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Effortless Summer Dishes I've Been Cooking Lately

Summer is the season of no-fuss cooking.

I was reminded of this idea when my husband and I lucked upon a spontaneous lunch at Foster's Market in Durham, North Carolina. I had always known about Foster's because of the owner, Sara Foster, legendary caterer of Martha Stewart fame. Foster's Market and Gourmet Grocery has been an institution here since the 1990s, yet somehow it's taken me all this time to get there. I'm a bit sad about that, but now I know.

Nestled in an old lawn mower repair shop, Foster's has a "coming home" feeling. Perhaps it's the wide wood plank floors and rustic handwritten signs. Or maybe it's because of the communal large tables with a diverse mixture of people - from Duke University professors to young families or professional hipsters. In Foster's sweet atmosphere, everyone feels at home.

As you can imagine, the food is the best part. Following their homestyle vibe, their menu features all the things your mom or grandma might have made for you, with a touch of gourmet flair. Humble yet delicious foods are the mainstay --- things like tuna salad, homestyle omelets, posh grilled cheese sandwiches, and herby biscuits. The best foods do that for you - they are timeless, effortless, and sing of things we have always known.

With effortlessness as my inspiration, here are a few things I've loved sharing this summer that are easy as they are beautiful. Click on each item for the full recipe.

This salad is such a pretty little thing. Chop and prepare everything ahead and when you are ready, bring it out for the "ta-da effect." The blended strawberry dressing adds a next-level dimension but is hardly any work. You can sub in any summer berry for whatever is in season.

I made this for a recent bridal shower and it always receives lots of "oohs" and "aahs." You can assemble all of it the night before and bake for morning adoration for your family and friends. The raspberries make it feel extra special, but I also add blueberries for more texture. This Ina Garten recipe has a puffy golden "wow effect" and perfect for a special summery breakfast treat.

My Husband's Favorite Tuna Salad/Tuna Melt

My husband could eat tuna salad every day of his life and be the happiest man alive. Mostly because it reminds him of his childhood and the homestyle meals he loved growing up. If I'm feeling extra jazzy, I add the step of making it into a tuna melt. In truth, you can make this meal with three ingredients - tuna, mayo, and bread. If you are not a tuna fan, swap in a can of cooked chicken or chickpeas. For extra snazzy factor, throw in some summery herbs, spices, or cheeses. When I make the tuna melts, I sprinkle a little smoky Paprika on top for a little color. This meal is a weekly staple in our home and my husband thinks I'm the bee's knees when I make it.

What I love about this salad is it is customizable to whatever veggies you have in your fridge. You can also purchase the bagged salad slaws to make it even simpler. I like to assemble all of it and then pour the warm peanut dressing over it right before I serve it. You can serve it chilled or warm. It tastes better the next day as all the flavors combine nicely. Spice it up or down, use fresh ingredients or jarred - it's flexible and easy, just like all things should be in the summer.

A coconut dish sounds like the perfect meal for summer. What's neat about this recipe is most of it comes from what you probably already have in your pantry. I love to buy ready rice pouches to pop into the microwave to make it super simple. Add extra oomph to this dish with fresh lime or more greens like baby spinach, basil, or chives. If you're not a chickpea fan, sub in cubed chicken or tofu. If I don't feel like cooking at all, sometimes I dump a jar of good curry sauce over a can of chickpeas and warm it in the slow cooker. Simple, healthy, and insanely effortless.

What About You? What Effortless Things Do You Love in the Summer?

If you can't visit Foster's Market, you can still enjoy their food by checking out their 25th anniversary Foster's Market Favorites Cookbook. I found a copy at my local library that I've enjoyed trying out this summer. All the recipes are just like visiting Foster's - lovely, effortless, and a hug from your gourmet grandma. May all your summer meals remind you of the beauty of simplicity and coming home.


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Jul 11


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