and blend until smooth.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a pot set over low heat. Add sauce, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-low heat. Add the other half of the chopped onion, and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add remaining garlic and jalapeño, and cook 1 minute. Add diced squash, cilantro, and cumin, and cook 10 minutes. Season with salt, cayenne, and pepper, to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Wrap tortillas in foil, and allow to heat in oven for 5 minutes.

Remove tortillas, and dip one into sauce, shaking off excess. Lay tortilla on a work surface, and spoon filling down center, then roll. Set into prepared dish, and repeat with remaining tortillas and filling. Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas, and top with cheese. Bake 10 minutes, or until cheese is browned and bubbling. Serve.

2. Summer Lasagna

vegetable lasagna, zucchini

Lasagna | Source: iStock

No heat wave should keep you from your favorite baked pasta. Running to the Kitchen shows you how to make lasagna into a perfect meal for summer evenings. And since it calls for no-boil noodles and a raw tomato sauce, this version can be on the table in just one hour.

The recipe calls for zucchini and kale in the filling, but you can change up the ingredients to suit your tastes. Feel free to use spinach, chard, peas, and even blanched green beans. Just don’t skip the ricotta, because it adds a creamy texture that gives the pasta a little bit of richness. For the best texture and flavor, look for fresh cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 8 plum tomatoes, halved
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 10 basil leaves, plus ¼ cup chopped basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups whole-milk ricotta
  • 1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 large zucchini, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • ½ bunch kale, stemmed, and chopped
  • 4.5 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a rectangular baking dish with cooking spray.

In food processor, combine tomatoes, garlic, 10 basil leaves, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth, and taste for seasoning.

In a small skillet set over medium-high heat, cook shallot with ½ tablespoon olive oil until softened, about 3 minutes. Add to a small bowl along with ricotta, red pepper flakes, and remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Add a bit of tomato sauce to bottom of baking dish, then layer noodles to form one layer. Top with more sauce, then dollop with the ricotta mixture. Add half each of zucchini, kale, and chopped basil. Repeat layer once more, then top with remaining noodles, sauce, and ricotta.

Cover with foil, and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil, and bake 15 minutes longer. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes. Cut, and serve with additional basil.

3. Kerala-Style Beef Stew

Beef curry with vegetables, meat, pork

Beef stew | Source: iStock

It probably sounds crazy to make something as rich as beef stew during the summer, but Bon Appétit insists this spicy dish is perfectly acceptable for steamy days. And they have a point. According to The Huffington Post, eating spicy foods in hot weather can help cool you down. On top of that, it’s a seriously tasty one-pot meal.

The method is also really simple. Start by browning the beef, then remove it to a plate once all of the pieces are deeply colored. Add the aromatics to the pot, and stir just until fragrant, then add the meat back along with some broth. Near the end, mix in some veggies, then finish with coconut milk. It’s both easy and impressive.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1½ pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, plus more
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 serrano chiles, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 (1-inch) piece of ginger, peeled, and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ pound small carrots, scrubbed, and halved lengthwise
  • ½ pound baby red-skinned potatoes, halved, or quartered if large
  • ¼ pound frozen, thawed pear onions, halved
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • Cilantro sprigs

Directions: Heat 1½ tablespoons oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Season beef with salt and pepper. Working in two batches, and adding remaining 1½ tablespoons oil between, add beef. Sear, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove beef to a plate.

Add garlic, chiles, and ginger to pot. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon pepper and turmeric. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broth and beef, bring to a boil, and scrape up brown bits from bottom. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover pot, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beef is tender, about 45 minutes.

Add carrots, potatoes, and onions. Cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in coconut milk. Serve garnished with cilantro.

4. Chicken Pot Pie Salad Sandwiches

Chicken vol-au-vent, biscuit, sandwich

Chicken pot pie sandwiches | Source: iStock

Even if you love chicken pot pie, you’d have to be a little bit crazy to make it on a day when the temperature soars. Get the taste you love without losing your cool by making Cooking Channel’s easy biscuit sandwiches. They completely transform the comfort food into perfect picnic fare. All you have to do is make a chicken filling with veggies and a bit of half-and-half, chill it, then pile the mixture into some purchased biscuits.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small red onion, cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2 thyme springs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small carrot, peeled, and cut into ½-inch dice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup half-and-half
  • ½ rotisserie chicken, shredded, skin and bones discarded
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 celery stalk, cut into ⅓-inch pieces
  • 2 ounces sugar snap peas, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 6 store-bought biscuits, split

Directions: Melt butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add onions, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add carrots, and continue to cook until onions are softened and beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes longer. Add wine, and increase heat to medium-high. Reduce wine by half, 2 to 4 minutes. Turn off heat, and stir in half-and-half. Add chicken, and stir to coat. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl, and refrigerate until cool, about 30 minutes.

Remove thyme sprigs. Stir in mayonnaise, parsley, celery, and peas. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Divide salad among biscuits, and serve.

5. Summer Turkey Meatloaf

slicing pepper, bell pepper slices

Cutting peppers | Source: iStock

A helping of meatloaf is just as comforting as a hug, and now you can bring that same feeling to summer with Pickled Plum’s veggie-stuffed version. In addition to loading up on vitamins and fiber, adding veggies to the loaf also helps keep it super moist. There’s even a little bit of peach for a touch of sweetness.

This meatloaf is plenty flavorful the way it is, but a classic ketchup glaze is never a bad idea. It’s also insanely easy to make. Just mix two parts ketchup with one part brown sugar, and add a splash of vinegar. Lightly brush the glaze over the loaf right before it heads to the oven and it’ll form an addictive crust as it bakes.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ pounds ground turkey
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ carrot, sliced into thin sticks
  • ½ zucchini, sliced into think sticks
  • ¼ red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced into thin strips
  • 1 heaping cup baby spinach
  • 2 peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced into strips
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • Barbecue sauce

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, mix turkey, cheese, eggs, breadcrumbs, Worcestershire sauce, and salt. Mix just to combine.

Lay a 6-by-10-inch piece of parchment on a flat surface, and brush with oil. Pat turkey mixture onto paper, and pat into a 1-inch thick rectangle.

Lay spinach, carrot, zucchini, pepper, and half of peaches down center of meat, and fold over sides of meat to the center. Close by pinching meat together. Pinch ends closed, and transfer to a 9.5-by-6.5-inch loaf pan.

Cover with foil, and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil, and bake another 15 minutes. Serve with reserved peaches and barbecue sauce.

6. Summer Vegetable and Chicken Hash

cooking potatoes, baby red potatoes

Potatoes | Source: iStock

If you’re a savory breakfast lover, corned beef hash is probably one of your favorites. This chicken and veggie version from Martha Stewart Living is every bit as satisfying, but won’t leave you feeling totally stuffed. It’s filled with potatoes, corn, and tomatoes, plus some spicy chiles for a little bit of kick. For hearty appetites, top the dish with a couple of eggs.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast half, cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces small red potatoes, boiled, and halved
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • ½ jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh marjoram

Directions: Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. Add chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Add 2 teaspoons oil and potatoes to skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Add remaining oil to pan, then add corn, 2 tablespoons scallions, and chile. Cook, stirring occasionally, until corn darkens in spots, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, and cook just until skins soften, about 1 minute. Add stock, salt, pepper, and reserved chicken. Bring to a boil. Fold in potatoes, remaining scallions, and marjoram.

More from Culture Cheat Sheet: