The 10 Recipes You Need for the Coastal Grandmother Summer of Your Dreams

published Jun 12, 2022
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Graphic collage representing the coastal grandmother trend of lobster mac and cheese, a paloma cocktail, fresh oysters, movie still of Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give, and Ina Garten.
Credit: Photos: Joe Lingeman, Columbia/courtesy Everett Collection, Shutterstock, Getty Images. Design: The Kitchn

I want you to go to your closet right this minute and count how many lightweight button-ups you own. (Two points for anything in ivory linen.) This number will be a direct correlation to how far you are on the Coastal Grandmother spectrum. I myself own three lightweight button-ups, which is negligible on the Nancy Meyers Meter of carefree porch-setting vibes, yet still a respectable tiptoe into the sun-warmed waters of Coastal Grandmotherhood.

Why are we talking about yuppie fashion, you might ask, on a post presumably about food? Well, that’s because the Coastal Grandmother aesthetic is not just a fleeting trend; it’s a whole lifestyle. With origins on TikTok, like most artifacts of our nation’s current zeitgeist, this aesthetic is defined by an easy-breezy mix of loose-fitting button-ups, trousers, and a straw hat for good measure. Also known as, the uniform for Northeastern granddames who have passed the age of bowing to contemporary trends. The mascots of Coastal Grandmother chic are the hard-hitters of East Coast style: Diane Keaton, Oprah Winfrey, and, of course, Our Lady of Store-Bought Is Fine (but not preferable), Ina Garten. (The inverse of the Coastal Grandmother is the Coastal Grandfather, as defined by the dashing, bespectacled Stanley Tucci.) 

In addition to the hallmark elements of fashion, this vibe also summons visions of long walks on a beach and an old-fashioned porch-set with an icy cocktail. The Coastal Grandmother loves to cook, often relying on family recipes to spin seemingly effortless meals with ease for a crowd of a dozen people “just dropping by for a bite.” She’ll top off your glass with a pitcher cocktail studded with fresh fruit, then lean down to talk about the recent gallery opening, while urging you to try the grilled oysters proffered by her vacantly smiling spouse. She lives an existence that is nothing if not idyllic.

While the Coastal Grandmother is not without problems, hers are a privileged sort. And that, in my extremely uninformed opinion, is a large part of the appeal of the Coastal Grandmother Summer. (I’m dubbing it a whole summer, because #hotgirlsummer is long gone for me.) There’s an ease to the CGS that we’re all craving right now. The lightness of an ocean breeze floating through open windows. The succulence of buttery, hot rolls eaten with friends. Life has been really very heavy lately; the balm we need might just be a taste of cozy, escapist romance. 

You don’t actually have to have a house in the Hamptons to be a Coastal Grandmother (although, if you have a way of getting to a beach house, take me with you?). You can simply manifest the aesthetic through what you choose to serve at your table. Here, 10 dishes and cocktails that are Coastal Grandmother-approved for a summer of wholesome dining. From seafood-laden meals to salads brimming with heirloom produce, each of these picks are guaranteed to bring some of that satisfying flavor right to your table.  

So pull up your adirondack, get out that artisan silver jewelry, and kick up your feet. Turn on a curated playlist while you light some tapered candles. The Coastal Grandmother Summer is just beginning. 

The Coastal Grandmother Collection

1 / 10
Oysters Rockefeller
This centuries-old dish is beloved for a reason: Buttery breadcrumbs and meltingly tender spinach are broiled on top of oysters that carry with them the wild saltiness of the sea. These oysters are bracing, yet after all this time, still unexpected. 
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2 / 10
New England Clam Boil
Few things say “New England” with the same sighing nostalgia as the words “clam boil.” In this version, Kitchn’s Executive Food Director, Nina Elder, combines the classic elements of a clam boil — seafood, sausage, corn, potatoes — into a make-your-own bar that allows each diner to choose their ideal mix. Newspaper-lined picnic tables are optional, yet encouraged.
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3 / 10
Lobster Mac and Cheese
For a decadent lunch or dinner with friends, serve this lobster mac and cheese with a light green salad. Cheesy pasta melds with sweet lobster to create a coastal-inspired meal that will satisfy diners of all ages. Don’t skimp on the breadcrumbs — that crunch is essential to balance the richness of the other ingredients.
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4 / 10
Tomato Pie
Although tomato pie is technically Southern, we think our Northeastern scions in wide-brimmed hats would still approve. This dish seems inconceivable: juicy tomatoes and a crispy crust that can’t possibly play well together. Yet they do, to perfection. You can serve your tomato pie at room temperature as well, with a crisp white wine in hand.
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5 / 10
Corn and Avocado Pasta Salad with Cilantro and Lime
For those looking for a solid picnic contribution (because of course Coastal Grandmothers believe in picnics; they have wicker baskets and gingham blankets dedicated to just this purpose), this pasta salad is full of bright flavors, capturing the sweetness of the season alongside a limey, herbaceous dressing that only gets better as it sits.
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6 / 10
BBQ Chicken Cobb Salad
A favorite of the Coastal Grandmother Who Lunches, Cobb salad offers the heartiness of chicken, egg, and bacon, but with some lightness from the veggies. This version has a barbecue spin, giving the dish some light smokiness. Serve with a wedge of dimpled focaccia. 
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7 / 10
No-Bake Chocolate Cream Pie
thank you. Luckily, this no-bake pie is a cinch, and impressive to boot, with its layers of chocolate and whipped cream. (CG pro tip: Eat this dish for breakfast while leaning on the porch rail and contemplating the last Norah Ephron book you read.) 
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8 / 10
Chocolate Truffle Cookies with Cherries & Walnuts
walnuts. If you are an actual grandmother, your grandbabies won’t resist grabbing one of these on the way out to the beach. And if you’re not a grandmother? Take them to the next book club, where you’ll gossip about Bitsy Vanderpooch’s latest scandal. 
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9 / 10
Candied Cocktail Nuts
Say what you want about the Coastal Grandmothers — actually, don’t, because they must be saved at all costs — but they throw a great party. This sweet-and-salty mixture of nuts gets its kick from a hint of cayenne and some fresh thyme. Pass them out with tiny cocktail plates and monogrammed linen napkins.
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10 / 10
The Best Paloma Cocktail
What’s a gathering without a cocktail? The classic Paloma is infused with a lovely citrus zing from grapefruit juice mixed with tequila, and finished with a salt rim. (Substitute with seltzer, if you don’t imbibe.) You know what they say about cocktails: They grease the wheels for the best starlit confessions. For all her outward decorum, the Coastal Grandmother does love a bit of well-placed impropriety.
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