Food & Drink

Our Favorite Summer Recipes of All Time

Why we return to make these dishes again and again

A collage: Fried okra sticks; a slice of cake; corn salad


The recipes we share come from chefs, mixologists, cookbook authors, and contributing writers across the South. We love them all, but here are a dozen seasonal recipes G&G editors have on repeat in our home kitchens all summer long.

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Simply the Best

illustration: JOHN BURGOYNE

I’ve written nearly one hundred “What’s in Season” columns for G&G over the last fifteen years, and Drew Robinson’s tomato pie is my favorite seasonal recipe we’ve printed, ever. I’ll get the controversial part out of the way: There’s no mayo in this tomato pie. But trust me, you won’t miss it. This version starring goat cheese, Dijon mustard, and basil is the perfect fresh spin, especially in sweltering summer temps. When our garden tomatoes are popping, we make several—one to freeze, a couple to share with friends and neighbors, and one to eat immediately (sometimes straight out of the pie dish). As Robinson told me back in 2013, “This recipe is an old-fashioned tomato pie with the lightness of a tomato salad.” In other words, summer eating at its best. —Jenny Everett, contributing editor

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A Gem from Julia 

illustration: MICHAEL WITTE

One of the many things I miss about my dear friend Julia Reed is her epic parties. The guests were always fun and eclectic, the settings festive, and the food divine. One of her go-to recipes, hot cheese olives, is now a staple at my own gatherings. The recipe uses a similar dough to cheese straws and adheres to one of Julia’s entertaining mantras: The food must be simple and good. As she wrote of her guests in the pages of G&G, “they never failed to chase the trays around.” —Dave DiBenedetto, editor in chief

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Smash Hit

photo: Andrew Thomas Lee

Pat Martin’s perfect smash cheeseburger isn’t complicated, but it’s full of clever tips to up your burger game. Who would’ve thought to start melting your cheese directly on the skillet, or to use two spatulas to achieve a superior smash? We love Martin’s method so much we bought a griddle for the grill so we could cook them up outside. —Elizabeth Florio, digital editor

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Tonic for What Ails You


DO make a batch of the frozen gin and tonics dreamed up by Garth Poe, the bar manager at Chattanooga’s Main Street Meats, on days when just walking to the mailbox requires a shirt change. DON’T skimp on the ice. The recipe says two cups, but add two more. Then two more. Go ahead and throw in one more. DO appreciate the lovely balance of the gin (I prefer Fords), citrus of the lime, and the florals of the twist ingredient—Lillet Blanc—as you sip or even spoon this icy snow cone of delight. DON’T absolutely slurp your serving down like you would a cool glass of lemonade unless you want to wake up in the next county. DO save leftovers in the freezer—a batch I mixed on a Friday made enough for treats all weekend. —Amanda Heckert, executive editor

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Worth the Squeeze

This is the painful truth: Not everyone is a cake person. So every year for my boyfriend’s birthday in May, I whip together this cold lemon icebox pie and stick in as many sparkling candles as I can. It’s a cute tradition, and if, like us, you’re a big fan of lemon desserts, you’ll enjoy the perfect punch of citrus balanced by the sweet handmade chantilly cream. It’ll stay in the freezer for a week…but between me, my boyfriend, and my roommate, it doesn’t survive more than a few days. Plus, I make extra whipped cream so I can spoon it out with ripe South Carolina strawberries—or just on its own—for a tasty treat. —Gabriela Gomez-Misserian, digital producer

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Nita’s corn salad: Some variation of this fresh, bright salad is on our dinner table many summer weeknights or served alongside weekend burgers. Sweet corn and summer tomatoes are the stars, but I go heavier on the cucumbers when they’re overflowing in the garden, and I often add in farmers’ market finds—zesty sliced radishes, spring onions, a handful of dill, or cooked butter beans. The takeaway I’ll never forget from this recipe: adding a splash of jarred pepper brine. I’ve experimented with my favorite Wickles Dirty Dill cornichon juice with spicy success. —CJ Lotz Diego, senior editor

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Okra Overhaul


Despite growing up in the “Home of the Okra Strut,” Irmo, South Carolina, I never developed a taste for the slimy seed pod. But one thing I like less than okra is wasting food, so when my CSA delivered pint after pint of it last summer, I turned to the G&G archives and happily discovered a few recipes that turned my distaste into anticipation for the next okra delivery. Meherwan Irani’s crispy okra fries are a perfect snackable antidote to the still-slimy and sort-of-soggy fried okra of my youth, and BJ Dennis’s sautéed shrimp and okra makes a flavor-packed meal out of the quintessential Southern side. —Julia Knetzer, art director 

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Puttin’ on the Spritz

photo: Johnny Autry

During the summer, I always crave cocktails that are light, fizzy, and not too boozy. Jenn Rice shares a few ideas for just those kinds of easy-sipping, low-alcohol beverages in her “Ultimate Guide to Porch Pounders.” Chilled white wine with a splash of club soda is my typical go-to, but two of my new favorites from her list include the slightly bitter Aperol spritz and the Hugo spritz, made with prosecco, soda, and St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur. Both are refreshing, citrusy, and perfect for a happy hour with friends. —Emily Daily, newsletter editor

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Triple Dip

photo: Johnny Autry

Summertime means ripe, fresh veg galore around here. Oftentimes, sliced garden-grown tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and basil find their place on the table; douse them in apple cider vinegar and olive oil, sprinkle some salt, and—voila—you’re done. But not so fast mon frère! Way back in 2013’s August/September issue I discovered thislemon Dijon zinger dressing. It’s the most refreshing taste-bud waker you’ll ever eat. It also doubles as a marinade for fish, and sometimes it’s just our favorite dipping sauce. I swear I’d rub it on my scalp if I thought it grew hair. G&G called it “a veggie’s best friend” back then. I call it trés magnifique! —Marshall McKinney, creative director

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More Okra Magic

photo: Johnny Autry

I learned to make the simplest fried okra from my mom: Just buttermilk, cornmeal, and salt, fried to perfection, and that’s still my family’s go-to summer side. But recently we all tried Jackson-based chef Hunter Evan’s matchstick-style take, featuring a mix of flour, cornmeal, garlic and onion powder, and cayenne. We had to admit he’s onto something: Due to a double coating, each piece comes out divinely crispy, and the spicy kick from the cayenne takes the whole experience up a notch—as does the chilled caper-filled remoulade. —Lindsey Liles, digital reporter 

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Cover Cake Chronicles

photo: Johnny Autry

While stuck at home in 2020, I spent the summer months baking different recipes from the pages of Garden & Gun and posting on Instagram, sometimes proposing a bake-off with our followers. One of my final feats was this beast of a cake from our August/September cover. It took two days and a lot of patience—and that was just to get the caramel right. Worth it? Absolutely. True to the article title, “Is This Caramel Cake with Pecans the Perfect Southern Dessert?” it is, in fact, one of the most delicious desserts I’ve ever tasted. These days, I make the cake for every birthday celebration I’m invited to. Pro tip: If you’re too busy (or impatient) to watch over a pot of a finicky caramel, store-bought is fine. —Ally Sloway, social media editor 

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