Summer is the season of garden fresh vegetables, picnics, impromptu barbecues, and al fresco dinners. Having your summer pantry well-stocked and ready to go makes the season all the easier.
Because, with produce at its peak, summer cooking doesn’t have to be complicated or involve time-consuming preparation. Keeping it simple and easy calls for just the right pantry staples to augment and highlight the best of the season’s offerings. Here are some suggestions you’ll want to reach for.
BBQ sauces are not just for barbecue, and can be used in place of ketchup for fries and burgers, or as a tasty sauce or dip for all kinds of meat and vegetables.
Olives, capers, and anchovies are the trio of ingredients behind the magical flavors of the Mediterranean, and when combined, are the makings of a traditional tapenade, the pungent spread served as an hors d’oeuvre on crostini, or on sandwiches, grilled chicken, and fish. The classic trio can also be combined with fresh herbs to make salsa verdes to spoon over grilled fish, vegetables, and meats; added to potato salads or deviled eggs; or used for quick pasta sauces such as spaghetti alla puttanesca.
Tahini, the creamy, rich sesame-seed paste essential to Middle Eastern cuisine, gives a nutty appeal to desserts and savory depth to soups, sauces, marinades, and dips. It’s our new favorite spread!
Dried beans are healthy, high-protein choices to have on hand for summer. Cooked and combined with colorful vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, corn, red onions, and herbs they make delicious vegetarian or vegan salads, perfect for packing up for your picnic.
In the heat of the summer, quick-cooking grains can help you avoid heating up the kitchen. Here are three staples you can prepare by quickly steaming ahead of time:
- Bulgur is a Middle Eastern staple made from wheat that’s been parboiled, dried, and cracked into nibbly bits. It is traditionally used to make tabblouleh but can be added to soups and salads to boost your weekly whole-grain quotient.
- Couscous has a rice-like appearance but is actually made of semolina and wheat flour that is steamed. It is a staple in North African cooking where it’s topped with a stew of fruits, vegetables, and meat, but it can also be used in soups and summery salads.
- Quinoa is a protein- and fiber-rich seed with a nutty flavor and satisfying texture. It is delicious cold in a salad, served warm as a side dish, or combined with vegetables and dairy to make a filling vegetarian main course.
Tip: To steam bulgur, couscous, or quinoa, bring three cups of water to a boil. Pour in 1 ½ cups of the grain, then cover and remove from the heat. Let the grain steep for 15 minutes until it has absorbed all the water and doubled in size. Fluff with a fork before serving. To store in refrigerator for up to a week, cool and cover grains.
Nuts such as pine nuts, walnuts, or pistachios are important ingredients for summer pestos. Whether made with basil, sage, parsley, arugula, or any other herb — our favorite green sauce always incorporates nuts.
Pasta salads packed with vegetables fresh from the garden are the perfect side dishes for any picnic or summer barbecue. The pasta you choose should have nooks and crannies to trap the salad dressing, herbs, and other flavorings — try fusilli or farfalle. For an especially thick sauce like pesto, tubed pastas like penne or rigatoni are good choices that have plenty of surface area to soak up the flavor.
Pickled vegetables are easy side dishes when you put together a picnic or cookout, or serve them as condiments to enhance a charcuterie platter.
Finishing salts add a delicious burst of color, flavor, and texture to grilled fish, meats, and vegetables, as well as cocktails and desserts. Some of our summer favorites include these SHED salt blends: Green Salt for roasted potatoes, fish, or chicken; Rosemary and Fennel Pollen Salt for lamb, pork loin, and other roasts; and Red Shiso Salt, perfect for bringing a fresh taste to a salad, melons, sashimi, and grilled fish.
Shrubs are delicious blends of fruit, sugar, and vinegar created during the Colonial Era to preserve fruit long past harvest. Blended with sparkling water, shrubs quench thirst, cleanse the palate, and refresh the spirit — perfect for summer. They’re also great mixers for cocktails!
Coconut oil has a higher burning point and longer shelf life than some other fats. As it is solid at room temperature, it can be used to bake, fry, and grease baking pans. It is a fantastic replacement for the butter or vegetable oil called for in recipes. It’s also useful in summer as lip balm, mosquito repellant, skin moisturizer, and conditioner for hair. Stock up!
Extra-virgin olive oil is a year-round staple. But an unrefined, cold-pressed sesame oil with a nutty nuance or a buttery avocado oil is just right for summer marinades, dressings for pasta salads, and light vinaigrettes.
Vinegars are indispensable for summer salads, so keep a variety of both for creative choices. Try a bold red wine vinegar for sautéed greens; subtle rice vinegar to whisk with sesame oil for steamed vegetables; and a splurge-worthy 15- or 20-year-old balsamic vinegar to drizzle over fresh strawberries, grilled figs, or juicy tomatoes.
Ready to stock up and get cooking? Shop Summer Pantry.