Rachael Ray’s favorite warm-weather comfort foods and meal ideas

Since warmer weather calls for lightening up recipes and using more fruits and veggies in everyday meals, there really aren't that many options for making heartier, comfort-food style dishes. Even during the warm-weather months, there are some days when you just want and even crave comfort food. Grilling season does give you an excuse to make juicy burgers and steaks, but there are options beyond red meat.

I talked to Rachael Ray during this year's Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival to find out what her favorite warm-weather comfort foods are, and some recipe ideas for the summer season.

Here are some of Rachael Ray's tips for putting together spring and summer menus:

Favorite Warm-Weather Comfort Foods

One of Rachael's favorite warm-weather comfort foods: oven-baked shrimp with mushy peas. She says this is an easy dish to make and the mushy peas give this dish the comfort factor. "Mix peas with mint, and parsley for that extra kick", says Rachael. You can check out her recipe for Crispy Oven Fish Fry with Mushy Peas if you want to try it with baked cod instead of shrimp.

"Hot weather is also a good environment for burgers! And surf and turf dishes!" says Rachael. She made her classic Caesar burger during her cooking demonstration at the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival and it was an instant hit with the crowd. Her Caesar pesto recipe is made with anchovy paste, Romano cheese, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, pine nuts, and extra virgin olive oil. You'll find the recipe for the burgers and the Caeser pesto here.

Keep things light - without compromising on flavor - with a surf and turf salad this season. Rachael's Surf and Surf Salad recipe can be put together in less than 30 minutes and is perfect for a warm summer night or any day you don't want to spend time preparing a meal in a hot kitchen this season.

Easy Warm-Weather Menu Ideas

Instead of grilling up steaks, burgers and hot dogs this season, switch with seafood - shrimp and white fish filets are some of your best bets. Rachael says, "an easy marinade for seafood is just super fine salt, lime, and sugar."

Rachael's a big fan of pesto for pasta dishes during the summer. Pesto-based dishes are also a good match for those pressed for time. "Make your pesto ahead of time and then add it to any pasta dish!" she says. Her basic recipe is made with just five ingredients: fresh basil leaves, cloves of garlic, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and extra virgin olive oil. You can make this in a food processor and store it in a jar or tightly-sealed container in the fridge until it's ready to use. Check out EveryDay with Rachael Ray's "How to Make Pesto in Three Easy Steps" if you've never made pesto at home before.

Rachael says another great pasta dish for summer is a light Asian pasta made with soba noodles, soy sauce, cabbage, and edamame. This is a quick and easy recipe you can make for a light summer meal; this one also stores well in the fridge for a few days. You'll find the recipe for Rachael's Healthy and Flavor-Filled Soba Salad here.

Sources:

Interview with Rachael Ray