There's a certain point every year, typically late spring or early summer as the days grow longer and the temperatures spike, when I realize that I'm a little sick of my oven and the way that it causes my studio apartment to feel like a gigantic roasting dish. At that point, all I want to do is spend my time sitting in the sunshine, eating fresh fruit and crisp vegetables.
Weekends that had been spent egg-washing pastry dough and carefully stacking meaty lasagnas are replaced with lazy afternoons of grazing, texting around to see who has pool or lake access (with the obvious promise: "I'll bring snacks!").
Here are my current favorites in rotation, which have a lot going for them: they're all produce-forward, they can all be assembled in under 15 minutes, and they can be scaled up or down really easily in order either to feed a couple or a crowd.
Grilled Peaches with Whipped Cream and Mint
Use your grill for more than just meat this summer. Peaches are the ideal fruit to toss over the fire because after just a few minutes, their natural sugar begins to caramelize into a sweet, fruity syrup and their flesh becomes tender enough to slice through with a spoon.
You'll want to lightly brush your peaches — which have been cut in half, pit removed — with a neutral oil, like vegetable or canola, before placing them cut-side down over medium heat. Allow them to grill for 4 minutes, then flip to the skin side, allowing them to grill for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. The skin should just be starting to peel from the fruit when you remove them from the heat. (If you don't have access to a grill, don't sweat it! You can put the peaches on a sheet pan under a broiler for the same amount of time. The taste will be similar).
Top them with a generous — very generous — spoonful of whipped cream and some fresh mint leaves.
A note: You can get away with grilling under-ripe or just ripe peaches. In fact, this is preferable as the heat immediately softens them and you want to maintain a little bit of texture. The peaches you choose should be firm to the touch and free of noticeable soft spots or bruises. Freestone peaches are a good way to go.
Radishes with Butter and Flaky Salt
This combination is a pretty standard French snack or light lunch. As is the case with any of these simple dishes, you're going to want to seek out higher-quality ingredients. Trust me, it makes the difference between having a plate of spongy radishes with waxy butter and a crisp, peppery and creamy snack.
Thinly slice a bunch of French Breakfast radishes — a mandoline is a good tool to use for this step if your knife skills are a little shaky. Make sure to wash your radishes well; their skins can hold on to a fair amount of grit.
Plate them alongside 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter (try unsalted Beurre D'Isigny if you want to get a little fancy) and a small dish of good salt. Flaky sea salt is always a good choice, though I've been really digging coarsely ground pink Himalayan sea salt.
Simply top the radish slices with a little butter and a sprinkle of salt.
Blueberries with Sour Cream and Brown Sugar
I know that plain sour cream doesn't exactly sound like the building block for an indulgent snack, but hear me out. When combined with sweet blueberries and rich brown sugar, the creaminess and tartness of the sour cream serves as a tremendous balance.
For a single serving, place ½ cup of blueberries in a bowl. Top them with 2 tablespoons of full-fat sour cream (the low-fat options tend to get a little watery, and we're looking for something a little more full-bodied to stand up against the juice of the fruit). Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of dark brown sugar.
Feel free to experiment with different berries and sugars, too. Blackberries and raspberries are delicious additions, and I've really enjoyed experimenting with Bourbon Barrel Foods' Bourbon Smoked Sugar. It's raw sugar smoked with repurposed bourbon barrel staves, which leaves it with these rich oaky and caramel notes. It adds a lot of depth to this really simple dish.
Toast with Lemon-Herb Goat Cheese and Sugar Snap Peas
This is the most prep-intensive of these snack suggestions, simply because it actually requires you to briefly flip on the oven and blender — but I promise you it is totally worth it.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and roughly slice a loaf of hearty bread into 1-inch slices. I like a classic sourdough or cereal loaf. Arrange the slices onto a baking sheet and drizzle them with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Allow them to toast in the oven for about ten minutes total, flipping them halfway through.
Meanwhile, add 8 tablespoons of goat cheese, 4 tablespoons of roughly chopped chives, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the zest of one lemon to a blender. Pulse until the mixture is completely combined.
Remove the toast from the oven, slather them with the goat cheese mixture, and then top them with uncut sugar snap peas. Sprinkle with sea salt. The resulting bite is bright, creamy and herby with a nice green crunch from the pea pods.
Frozen Watermelon with Lime and Chili Powder
The night before you make this snack — which is reminiscent of the Mexican mangonada — cube up a cup of watermelon, place it into an airtight container and stash it in the freezer. The next day, it will be frozen and ready for toppings.
Place your cubed melon into a large bowl and top it with the juice of one lime. Stir to evenly coat the pieces, then reach for your sea salt. Add two to three tablespoons to the bowl, again stirring to make sure all the watermelon pieces are coated. Finally, sprinkle the watermelon with a light dusting of chili powder.
The frozen watermelon cubes absolutely pop in your mouth, while the lime and chili powder add a little spice and tartness to play off the fruit's sweetness. It's the kind of craveable summer snack that will keep you cool all season long.