Salad tostada

Photo: Erin Kunkel

A Dinner Salad You'll Want to Serve with Margaritas
This refreshed version of the ubiquitous taco salad consists of lean chicken and chopped vegetables piled high on a crispy tortilla. The abundance of mix-ins makes it feel special, and perfectly appropriate for a casual gathering. Although the recipe suggests frying tortillas to make your own chips, no one will bat an eye if you spoon the chicken salad over large handfuls of good-quality corn tortilla chips.

Get the recipe: Chicken Tostada Salad

Photo: Marcus Nilsson

The Most Fun Way to Eat Shrimp
Okay, this dish involves cooking shrimp for two minutes per side. Beyond that, though, there's absolutely no cooking; and four minutes total over the stove is worth it for such a summery, crowd-pleasing dish. You marinate the shellfish in piri piri—a fiery Mozambican sauce of garlic, cilantro and chili—before sautéing and wrapping them in bibb lettuce leaves that guests can eat with their hands.

Get the recipe: Shrimp Piri Piri
Bread salad

Photo: Coral von Zumwalt

The Saturday Night Panzanella
Fans of the tomato-basil pairing (and who isn't one when both are at peak freshness?) should try this stepped-up version: a combination of the two with shallots, garlic and a generous splash of high-quality gin. Broken up pieces of toasted pumpernickel bread add texture and help soak up the dressing. (You can get the bread crispy in a toaster if you're dead set against turning your oven to its lowest temp.)

Get the recipe: Heirloom Tomatoes with Gin, Juniper, Basil and Black Bread

The Gazpacho No One Will Expect
This striking soup is guaranteed to pique everyone's interest since it looks nothing like a traditional gazpacho. One taste, though, and the fresh tomato flavor will jump right out, with a tangy undertone thanks to a generous amount of cool, creamy, plain yogurt. It's easy to make, too (have a knife, a strainer and a refrigerator?— you're set.). Serve the soup cold, with an antipasto on the side, and you've got a fabulous summer meal.

Get the recipe: White Gazpacho Cold Soup
Open-Faced Tomato Sandwiches with Basil Mayonnaise and Bacon

Photo: Anna Williams

An Open-Faced BLT with a Twist
Somehow, a sandwich without a lid feels more dinner-party-appropriate. Add an herby mayonnaise and perfectly ripe summer tomatoes, and you've got an easygoing yet brilliant meal. You can cook the bacon in the microwave, which will keep your kitchen cool, by laying the slices on a paper-towel-lined plate, covering them with more paper towels and cooking for about five minutes.

Get the recipe: Open-Faced Tomato Sandwiches with Basil Mayonnaise and Bacon