l can hardly believe it, but here we are in barbecue season, beach picnic season, salad-for-dinner season – summer, my favorite time of year to cook. Some people prefer autumn for its crunchiness; winter for its coziness; spring because of its promise of something green. Not me. I’m here for the summer.
Proof that this is one of my favorite topics: yesterday I was a guest on a radio program about summer cooking and a ball. We extensively discussed baked chicken biscuits with hot honey butter (other recipes that came up: gazpacho, chilled corn chowder, egg salad, lemon potato salad with mint, blueberry pie, and caprese antipasto — AKA de super caprese).
Salmon and couscous salad with cucumber-feta dressing
The dressing in this 30-minute recipe is inspired by green goddess dressing and mast-o khiar, a Persian side dish of cucumber and yogurt. Here, thick yogurt is combined with fresh herbs, spicy feta and crunchy Persian cucumbers. If you have trouble finding Persian cucumbers, they can be swapped out for English cucumbers with a similar sweet skin or peeled regular cucumbers. Flaking the salmon into the salad spreads it evenly and is a nice alternative to serving a fillet for dinner. Leftover salad can be eaten cold for lunch the next day, refreshed with a squeeze of lime juice and more fresh herbs.
Through: Yasmin Fahr
Total time: 30 minutes
3 (170 g) skinless (or skinless) salmon fillets
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Salt and black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
2 limes, 1 halved and 1 grated and juiced
225g pearl couscous
40 g baby arugula
250 g thick, full-fat yogurt, such as Greek, Skyr or labneh
125 g crumbled feta
Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, coriander or dill leaves and soft stems, roughly chopped
Handful of fresh mint leaves and soft stems, roughly chopped
1 Persian cucumber, cut into 1 cm cubes
2 spring onions, light green and white parts sliced
1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the salmon, skin side down, in the center of a baking sheet. Pat the salmon dry and brush with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, ½ teaspoon cumin and ½ teaspoon turmeric. Brush 1 of the lime halves with some olive oil in the pan and place in the corner cut-side up.
2. Roast the salmon on the center rack until opaque on the outside and light pink in the center, about 18 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
3. While the salmon is cooking, make the couscous: Toast the couscous in a covered pan over medium heat, uncovered, about 3 to 4 minutes until fragrant. Add 3 cups of water, season with salt, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain an active simmer, then cook until couscous is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the couscous in a colander, drizzle with olive oil and toss. Stir in the arugula, let it wilt. Allow to cool slightly in the sink while making the dressing.
4. Prepare the dressing: In a serving bowl, combine the yogurt with cup room temperature water and the zest and juice of 1 lime and whisk until smooth. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon cumin, plus half of the feta, most of the spices (save some for garnish), and the cucumber. Stir together and season with salt. Put aside.
5. Add the cooked couscous and arugula to the yogurt mixture and stir to combine. Remove the salmon from the skin and crush with a fork. Add half of the salmon to the couscous and toss to combine. Place the rest of the salmon on top, squeeze the toasted lime half over the dish and garnish with the spring onions, remaining feta, parsley and mint. Cut the remaining lemon half into quarters and serve on the side.
Creamy pasta with ricotta and herbs
In this easy, springy pasta, milky ricotta, diluted with a little starchy pasta cooking water, makes for a tangy, smooth dish seasoned with plenty of black pepper and spices. For the best taste, use at least three different kinds of herbs, break out some nicer olive oil and look for fresh ricotta. Lemon lovers can also grate the zest of half a lemon.
Through: Melissa Clark
Serves: 4 servings
Total time: 20 minutes
450 g short pasta, such as shells, cavatappi, chiocciole, farfalle, ditali or wagon wheels
340 g fresh, whole milk ricotta
70g freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to serve
60ml extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
1 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper, plus more to serve
170 g coarsely chopped soft herbs, such as basil, chives, fennel leaves, parsley, mint, tarragon, chervil or dill (try a combination of at least 3 varieties)
1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions. Reserve 2 cups of pasta cooking water and drain the pasta.
2. In the same pan, make the sauce: add ricotta, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, pepper and a good pinch of salt and stir until well blended.
3. Add 1 cup of pasta water to the sauce and stir until smooth. Add the pasta and spices and continue to stir vigorously until the noodles are well coated. Add more pasta water if needed for a smooth, soupy sauce. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
4. Spoon the pasta into bowls to serve and finish with more Parmesan cheese, olive oil and pepper.
Bake with chicken, artichoke and broccoli
This one-dish dinner is indeed a casserole — but it’s bright and light and almost effortless. Toss canned artichokes with capers, garlic and chicken stock, pour over chicken breasts and broccoli florets and let the oven do the work. Canned artichokes are the main seasoning here, so opt for the firmer, water-filled variety, which will hold their shape better during cooking. While the casserole is baking, toast the panko breadcrumbs and season with dill. Serve the chicken with a squeeze of lemon for brightness and a pinch of herb breadcrumbs for crunch.
Through: Kay Chun
Total time: 45 minutes
4 boneless chicken breasts (680-900 g)
1 small broccoli (about 450g), tough stem discarded, head cut into 5cm florets
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
2 (400 g) cans of artichoke hearts quartered in water, drained
60 ml low sodium chicken stock
2 tbsp drained capers
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
60 g panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
Lemon wedges, to serve with it
1. Preheat the oven to 200C. In a 2.8 liter baking dish, combine chicken, broccoli florets and 2 tablespoons oil; Season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly, spread broccoli in an even layer and place chicken breasts on top.
2. In a large bowl, combine artichokes, stock, capers, butter, garlic and 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss gently and spoon the mixture over the chicken and broccoli. Bake until chicken is cooked through and artichokes are golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add panko, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Place in a bowl to cool, then stir in the dill and season with salt and pepper.
4. Divide the chicken and vegetables between shallow bowls and spoon over some of the pan juices. Squeeze with lemon and sprinkle with dill breadcrumbs.
Skirt steak with salsa verde salad
Salsa verde made with scallions, mint, parsley, capers and garlic becomes both the marinade for the steak and the dressing for the greens in this summer dinner salad. For an extra smoky flavor, try grilling the romaine hearts (drizzle with olive oil and grill, cut-side down, until lightly charred). Or, if you like bitter greens, substitute roughly chopped escarole leaves for the romaine.
Through: Lidey Heuck
Total time: 35 minutes, plus marinating
680 g skirt steak
60 ml extra virgin olive oil
60 ml red wine vinegar
25g thinly sliced spring onions (about 2)
2 tbsp capers, drained and roughly chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic (about 2 large cloves)
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
½ tsp black pepper, plus more to taste
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
25 g toasted pine nuts
2 Roman hearts
90 g crumbled feta cheese
1. If necessary, cut the steak crosswise into large pieces that will fit in a shallow, non-reactive dish. Transfer the steaks to the dish. In a glass measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, spring onions, capers, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt and teaspoon pepper. Pour about ⅓ of the dressing over the steak and turn to coat both sides.
2. Add the parsley and 1 tablespoon mint to the reserved dressing, stir and set aside until use. Cover steak and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours (if marinating steak overnight, cover reserved dressing and refrigerate).
3. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts, stirring often, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Put aside.
4. Set the grill to medium heat or heat a grill pan on the stovetop to medium high. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels and grill for 3 to 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Place on a plate, sprinkle with salt and let rest for 10 minutes.
5. While the steak is resting, cut the romaine hearts into quarters lengthwise. Arrange the Roman hearts in one layer on a large platter, leaving room on one side for the steak. Sprinkle the feta, pine nuts and the remaining 1 tablespoon mint over the romaine. Cut the steak crosswise into 7 cm pieces, then cut against the grain to slice the steak into wide strips. Arrange the sliced steak on the platter and drizzle the reserved dressing over the romaine and steak. Serve immediately.