No offense to the other seasons out there, but there is no better time to eat fresh produce and seasonal ingredients than the summertime. We’re talking cookouts with the beats blasting and the wine flowing.
Just looking at a plate filled with summer staples makes the mouth water—the vibrant red of tomatoes, the deep purple of eggplant, the sunny yellow of corn on the cob, the vivid green of just about everything else. Summer ingredients are so good that they often don’t require much preparation at all; simply grill or sear or slice and serve raw with a dash of seasoning. In summer, simplicity is best.
But there are a few classic recipes that summer just wouldn’t be the same without. Here are five of the summer’s best recipes—and of course, the perfect wines to pair with them.
At the beach, for a backyard barbecue, or at home on a steamy evening, fried chicken is always a classic, served hot or cold. Keep the seasonings simple and fry boldly—that golden brown, crispy shell will be worth it.
Pair with: Champagne
There are very few wines that fried chicken won’t pair well with, but the ultimate high brow-low brow feast is fried chicken and Champagne. Fine bubbles contrast so well with the chicken’s crackly, melt-in-the-mouth shell, while the acidity will brighten the dish’s savory richness. If a splurge isn’t in the cards—or you’re feeding a large group of people—look for a budget-friendly, traditional-method bubbly, like Crémant or Cava.
Even if you can’t be oceanside, fresh fish tacos with a slice of creamy avocado conjure up the sound of crashing waves and squawking seagulls. Some prefer their fish grilled, but the texture of crispy fish in a soft taco is pretty much irresistible — and not hard to make. Don’t skimp on the healthy squeeze of lime!
Pair with: Sauvignon Blanc
From Sancerre to New Zealand, Bordeaux to California, Sauvignon Blanc is always characterized by mouthwatering acidity and tart citrus flavors. It’s like an extra dose of lime on the fresh fish tacos with every sip, brightening the palate like an ocean wave.
Without good tomatoes, gazpacho simply doesn’t work, so the all-too-brief pinnacle of tomato season is the perfect time to attempt this delicious cold soup. This recipe is simple to prepare and requires no heat, which offers a much-needed respite on summer’s hottest days. Spring for good olive oil and vinegar here, too—it makes all the difference.
Pair with: Rose
Between the tomatoes and vinegar, gazpacho has a ton of tangy acidity, which can only work with a few particular wines—and Rose is at the top of the list. Light and easy-drinking, with fresh fruit, it works seamlessly.
Elote (Mexican Grilled Corn)
Growing up in Massachusetts, I was sadly deprived from even knowing about this style of corn. For decades I remained stuck in the butter + salt method. Boy was I missing out.
Sweet summer corn is delicious with a bit of butter and salt, no doubt, but there’s nothing like this classic grilled corn dish, topped with mayo, fresh cohita cheese, chile and cayenne powder, and lime. Maybe toss in a bit of diced cilantro. Savory, tangy, and spicy, elote is like a hot summer day wrapped up into a single dish.
Pair with: Dry Riesling
Elote strikes so many flavor dimensions—acid, salt, spice, fat—so it needs a wine with just as many dimensions. Riesling is the answer, its bright acidity and ripe-tart fruit the perfect antidote to the jolt of heat and tang in this corn, but it is light and fresh enough not to overwhelm the delicious corn.
Sour Cherry Pie
Ice cream trucks are certainly part of the summer soundtrack, but there’s nothing more quintessentially American than homemade pie.
With the ripe sour cherries of the season, it’s the perfect time to strike that balance between sweet and sour in a juicy, delicious sour cherry pie—but nothing’s stopping you from running to that ice cream truck for a scoop to set on top!
Pair with: Brachetto d’Acqui
Lightly sparkling and rosé-hued, this sweet wine is balanced with bright acidity, making it refreshing, rather than cloying—just the thing for summer desserts. Floral, cherry, and strawberry flavors marry well with the sour cherries in this pie, and the low alcohol won’t overwhelm the dessert’s tangy balance.