For the unofficial start of summer, these dishes with fresh, bold flavors give you plenty of time to spend with friends and family on Memorial Day, which falls on May 29 — and won’t leave you stuck in the kitchen while everyone else is having fun. Many of the recipes are meant to be prepared ahead and simply set out, while others are best grilled as you chat with guests.
1. Classic Potato Salad
No summer event is complete without potato salad, and this one, which came from the chef Millie Peartree’s mother, Millie Bell, is especially excellent. Sweet relish and mustard add a zip against the fork-tender potatoes. Served cold, it’s the perfect counterpoint to warming days.
Recipe: Classic Potato Salad
2. Shrimp a la Plancha
A melding of two Spanish tapas — head-on shrimp cooked on a plancha, and camarones al ajillo (sizzled garlic shrimp) — this recipe from Steven Raichlen brings out the best in the crustaceans, searing them against hot metal so that the edges roast up sweet and crisp. Skip the flambéing if it makes you feel nervous. It’ll all still be delicious.
Recipe: Shrimp a la Plancha
3. Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
This stunner from Millie Peartree bursts with the tang of pineapple caramelized in buttery brown sugar. Made from a simple batter that uses both milk and thick Greek yogurt, the cake is simultaneously sturdy and light, perfect for toting anywhere and enjoying after a big meal.
Recipe: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
The best part of a stellar margarita is how it comes together so easily. This classic version, from Rosie Schaap, shakes together just tequila, lime juice and triple sec, for a refreshing and welcome beverage to pair alongside grilled meats. (If you’re abstaining, Gabriella Lewis’s limonada and Zainab Shah’s nimbu pani hit similar sweet-sour notes without the alcohol.)
5. Savory Fruit Salad
A cloyingly sweet fruit salad this is not. Instead, Kay Chun pairs fresh fennel with honey and citrus for something that’s refreshing, surprising and generous: You can use any fruit you like, and let it sit for hours. It’ll only improve with time.
Recipe: Savory Fruit Salad
6. Tajín Grilled Chicken
For a spicier spin on classic barbecued chicken, try this dish from Rick Martinez. Sauced with a sweetened chipotle blend, the chicken develops a smoky char. His version calls for quick-cooking boneless chicken thighs, but you can apply the glaze to any cut and grill accordingly.
Recipe: Tajín Grilled Chicken
7. Browned-Butter Rhubarb Crisp
Rhubarb’s short season is here, and the tart stalks stars in this easy dessert, rich with butter and almonds, from Yossy Arefi. (Try this recipe if you prefer pecans.) To make it taste really special, top it with homemade ice cream, using Melissa Clark’s delicious formula.
Recipe: Browned-Butter Rhubarb Crisp
8. Broccoli Salad
Hetty McKinnon turns quick-pickled red onion and raisins into a vinaigrette to take the place of the usual mayonnaise dressing. It gives the blend of broccoli, fruit and almonds extra zing and means the salad can be made a whole day ahead of time and sit out on hot days.
Recipe: Broccoli Salad
9. Reverse-Seared Steak
It can be tricky to nail the timing on steak when you have a crowd coming over. Steven Raichlen shows us the foolproof way to perfect steak (which includes how to prepare it ahead!) with reverse-searing on the grill. If you’re cooking indoors, you can oven-roast tri-tip instead.
Recipe: Reverse-Seared Steak
Another classic, this one is from Kay Chun, who keeps it simple with an easy-to-assemble dressing enhanced by celery seeds. Make it ahead, so you can enjoy the day, and consider any leftovers a gift, ready to dress tacos and hot dogs or serve as a side.
11. Double Strawberry Shortcakes
These shortcakes, from Melissa Clark, put strawberries in the filling and the biscuit batter for ultimate flavor. Macerating the berries — tossing them with sugar until their excess liquid drains — is an extra step, but keeps the shortcakes from getting soggy.
Recipe: Double Strawberry Shortcakes
12. Grilled Hamburgers
Sam Sifton gives us the formula for thick patties charred outdoors and offers the pleasures of indoor-griddled smash burgers. For a combination of the two, you can try J. Kenji López-Alt’s thin-but-juicy chargrilled burgers. (Or, if you prefer a vegetarian option, Melissa Clark’s ultimate veggie burgers can’t be beat.)
Recipe: Grilled Hamburgers
13. Walnut Picadillo
If you want a meatless main dish, you’ll love this hearty one from Jocelyn Ramirez. Nuts and potatoes are paired with the traditional bold blend of tomato, onion, garlic, olives and capers, and the flavors only deepen over time. You can make it ahead, then reheat to stuff into tortillas or serve with cilantro rice.
Recipe: Walnut Picadillo
14. Pasta Salad
Packed with tomatoes, olives, salami and those little balls of mozzarella, this pasta salad from Melissa Clark is anything but boring. Every bite gives way to layers of texture and flavor. Serve it warm or from the fridge, but do serve it the same day when the flavors are brightest.
Recipe: Pasta Salad
15. Lemon Bundt Cake
Designed for lemon lovers, this cake-for-a-crowd from Yossy Arefi combines zest and bits of fruit in the batter, and uses the juice to make a crackly glaze. It’s as perfect at the end of a big dinner as it is set out for brunch.
Recipe: Lemon Bundt Cake
16. Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork
Nothing is simpler — or more satisfying — than making a huge heap of pulled pork for guests to pile into soft rolls and top with coleslaw. This recipe from Margaux Laskey is all that and more: The slow cooker is especially convenient, but you can use the grill or a pressure cooker, too. Set out a side of classic potato salad to make it a party.
Recipe: Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork
17. Root Beer Rickey
This whiskey spritz, which Ali Slagle adapted from the bartender Jim Meehan, is refreshing with lime and a little spicy from root beer, and tastes great with anything barbecued. Set up a D.I.Y. bar with the three ingredients and lots of ice.
Recipe: Root Beer Rickey
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