The sun is shining and the heat is rising – looks like summer is (almost) here! If you’re getting ready for those backyard meals, outdoor picnics and potlucks, here are some easy recipes to get your kitchen skills rolling. No worries if you don’t/can’t cook, these are super easy and contain shortcuts!

You’ll notice that I mention fresh herbs in some of these recipes. I’ve recently started planting herbs in my family garden! Hooray for fresh chives, basil and mint! So yummy and so much cheaper than buying them at the store!

Egg Sandwich
6 servings

  • 7 hard boiled eggs
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise (I use Japanese Kewpie Mayonnaise, which has more flavor than the American kind)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp curry powder (I like to use the Japanese S&B brand that comes in a small tin)
  • Sprinkle of white pepper
  • Bread of your choice

These are so simple, and so yummy (as long as you like eggs) for tea time and outdoor picnics. Just hard boil some eggs, cool them, take off the shells and put them in a bowl. Take a small knife and start slicing the eggs every which way in the bowl so that you have small chunks. Add all of the condiments and mix! Spread onto your favorite bread (I use white bread or pita bread) and enjoy.

The curry powder is great for getting rid of that boiled egg smell, and gives great flavor! Add more spices (or less) to your taste. To get fancy, you can think about adding some of your favorite herbs and some veggies – think fresh chives, finely chopped onions and celery.

Cucumber Salad
4 servings

I was watching Jacques Pepin on TV the other day, and he was making a cucumber salad. I didn’t follow his recipe exactly, but still loved the result. I recommend trying sour cream instead of yogurt (which is the only thing I had in my fridge)! The directions for this are simple (it is a salad, afterall), just chop, mix and serve.

  • 4 persian cucumbers, chopped into small (1-2 cm cubes)
  • A large spoonful of yogurt/sour cream
  • A handful of fresh mint, chopped
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: one clove of finely minced garlic

Mock Paella
4-8 servings, depending on whether it’s a main or side dish.

This recipe takes more time, but is still very easy and delicious! It would do well in a backyard gathering where you can still use your home kitchen and serve the dish hot. It’s not a true Spanish paella – I like to think of it as a make-it-at-home version. As with all the food I make (and cooking in general), you can tailor this to your tastes and mix and match the ingredients!

  • Optional: saffron
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, minced
  • 5 cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 spicy sausages, cut in 1-inch chunks (this takes the place of Spanish chorizo. I just threw in the spicy sausages from Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 cups rice (I use Japanese rice)
  • 2 ⅛ cups chicken stock
  • 1-2 tomatoes, diced
  • 12 pieces of shrimp, deveined, shell on (you could also add mussels, clams, chicken)
  • Handful of frozen peas
  • Salt, pepper

Before getting started, take about a teaspoon of the saffron, crush it (I used a mortar and pestle) and sprinkle it into the chicken stock. This will allow the flavor and color of the saffron to come out. Saffron is pricey, though, so if you want to skip this step it’s totally okay. Your meal will still be scrumptious.

In a large, flat pan, heat some oil and toss in your garlic for a few seconds until you smell that garlicky goodness. Toss in your mushrooms until they darken. If you like your onions to be cooked soft, start sautéeing your onions now. Add salt and some pepper. If you prefer them to retain some texture, wait until after the sausage is mostly cooked through to add your onions. Add the spicy sausage chunks, and keep sauteing until it’s mostly done. A little pink is fine, you still have about 25-30 minutes of cooking to do.

Once your sausage, onions, garlic and mushrooms are golden, giving off nice aromas and you’re starting to get hungry, throw in the rice. Sautée for 1-2 minutes at which point you should add the diced tomatoes, and crush them into your mixture. Add the saffron broth over the rice, meat and veggies. Use your wooden spatula (or whatever you’ve been using so far to sautée) to even out the mixture to ensure that the rice cooks evenly. Wait until the pot is bubbling, and then lower the heat. Cover the pot.

Now wait for 10 minutes. Obviously, check if anything’s burning but you should really just wait patiently during these 10 minutes. Rice likes patience.
After these ten minutes have passed, you should lift the lid, quickly sprinkle the frozen peas over your rice and arrange the shrimp pieces artfully. Cover the pot again. Wait 10 minutes.

Check to see that the shrimp is done and the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. If it all looks good, crank up the heat to high for just one minute (to get a nice slightly-burned, crunchy bottom) and then turn off heat. You’re done! Ready to serve!