Fresh summer produce is ripe for salads and smoothies

Closeup of a bowl filled with greens, sliced radishes and flower petals in a salad.
The market greens salad at Selva in Long Beach.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

You probably don’t need a calendar to prove that summer is officially in full swing. If the extraordinarily high temperatures don’t give it away, the abundance of fresh produce in grocery stores and farmers markets and on menus likely does. My refrigerator is bulging with melons, stone fruits, eggplant, zucchini, beets and leafy greens. Tomatoes line my countertops (refrigeration makes them mealy and dampens their flavor). And the last thing I want to do in this heat is turn on the oven. Clearly, it is salad season, and this week I both ate and wrote about a lot of salads, particularly the 10 most popular ones in our recipe database. You can read about them here.

I’m Julie Giuffrida, Times Test Kitchen coordinator, and I am filling in for Ben Mims this week while he is away on vacation. Before Ben departed, he wrote of his nostalgia for Greek food and left us with a wonderful recipe for Greek-ish grilled chicken that is full of Greek flavors like oregano and red wine vinegar, and is extremely low-effort to prepare.

Columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson enjoyed summer’s bounty this week in smoothie form, sampling Hailey Bieber’s $17 Strawberry Glaze Skin Smoothie and every other smoothie at Erewhon (prices for the others range from $11 to $21). Peterson concedes that the Strawberry Glaze Skin Smoothie tasted very good, but between us, $17 — or even $11 — for a smoothie is not in my budget. If it’s not in yours, either, you may want to check out some of these recipes for smoothies and what I’ll call smoothie friends and family.

Christian Reynoso’s Date, Banana and Almond Smoothie tastes very much like the Coachella Valley date shake that inspired it. It drinks like a milkshake with a little added texture, but it is 100% plant-based. Also a bit milky-looking but entirely dairy-free is Donna Deane’s Mango Smoothie. It’s like drinking a mango laced with mint, the flavors brightened with a hint of lime juice. Make it vegan by subbing agave for the honey.

Here in the United States, we tend to consider avocado a vegetable, slicing it into salads, sandwiches and omelets. In the Philippines, however, avocado is treated as the fruit that it is. Although Barbara Hansen calls this drink an Avocado Shake, I say it qualifies as a smoothie. After all, what is a smoothie but pureed fruit with a few add-ins? Though those add-ins may include dairy, shakes — short for milkshakes — usually are dairy-based, include ice cream and do not, by definition, include the fruit and vegetables that characterize smoothies.

Horchata, technically an agua fresca, is in my mind a smoothie’s cousin. Like Bolognese sauce, horchata recipes vary from village to village and household to household. Mexican versions typically are made from a base of pureed rice and garnished with fruits, nuts and spices. For more on horchata, check out Ariel Johnson’s horchata primer.

I may be pushing the envelope a bit here, but I think Peach Sangria Popsicles also qualify as smoothies. Although served frozen and on a stick rather than with a straw, they meet the basic qualifications: pureed fruit or vegetables with add-ins. OK, so they are frozen smoothies. And, yes, one of the add-ins is alcoholic. So, let’s call them adult frozen smoothies.

So if you’re wondering what to cook this week, I say don’t cook at all. Slice, dice and puree to beat the summer heat and relish the fruits of summer.


Mango Smoothie

At this time of year, I find I’m fed up with rich food — oatmeal tastes great for breakfast, I crave vegetable juice, and I want to add more soy to my diet. This quick breakfast drink is based on soy milk.
Get the recipe.
Cooking time: 10 minutes.

Mango smoothie
(Ken Hively/LA Times)

Date, Banana and Almond Smoothie

Somewhat inspired by the classic date shake you’ll find in the Coachella Valley, this smoothie may be the answer to “Can I please just have a milkshake every day?” This drink has a little texture, with some dates and almonds pulsed in so the smoothie is speckled with chewy bits of date and crunchy raw almonds. If you prefer a completely smooth texture, then blend all the dates and almonds into the smoothie at the beginning.
Get the recipe.
Cooking time: 5 minutes.

Greek-ish Grilled Half-Chickens

This half-chicken is marinated in a creamy dressing of oil, red wine vinegar, dried oregano and lots of garlic and lemon zest. The egg helps the marinade cling to the chicken while grilling so its flavorings penetrate the chicken deeply.
Get the recipe.
Cooking time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

Closeup of an oblong pink plate on a table with blue and gold cloths. Cooked chicken sits atop French fries.
Greek-ish Grilled Half-Chicken.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Avocado Shake

Although thought of as a salad or guacamole ingredient in the United States, the avocado is treated as a fruit in the Philippines. There it is turned into ice cream, spooned into a bowl with milk and sugar or pureed into a shake.
Get the recipe.
Cooking time: 5 minutes.


Grilled Avocado With Marinated Tomato Salad

Grilled avocado halves are topped with cherry tomatoes marinated in a piquant vinaigrette of olive oil, dijon mustard and sherry vinegar, onion, basil, capers and garlic. The smoky creaminess of the grilled avocado balances the tang of the vinaigrette.
Get the recipe.
Cooking time: 25 minutes.

A salad with halved avocados and sliced grape tomatoes.
Grilled Avocado With Marinated Tomato Salad.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)


A perfect thirst quencher for hot weather and sometimes hotter cuisine, many people consider horchata the most refreshing agua fresca. It is a subtly flavored drink that is balanced, light-bodied and not overly sweet.
Get the recipe.
Cooking time: 20 minutes.

A plastic cup with a straw and spoon holds a drink with sliced melon and nuts.
(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Peach Sangria Popsicles

Because wine is typically lower in alcohol, a sangria popsicle is simple: Blend fresh fruit with a little wine and some sugar, pour the mixture into popsicle trays, add bits of fresh fruit and freeze.
Get the recipe.
Cooking time: 20 minutes.

A plastic container holds popsicles with sticks.
Peach Sangria popsicles
(Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)

Kale Pasta Salad With Parm and Smoked Almonds

This salad is a great repository for any leftover meat or vegetables you have chilling in the fridge. Instead of Parmesan, add the same amount of crumbled goat cheese or feta.
Get the recipe.
Cooking time: 20 minutes.

A bowl of salad with kale, cherry tomatoes, almonds and other vegetables.
Kale Pasta Salad With Parm and Almonds.
(Ben Mims / Los Angeles Times)