Easy, Breezy Summer Menu

Whether it's your 4th of July BBQ or a family reunion at the park, this no-fuss menu highlights summer's best flavors

Heirloom-Tomato-Mozzarella-SaladOne perfect hamburger recipe. Check. One versatile salad dish. Check. One crowd-pleasing dessert. Check. Believe it or not, these dishes are all you need to create a memorable backyard cookout or summer picnic. To round out your meal, simply add a few other barbecue staples, such as beverages and snacks of your choice, a raw veggie tray, corn on the cob, and potato salad.

A foolproof way to create great- tasting summer meals is to focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients. “Foods that are in season have the most flavor, most nutrition, and are the least expensive—win-win-win!” says Chef Nathan Lyon, the host of Good Food America (on Veria Living) and co-host of Growing a Greener World (on PBS). “The best part about cooking in the warm summer months is that all of the great produce on offer, namely fruit, is best prepared in salads, cold soups, juices, smoothies, etc., so there’s no need to sweat in the kitchen.”

Here, Lyon shares two crowd-pleasing recipes that capture the essence and flavors of summer, not to mention feature local, seasonal ingredients. Both are excerpted from his book Great Food Starts Fresh.

Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

Serves 4–6
This simple-to-prepare salad adds a sophisticated touch to any summer menu. Use organic ingredients whenever possible.


1 medium shallot, peeled and finely chopped (3 Tbs.)

2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbs. red wine vinegar

5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil


1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

10 medium-sized fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled, and sliced very thinly, divided

1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, picked and chopped roughly, divided

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 (8-oz.) container fresh mozzarella cheese, drained and sliced thinly

3 large heirloom tomatoes, cored and sliced into medium-sized wedges

  1. In medium container with tight-fitting lid, combine vinaigrette ingredients. Close lid tightly, and shake well to combine. Or, whisk ingredients in medium-sized bowl to combine.
  2. Place cherry tomatoes, half of basil, and half of parsley in medium bowl. Combine gently with half the vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. To serve, divide mozzarella among serving plates, and top with sliced heirloom tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Top with cherry tomato mixture. Sprinkle remaining basil and parsley over each plate, and drizzle with additional vinaigrette to taste.

per serving: 296 cal; 9g pro; 25g total fat (8g sat fat); 9g carb; 37mg chol; 41mg sod; 2g fiber; 6g sugars

Grilled-Hamburger-Tomato-Mostarda-ArugulaGrilled Hamburger with Tomato Mostarda, Arugula, and Blue Cheese

Makes 6 burgers
If you don’t like blue cheese, Lyon suggests trying this recipe with aged cheddar. Use organic, grass-fed beef if possible.

1½ lbs. ground beef (chuck), 82% lean

1 medium shallot, peeled and finely chopped (3 Tbs.)

1 tsp. kosher salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

4 oz. crumbled blue cheese, divided

2 oz. arugula, rinsed and dried

6 hamburger buns

1 recipe homemade tomato mostarda (see right)

  1. Heat grill to medium-high. Once hot, clean grill, then, using tongs, lightly dip a cloth in olive oil and wipe to coat grill rack.
  2. In large bowl, gently mix to combine meat, shallot, salt, and pepper. Do not overmix. Form into 6 patties; using your thumb or the back of a tablespoon, gently press into the middle of each burger. This small indentation will ensure that the center doesn’t puff up as the burger cooks.
  3. For medium-rare burgers: Grill patties 3 minutes on one side, with grill lid closed, until nicely colored. Flip patties, close lid, and cook 3 minutes more on the second side. Transfer to sheet pan to rest. (Adjust cooking times per side for desired doneness.)
  4. While burgers are resting, place hamburger buns face down on grill until lightly toasted. Assemble burgers, adding mostarda, cheese, and arugula to taste.

per burger (with Mostarda): 483 cal; 30g pro; 21g total fat (9g sat fat); 42g carb; 84mg chol; 1628mg sod; 3g fiber; 19g sugars

Tomato Mostarda

Makes 1½ cups
After trying Chef Lyon’s Tomato Mostarda, you may never want ketchup again. “It’s that good,” he says.

2 lbs. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

½ cup red wine vinegar, plus more to taste

2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

½ cup granulated sugar

3 Tbs. tomato paste

2 Tbs. whole-grain Dijon mustard

3 dried bay leaves

  1. Put tomatoes, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar, tomato paste, and mustard in food processor, and pulse until tomatoes are broken down.
  2. Transfer the contents to large saucepan, add bay leaves, and bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.
  3. After 30 minutes, begin stirring more frequently until mostarda thickens and very little liquid remains, approximately 15 minutes more.
  4. Remove from heat, and take out bay leaves. Taste, and add more vinegar and/or salt and pepper, if desired. Mixture should taste bright, sweet, and vibrant, like ketchup.
  5. Allow to cool before serving. Store remainder in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Allergen-Free Cookies for Dessert

Whether following a gluten-free, dairyfree, and/or vegan diet, these crunchy cookies offer something for everyone no matter their food restrictions—they are made without gluten and dairy, and are also 100 percent vegan. The rich chocolate flavor pairs extremely well with the pistachios and orange.

Pistachio-Orange-Dark-Chocolate-CookiesPistachio Crusted Orange and Dark Chocolate Cookies

Makes 48 cookies
Don’t have coconut sugar? Use granulated sugar for equally yummy cookies. Recipe excerpted with permission from The Gluten-Free Revolution: A Balanced Guide to a Gluten-Free Lifestyle through Healthy Recipes, Green Smoothies, Yoga, Pilates, and Easy Desserts! by Caroline Shannon-Karasik (Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2014).

1 flaxseed egg (1 Tbs. flaxseed meal plus 3 Tbs. warm water)

1 cup coconut sugar

Zest and juice of 1 medium orange

1 cup vegan butter substitute

1½ cups almond meal

1 cup white rice flour

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 cup vegan chocolate chips

¼ cup unsweetened dairy-free milk (e.g., almond, coconut, hemp)

1/3 cup unsalted pistachios, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment paper or baking mats. Set aside.
  2. Combine flaxseed meal and warm water in small bowl, then set aside.
  3. Add coconut sugar, orange zest and juice, and vegan butter into medium bowl. Combine ingredients with mixer on medium speed. Add in flaxseed mixture, almond meal, white rice flour, sea salt, and baking powder, mixing again on medium speed until ingredients are just combined. Do not over-mix, or dough will become tough.
  4. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet. Freeze for 5 minutes. After removing from freezer, press center of each cookie with thumb, then place tray into oven. Bake 18–20 minutes, until golden brown.
  5. While cookies are baking, measure chocolate chips and dairy-free milk into small pot. Place over low heat, whisking constantly until mixture becomes smooth. Immediately remove from heat to avoid burning.
  6. After cookies have been removed from oven, drizzle chocolate over each, and sprinkle with crushed pistachios. Freeze to solidify chocolate before serving.

per cookie: 213 cal; 2g pro; 14g total fat (4g sat fat); 23g carb; 0mg chol; 136mg sod; 2g fiber; 13g sugars

Great-Food-Starts-Fresh-bookMore About Chef Nathan Lyon

Learn more about Chef Nathan Lyon at chefnathanlyon.com. There, you’ll find new recipes and other cooking tips, and you can also order a copy of Great Food Starts Fresh, which was named one of the top 10 cookbooks of 2012 by The Washington Post. The beautifully photographed recipes in Lyon’s book are organized into five seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter ... and chocolate!

Gluten-Free-Revolution-bookJoin the Gluten-Free Revolution

“My way of healthy living stems from the idea that there is not a one-size-fits-all prescription for achieving total wellness,” says Caroline Shannon-Karasik, author of The Gluten-Free Revolution and creator of the popular blog, The G-Spot Revolution. Her book reflects this core philosophy—that simple, whole foods are the foundation of a healthy, flexible diet. “I approach gluten-free living as an entire lifestyle and not simply a dietary change,” she adds. Her recipes, many of which are not just gluten-free but also vegan, nut-free, and/or soy-free, are designed to help people find delicious meals that work for them. Visit carolineshannon.com to learn more.


Want a gluten-free burger? Simply swap out regular hamburger buns for Udi’s Gluten Free Classic Hamburger
Buns (or another brand).

photography: Pornchai mittongtare prop Styling: robin turk | food Styling: Liesl maggiore

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