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a mix of fresh lettuces


Summer fruits and veggies in season now and how to use them in our favorite Southern recipes

Without a doubt, one of the best things about the summertime is all of the delicious fruits and vegetables it brings. From juicy watermelon to hearty zucchini, this season is absolutely one of my favorites. 

Mother Nature is the world's finest chef. She makes sure that anything we're craving in any given season is available. For the soaring temperatures of the Summer, that means fruits that are both refreshing but hardy enough to hold their own on a grill. For vegetables it means things that can be cooked outside, quickly, without too much laboring over a hot stove. Summer also happens to be my favorite time of year to frequent farmer's markets. I love visiting different stalls and seeing what hard working farmers are able to bring to the marketplace. 

If you happen to like shopping at farmer's markets too, you might have noticed tables full of fresh corn, peppers, melons and blueberries. It can be overwhelming especially when you're thinking about how to eat everything before it spoils. Thankfully, using this guide, learn all about not only what's currently in season, but which recipes will make sure you're using this Summer's bounty in the best possible way. 


Rigatoni with Peas and Bacon
This easy pasta dish is hearty and ready to serve in under 45 minutes. Between the sweet green peas and earthy arugula, this easy pasta dish screams Summer. If you’re making this dish when fresh peas are at their peak, make sure to use them. If, however, you can’t find ultra-fresh peas, feel free to use frozen. Instead of blanching them ahead of time, add the frozen peas directly to the boiling pasta about one minute before it finishes cooking.
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Grilled Shrimp and Peach Salad
A one-dish meal like this one doesn’t have to mean boring, especially when the salad is brightened by the addition of grilled fruit, in this case peaches. Grilled shrimp can stand up to an assertive green like arugula and sweet and juicy grilled peaches are the perfect counterpart to a tangy blue cheese. Putting the shrimp on skewers makes them easy to cook, but they also can be cooked individually on the grill if you prefer.
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Chicken Confit with Arugula Salad
Confit literally meaning “cooked in fat,” and is a preservation method that works by curing food in salt, then cooking it low and slow until tender. It can be a great way to infuse added flavors, such as citrus, garlic and herbs, into foods. And while duck legs are most traditional, we really like to confit whole, bone-in chicken thighs. This ultra-tender and flavorful meat makes a great topping to an arugula salad.
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Roasted Asparagus with Brie and Croutons
Perfect as an appetizer, side dish or a warm salad, this dish pairs creamy Brie and ever-so-slightly bitter asparagus. When blanching any green vegetable, make sure the water is rapidly boiling before adding the salt and vegetables and work in batches to maintain the constant boil of the water. You’ll also want to make sure that your blanching water is as salty as the ocean to season the asparagus and help preserve its vibrant green color. Properly blanched vegetables should have a good bite with no discernable crunch.
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Cast Iron Seared Asparagus with Lemon Tarragon Mayonnaise
We prefer standard or jumbo asparagus for this preparation, as they remain sturdy throughout the cooking process. If you’re using large asparagus, we recommend peeling the asparagus to remove some of the fibrous outer skin. If you’re using pencil asparagus, there is no need to peel them. We prefer Duke’s mayonnaise in this and all other mayonnaise recipes.
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Grilled Asparagus with Country Ham and Mustard Vinaigrette
Bitter asparagus and salty country ham are a match made in heaven. Having mustard as the dominant flavor in the vinaigrette limits the sweetness in the dish, keeping the asparagus in check. You can either serve the salad while the asparagus is still warm or refrigerate the asparagus after cooking and serve chilled.
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Grilled Mexican Street Corn
Popular in Mexico City, this grilled corn on the cob gets its richness from a coating of mayonnaise, which is then used to affix salty cotija cheese to the surface. This is a fantastic side dish, but you could also follow the same recipe, cut the kernels from the cob, toss all the ingredients together in a bowl and use the resulting “salad” as a topping for hot dogs or tacos. Cotija cheese is a slightly aged Mexican cheese with a similar flavor to a young Parmesan. If you cannot find cotija, substitute queso fresco or, in a pinch, feta, instead.
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Corn Souffle
Corn is easily one of the most diverse veggies on this whole list. It can be served both sweet or savory and in this case, with a good amount of heavy cream to add some fluff. While it may be loaded with heavy cream and eggs, it feels light on the tongue. Its sweet-saltiness compels you to take just one more bite. 
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Sweet Corn and Zucchini Pie
This one dish marries together some of the best vegetables to come out of the Summer: sweet corn and zucchini. The dried herbs perfectly compliment the mildness of the summer squash while the corn and Vidalia onions add a sweet and crunchy note. Add cream cheese and cheddar cheese, and you’ve got yourself a comforting and bright bite. Here in the South, we like to cover our vegetables in cheese and we don’t like to be judged for it.
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Blueberry Compote
This blueberry compote recipe is incredibly versatile, and it can serve as a delicious accompaniment to everything from pancakes to ice cream, and even game meats. Since there’s a substantial amount of sugar in the recipe, there’s no need to exclusively use fresh blueberries; frozen should work just fine but since they are in season, why not?
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Buttermilk Blueberry Swirl Ice Cream
Using buttermilk in place of whole milk when making ice cream adds a lemony tang that pairs beautifully with blueberries. While making the custard, it’s important to keep whisking the dairy mixture constantly so the buttermilk never separates from the cream. Make sure the ice cream base has cooled completely before churning.
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Blueberry Lavender Peach Pie
Now is the time to jump on this pie recipe, while peaches are still at the market in their giant, juicy, free-stone glory. If making your own pie dough is too cumbersome, you can substitute for store bought frozen pie crust. Just make sure to follow instructions for preparation, starting on step 3.
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Stuffed French Toast with Strawberries
Take french but make it fashion, or summery. This traditional breakfast dish is made a whole lot better with the addition of fresh, tart berries (the whipped cream doesn't hurt either). For crispier French toast, use day-old bread or leave the sliced bread on the counter overnight to become stale.
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Strawberry-Spinach Salad With Pecans and Blue Cheese
When we don’t feel like turning on our stoves, a whole-meal salad like this one is our favorite choice. We especially like the combination of fruit, complementary greens, tangy cheese and crunchy nuts. Don’t like blue cheese? Try feta instead.
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Frozen Strawberry Margaritas
Two words: strawberries and tequila. What more could you possibly want? With this recipe it's best to use frozen strawberries in order to avoid adding ice (you want a strong cocktail right?). However, if you find yourself with some fresh strawberries that are about to go bad, freeze them and throw em' in a margarita. 
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Ryan Shepard is the editor-in-chief at Southern Kitchen. Though originally from Los Angeles, she has lived in Atlanta since early 2017 and cannot imagine calling any other city home (except maybe New Orleans). Before joining Southern Kitchen's staff, Ryan worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on public policy issues. When she's not at work, she enjoys hunting down the best Mexican food in the city and drinking whiskey, obviously.