It’s a familiar Hollywood trope: Dad flipping burgers on the grill and Mom setting out platters of watermelon and her famous potato salad on picnic tables. While barbecue has become the hallmark of an all-American summer, in reality, the food doesn’t always turn out the way the movies make it look. Burgers are often overcooked, hot dogs become rubbery, and the macaroni salad can taste like pure mayonnaise.
Whether for a massive Fourth of July fireworks fiesta or a low-key backyard barbecue, your guests should be wowed by the options—not resigned to the same old boring and basic classics. Instead, bust out these six modern summer dishes for your next shindig. They’re no harder to pull off, but taste way better (and are healthier, too!).
The secret to these incredibly tender chicken kebabs is marinating the meat for up to six hours in a lemon-yogurt sauce infused with turmeric and garlic. Bright and slightly smoky, they make the perfect protein for a summertime feast.
For the plant-based eaters out there, toss homemade pizza crust topped with fresh zucchini, tomatoes, and arugula on the grill—it will have the same charred flavor as an authentic wood-fired oven. Just remember to prep the dough early in the day, since it requires about 90 minutes to rise.
Elotes—Mexican street corn topped with mayonnaise and cheese—taste downright irresistible, but they’re not exactly diet-friendly. Instead, try a healthified version featuring an avocado oil–based mayo, feta cheese, and plenty of cilantro and lime.
If you’ve only had raw romaine, you’re missing out. When placed on the grill, the outer leaves of the lettuce soften and char, while the inside stays crunchy. The slightly smoky hearts make a great simple salad when paired with an avocado-lime dressing, sliced hard-boiled eggs, and a little parmesan cheese.
Finish the meal with a grilled dessert, too. Juicy, caramelized peaches have just a hint of smokiness that makes them taste wonderful on their own, but you could also sweeten them up with a dollop of creamy yogurt and a drizzle of raw honey.
Photo credit: Paul Delmont