AAt this stage of the year, three days after the longest day, ‘cooking’ is often more about shopping and assembling than time at the stove. I like to spend a moment making interesting and spicy dressings and infused oils, then using them in near-instantaneous meals. As for fruits and vegetables, the abundance of colors, flavors, shapes and sizes in the summer means that much of the work has already been happily done for us.
Silken tofu, crispy salad and marmalade dressing (top photo)
This is a great weeknight meal because it is quick to prepare and can be prepared ahead of time. If you want to go ahead, make the dressing and marinate the tofu the day before (a marinade overnight works wonders). The nuts and seeds can also be traded for anything you have on hand.
Preparation 20 minutes
Serves 2 as an appetizer or side dish
350 g firm silken tofu
For the marmalade dressing
30ml soy sauce
20ml lime juice
60 g bitter orange marmalade
35 ml sunflower oil
For the salad
50 g snow peas, very thinly sliced at an angle
50 grams sugar snapsvery thinly sliced at an angle
80 g breakfast radishvery thinly sliced (preferably use a mandolin)
2 spring onionsvery thinly sliced on the diagonal
Salt and black pepper
For the crispy topping
20 g salted peanutscoarsely chopped
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tsp black sesame seeds
1 tsp white sesame seeds
½ tsp aleppo chili flakes
Fine sea salt
Start with the dressing. Grind the soy, lime juice, marmalade and half a teaspoon of salt in a small food processor until well blended. With the engine running, slowly pour in the oil until the mixture emulsifies, then pour 50ml into a large bowl. Add the snow peas, sugar snap peas, radishes and spring onions, mix well and set aside.
Now make the topping. Place the nuts, seeds and aleppo chile in a small bowl, stir to combine and set aside.
Lift the tofu out of the box, making sure it holds its shape, and place it on a plate with a kitchen towel to wick away any excess moisture. Cut the tofu into 1 cm thick slices and arrange them in a slightly overlapping line on a large plate with a lip rim. Spoon the remaining dressing over the tofu, divide the salad over the top, sprinkle with the crispy topping and serve at room temperature.
California style caprese salad
This is a blatant fusion, with the classic of tomato-mozzarella-basil and some California citrus. Go wild on the tomatoes: the more colors, sizes and varieties, the better.
Preparation 20 minutes
1 pink grapefruit
125 g mozzarellatorn into cm thick pieces
250 grams of tomatoes – the widest possible range of types, colours, shapes and sizes
1 large ripe avocado
1 tbsp small basil leaves
1 tbsp olive oilplus extra to finish
For the dressing
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp coriander seed
2 tsp maple syrup
½ tsp paprika
½ aleppo chili flakes
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp sherry (or balsamic) vinegar
Flakes of sea salt and black pepper
Top and tail the grapefruit, then use a small, sharp knife to cut off the rind and pith. Hold the grapefruit over a small colander over a medium bowl, cut between membranes to allow the individual segments to fall into the colander and squeeze the juice from the pith.
In a small bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients with a quarter teaspoon of salt and well-ground black pepper.
Cut the larger tomatoes into unequal pieces of 1 cm thick and halve the cherry tomatoes. Place all tomatoes in a medium bowl with a quarter teaspoon salt and two tablespoons grapefruit juice. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, discard and peel. Cut the avocado flesh diagonally into cm wide strips, add to the tomato bowl with well-ground pepper and toss gently.
Arrange the tomato mix in a large rimmed dish or shallow bowl. Arrange the mozzarella around and around, nestle it slightly in the salad and spoon the dressing evenly over it. Sprinkle with the grapefruit wedges and basil leaves, sprinkle with an eighth teaspoon of salt and a generous pinch of pepper, drizzle with a final tablespoon of oil and serve at room temperature.
Marinated sardines with radish and watercress salad
Keep a jar of these marinated sardines in your fridge: they are such a treat for summer evenings, to eat as is with crusty bread and butter.
Preparation 15 minutes
marinate 30 minutes
90 ml olive oil
½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
½ tsp chili flakes
3 cloves of garlicpeeled and crushed
2 tbsp capers (I like lilliput capers), coarsely chopped
5 g (1¾ tablespoon) chivesfinely sliced
Flakes of sea salt
2 x 120g cans of sardinesdrained
10 g (1 tbsp) dried currantssoaked in 1 tbsp hot water for about 10 minutes, to fill up
1 lemonpeel finely grated, to get 1 teaspoon, and squeezed, to get 2 teaspoons
100 g radishin quarters
70 g watercresssoft leaves and stems picked
For the pickled onions
2-3 small red onionspeeled and cut into very thin rounds (preferably use a mandolin; 75 g net weight)
1½ tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp maple syrup
Place 75 ml oil, the cracked black pepper, chilli flakes, garlic, capers, chives and a quarter teaspoon salt in a medium sized sauté pan with a lid and place over medium heat. Heat gently for two to three minutes and then let cool.
Once the caper mixture has cooled, add the sardines, cover and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, turning the fish halfway through (or refrigerate for up to three days).
Meanwhile, prepare the pickled onions. Place the onions, lemon juice, maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl, mix gently to combine and set aside to pickle for five to 10 minutes, until onions turn pink.
Arrange the sardines on a large lipped platter and spoon all their oil over them. Sprinkle the lemon zest and one-eighth teaspoon of salt flakes on top, then sprinkle over one-third of the pickled onions.
Just before serving, toss the radishes with the remaining pickled onions, add one-eighth teaspoon of salt and the remaining tablespoon of oil, add the watercress and toss gently. Serve the fish at room temperature with the salad on the side.