Nigel Slater’s easy summer salad recipes | Salad

AAlmost everything on the table this month is some sort of salad: steamed cereal with ripe fruit and herbs; roasted peppers with a salty olive and anchovy dressing; slices of ripe melon and sweet shellfish; or a recipe to use the last asparagus of the year. As summer progresses, there may also be a potato salad, still warm, tossed and steamed with olive oil, lemon, and chopped fennel leaves or dill, smoked mackerel, and jagged pieces of peeled cucumber.

There may be a bit of meat – a plate of thinly sliced ​​cold roast pork with lots of snow white fat and chewy crackles, or maybe some soft folds of air-dried ham. And while there will only be one deluxe lunch of fresh crab, there will also be smoked trout or the occasional shrimp marinated in olive oil and lemon, with basil and thinly sliced ​​garlic.

Grains such as millet or quinoa, couscous (which only looks good in appearance) or bulgur form the backbone of salads with masses of chopped parsley, dill and mint. I toss them with apricots (sometimes raw, sometimes grilled) or tomatoes of any shape and color. This time of year we are spoiled for choice when it comes to lettuce leaves. I’ve put together dazzling combinations of hot, spicy, soft and crunchy leaves to match whatever else is on the table.

White crab and melon salad

Wonderful things happen here: sweet white crab and ripe apricot-tinged melon; salty capers and a hint of heat from a red pepper. Crab is always a luxury, but I’m willing to pay for the occasional treat. The crab and melon are best when well chilled, and the melon should be really sweet, ripe and juicy.

Serves 4
melon or honeydew melon 1 kg (weight for peeling)
white crab meat 500g
lime juice 2 tablespoons
parsley 10 g, finely chopped
black pepper

For the dressing
lime juice 50 ml (1 or 2 ripe limes)
olive oil 50ml
coriander leaves a handfull
capers 2 teaspoons
red chili 1 small, chopped

For the dressing, place the lime juice in a medium bowl large enough to accommodate the melon. Whisk in the olive oil, then add the whole coriander leaves and capers. Finely chop the chili pepper, remove the seeds and add to the dressing.

Peel the melon and remove the seeds. Thinly slice the pulp, mix gently with the dressing and set aside. (You can refrigerate it in the dressing for an hour or more, but not overnight.)

Place the crab meat in a bowl, add the lime juice, chopped parsley and a little black pepper. Then mix very gently with a fork. You don’t want to crush the crab’s sweet, white flakes. Place the melon and dressing on a serving platter. Pile the crab and parsley salad on top and bring to the table.

Salad ‘Last of the asparagus’

Salad 'Last of the asparagus'
Photo: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

The British asparagus season traditionally ends on June 21, the day of the summer solstice. As a thank you to the asparagus gods, I will be celebrating the event with one last asparagus meal of the year. This time the spears are poached briefly and then, while they are still hot, dressed with the delicious elderflower dressing by Mark Diacono, from his book A year at Otter Farm (Bloomsbury, £25). It’s something I usually use with pale and delicate summer leaves like lettuce. Since this is a celebration of sorts, sprinkle a few flowers on top — nasturtiums, arugula, or chives — if you’re in the mood.

Serves 4
For the asparagus
asparagus 24 spears
rocket flowers a handful (optional)

For the dressing
Elderflower Syrup 2 tablespoons
White wine vinegar 1 tbsp
olive oil 1 tbsp

Put a deep pot of water – big enough for the asparagus – to the boil and salt the water lightly. Trim the asparagus, removing any tough ends.

When the salted water is boiling, place the trimmed asparagus under it and cook for 7-8 minutes until tender. The exact timing will depend on the age and size of your spears, so test regularly with the tip of a kitchen knife.

Make the dressing: whisk together the elderflower syrup and vinegar with a little salt and pepper. Add the oil and whisk until the mixture forms an emulsion. Taste for spices.

Remove the asparagus from the water and gently shake dry. Place on a long serving platter, pour over the dressing and toss gently until the asparagus is covered and sprinkle with arugula.

Grilled bell pepper, tomatoes and tapenade

Grilled bell pepper, tomatoes and tapenade
Photo: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

The flavors of the deepest summer: ripe peppers and ribbed tomatoes, purple-black olives and anchovies. I’ve roasted the peppers so that you get a pool of caramel-colored roasting juices to soak the hot toast with, but you can also grill the peppers if you prefer. If you go that route, use a generous glug of olive oil to dress the toast before setting the peppers in place.

Serves 2
red or mixed peppers 300g
olive oil
tomatoes 4 medium
Red wine vinegar a little
sourdough Bread 4 slices

For the tapenade dressing
pitted black olives 125g
anchovy fillets 8
parsley 2 tablespoons
olive oil 2 tablespoons

Turn the oven to 180C Fan/Gas 6. Place the peppers in a roasting tin, pour over 3 tablespoons of olive oil and roast for 40 minutes until puffed and speckled.

For the dressing, finely chop the black olives and anchovies and mix them together. You can do this by hand or in seconds with a food processor. Finely chop the parsley and stir it into the olives along with the olive oil. If necessary, you can keep this mixture in the refrigerator for a few days.

Remove the peppers from the oven, cover with a lid and let sit for 20 minutes. The steam they produce from being covered will loosen their skin. Peel and discard the skins of the peppers, then cut each pepper in half and scrape out any seeds. Lay the peppers flat on a serving platter.

Cut the tomatoes into thin slices. Drizzle with a little red wine vinegar and olive oil and season with black pepper.

Toast the bread on both sides and then cover with a little oil from the peppers while still warm. Place a piece of roasted pepper on each of the slices of toast, then a spoonful of tapenade dressing and serve with the sliced ​​tomatoes.

Summer herb frittata salad with green olives and thyme

Summer herb frittata salad with green olives and thyme
Photo: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

I make this dressing for its aroma as well as its taste, with its summery notes of green olives and lemon and its faint hint of young, sweet garlic. Dress the freshly cooked frittata while it is still warm.

Serves 4
For the frittata
spring onions 5
olive oil 2 tablespoons
Eggs 4
dill leaves 10g
mint leaves 8g
parsley leaves 15g
butter 30g
sprouted seeds a handful, such as mung beans or lentils
fresh thyme leaves and their flowers 1 tbsp, to finish

For the dressing
olive oil 50ml
pitted green olives 100g
Red wine vinegar 1 tbsp
garlic 1 small cloves, peeled
lemon peel 1 teaspoon
parsley leaves 10g

For the dressing, place the olive oil, pitted olives, vinegar, garlic, lemon zest and parsley leaves in the bowl of a food processor and process for a few seconds.

For the frittata, thinly slice the spring onions. Heat the olive oil in a shallow non stick pan with a heat resistant (metal) handle – I use one about 8″ in diameter over the bottom – then add the spring onions and cook for 3 or 4 minutes until soft .

Break the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly with a fork to mix the yolks and whites. Finely chop the dill, mint and parsley leaves, stir into the beaten eggs and season with salt and pepper. Preheat the top grill (oven).

Add the butter to the spring onions and let it melt. Keep the heat at a moderate level. Pour in half of the egg-spice mixture, add any sprouted seeds and let the mixture cook for 3 or 4 minutes until the eggs are set. Place the pan under the hot grill for a minute or two to allow the surface of the frittata to solidify. Slide the frittata onto a cutting board and repeat with the remaining egg mixture.

Slide the second frittata out of the pan onto the cutting board and cut both into ribbons about 1cm wide. Place in a bowl, add the dressing, toss gently and transfer to a serving platter.

The green olive dressing is delicious with a little fresh thyme or thyme flowers added while tossing the ribbons of frittata and dressing.

Seasoned apricot and zucchini couscous

Seasoned apricot and zucchini couscous
Photo: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

Serves 4

vegetable stock 250ml
fine, quick-cooking couscous 125g
apricots 12
liquid honey 2 tablespoons
ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon
ground coriander ½ teaspoon
courgettes 4 medium
olive oil 5 tablespoons
parsley leaves 10g
mint leaves 5g
slivered almonds 4 tbsp, toasted
lemon juice from

Line a grill pan or baking sheet with aluminum foil. Preheat the top grill (oven).

Heat the vegetable stock in a small saucepan. Place the couscous in a heatproof mixing bowl and pour over the hot vegetable stock. Stir briefly, cover with a lid or a plate and set aside.

Halve the apricots and remove the seeds. Place the honey in a mixing bowl and stir in the ground cinnamon and coriander. Add the apricots and toss the fruit and honey together until well coated, then dump onto the griddle pan or baking sheet. Make sure the fruit is in a single layer, then cook under the heated grill for about 8-10 minutes until soft and the honey begins to caramelize. Remove from grill pan and set aside.

Trim and quarter the courgettes lengthwise and then into short pieces about 3cm long. Pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a mixing bowl, season with salt and pepper, then add the courgettes and gently stir into the seasoned oil. Place them on the griddle pan – whether honey or apricot juice remains – and cook under the broiler for 8 or 10 minutes until soft and golden brown. Flip them over and cook the other side, then remove from the grill pan and add to the apricots.

Finely chop the parsley and mint leaves and mix with the almond flakes, the remaining olive oil and the lemon juice. Pierce the couscous with a fork to separate the kernels, then add the apricots, courgettes, parsley, mint and almonds. Check the spices.