Make summer cooking a breeze with these quick and simple tricks.

 Alison Miksch-Photographer/Victoria Cox-Food Stylist/Caroline Cunningham-Prop Stylist

Nothing compares to the delicious and satisfying taste that fresh summer produce brings to a meal. With busy schedules, however, long hours at work, school, and outside commitments, we don’t always have a lot of time to spare when it comes to preparing those vegetables and fruits for a meal. Experiment with the following suggestions; you will reduce your prep time without reducing the quality of your tasty produce.

Related: 16 Fresh Fruit Salad Recipes

Peaches and Tomatoes

This tip for peeling peaches and tomatoes is helpful when working with a large amount, as when you are making cobblers or canning tomatoes. Score ripe peaches (or tomatoes) with a paring knife by making an X on the bottom of the fruit (avoid cutting the flesh as much as possible). Submerge the fruit in boiling water for 40 to 60 seconds, longer if the fruit is underripe, or until the skin begins to slightly pull away on the scored ends. Quickly remove peaches or tomatoes with a slotted spoon or skimmer, dunking them in an ice bath. Let cool completely. Remove the skin by gently pulling back or rubbing off the scored marks. The skin should slide off quickly and easily.

Okra

Prevent slimy okra by grilling, sautéing, or broiling it over high heat until crisp. This will dry up the slime and give the okra a charred flavor. If you want fried okra, try this: steam okra pods whole (don’t even trim the tops off before steaming) for 3-4 minutes, until they're tender and bright green. Let them cool, pat dry and then cut. You may still a little of the slime on your knife, but not as much as if you had sliced them raw.

Corn

Here is an easy and mess-free (well, less messy) method to cutting corn kernels from the cob. Place the cob on the center of the Bundt pan. Using a knife, slice downward along the sides of the cob to remove kernels. As you slide the knife down, the kernels will fall right into the pan. Then scrape the back of the knife along the cob to release the juices.

Cherry Tomatoes

Cutting a container of cherry tomatoes isn’t really that much work, but it is still fun to discover a quicker method, right? Start with two rimed plastic lids of matching size, such as the tops of whipped topping containers. Place bottom lid rim side up. Add as many tomatoes as will fit in the bottom lid, then cover with second lid, rim side down. With one hand, press gently on the top lid to hold it in place, and, using a serrated knife, slice tomatoes between lids. 

Green Beans

If there is no time for an afternoon sitting on the porch snapping beans, here is a quicker method – it’s especially efficient if you are cooking up a small amount for a quick supper. Start with crispy, slender pods. Simply line up the pods and cut the stems at one time with a sharp knife. Simple, right?

Related: Oh Snap! 36 Green Bean Recipes

Chop a Salad

Assemble lettuces and toppings, such as boiled eggs, bacon strips, baked chicken, onions, and herbs, in a large bowl or on a large cutting board. Using a pizza wheel, roll back and forth over the salad until all ingredients are chopped and incorporated. Scoop everything into a bowl (if it isn’t already in one), dress it, and your salad is ready.

Let us know your favorite strategy for reducing prep time in the kitchen.