It’s finally time to clean off the grates, hit the farmers’ market and whip up a batch of sweet tea — grilling season is upon us! To get some ideas for our first cookouts and picnics of the year, we checked in with Trisha Yearwood, country music star and host of Trisha’s Southern Kitchen. Her easy, breezy gatherings are all about fresh, fuss-free dishes, Southern hospitality and fun. Find out her must-haves for a great summer party, her tips for using seasonal produce, what’s on her summer playlist and more.
What is your favorite food to cook on the grill and why?
Trisha: Sweet Georgia Vidalia onions — they get sweeter as they grill. I slice them and wrap them in foil to put on hamburgers.
Summer food memory from childhood?
TY: Making home-churned peach ice cream on the back porch with my family. The closer the ice cream got to being done, the harder the crank was to turn. My daddy always stepped in to finish it off, and Mama always let Beth and I scrape the ice cream off the beater and have a sweet treat before everybody else was served!
Favorite way to top a burger or dog?
TY: Cheddar cheese and bacon on a burger. On a good hot dog, preferably a ballpark hot dog, just mustard!
Favorite summer drink?
TY: Sweet tea. Always.
Barbecue: How do you like it? Smoky, tangy, saucy — any regional style?
TY: I like my dad’s pulled pork barbecue: not smoked, with a tangy, vinegar-based sauce.
What three things are your must-haves for a great summer party?
TY: Something with watermelon, my favorite fruit — either a fruit salad, watermelon salsa (pictured), or just a big slab of watermelon and a knife to eat it with. I’d also have grilled burgers and pimento cheese sandwiches.
Favorite summer produce? What do you do with it?
TY: Homegrown tomatoes are the best food on the planet! Slice it up and serve it on two pieces of homemade bread slathered with Hellman’s mayonnaise, and a little salt and pepper. Yum!
Picnic side showdown: potato salad, pasta salad or coleslaw?
TY: All of the above!
What do you like to serve kids during the summer?
TY: Homemade ice cream served with a toppings bar consisting of fresh fruits and, of course, chocolate syrup.
Any budget-friendly tips for summer cooking?
TY: Summer is always a great time to have casual potluck get-togethers. Ease your wallet by making a menu, then asking your friends to bring something on that list. Friends always ask what they can bring, so they’ll be happy to contribute!
You shared a couple of your favorite summer recipes with us: Watermelon Salsa and Blackberry Cobbler. What makes them some of your best hits for summer?
TY: I think the thing my favorite summer dishes have in common is that they’re easy to prepare. Especially for gatherings, who wants to be inside all day cooking when everybody’s having fun outside?! These dishes are quick and easy — and don’t keep the cook indoors all day.
Summer music playlist: Who are you listening to?
TY: Oh, my. Everybody from Dean Martin to Prince, and every genre of music in between!
More of Trisha’s Best Summer Recipes: