I can hardly believe it, but here we are in barbecue season, beach-picnic season, salad-for-dinner season – summer, my favourite time of year to cook. Some people prefer autumn for its crispness; winter for its cosiness; spring for its promise of something green. Not me. I am here for summer.
Proof that this is one of my favourite subjects: yesterday, I was a guest on a radio show talking summer cooking and having a ball. We discussed fried chicken biscuits with hot honey butter at length (other recipes that came up: gazpacho, chilled corn soup, egg salad, lemon potato salad with mint, blueberry pie and caprese antipasto – AKA the 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 cucumbers and yoghurt. Here, thick yoghurt is combined with fresh herbs, tangy feta and crunchy Persian cucumbers. If you have trouble finding Persian cucumbers, they can be swapped for similarly sweet-skinned English cucumbers or peeled regular cucumbers. Flaking the salmon into the salad evenly distributes it and is a nice alternative to serving a fillet for dinner. Leftover salad can be enjoyed cold for lunch the next day, freshened up with a squeeze of lime juice and more fresh herbs.
By: Yasmin Fahr
Total time: 30 minutes
3 (170g) skin-on (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 zested and juiced
225g pearl couscous
40g baby rocket
250g thick, full-fat yoghurt, such as Greek, Skyr or labneh
125g crumbled feta
Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, coriander or dill leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped
Handful fresh mint leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped
1 Persian cucumber, diced into 1½cm pieces
2 spring onions, light green and white parts sliced
1. Heat the oven to 200C. In the centre of a baking tray, place salmon skin-side down. Pat the salmon dry, then coat with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, ½ teaspoon cumin and ½ teaspoon turmeric. Coat 1 of the lime halves in some of the olive oil in the pan, then place cut-side up in the corner.
2. Roast the salmon on the centre rack until opaque on the outside and light pink in the center, about 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
3. While the salmon roasts, make the couscous: in a lidded pot over medium-high heat, toast the couscous, uncovered, stirring until fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add 3 cups water, season with salt, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain an active simmer, then cook until the couscous is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the couscous in a colander, then drizzle with olive oil, tossing to coat. Stir in the arugula, letting it wilt. Leave in the sink to cool slightly while you make the dressing.
4. Prepare the dressing: in a serving bowl, combine the yogurt with ¼ cup room temperature water and the zest and juice of 1 lime, then whisk until smooth. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon cumin, plus half the feta, most of the herbs (reserving some for garnish) and the cucumber. Stir to combine, then season to taste with salt. Set aside.
5. Add the cooked couscous and arugula to the yoghurt mixture, tossing to combine. Remove the salmon from the skin, then flake with a fork. Add half the salmon to the couscous, mixing it together. Place the remaining salmon on top, squeeze the roasted lime half over the dish, then garnish with the spring onions, remaining feta, parsley and mint. Quarter the remaining lime half and serve it on the side.
Creamy pasta with ricotta and herbs
In this simple, springy pasta, milky ricotta thinned out with a little starchy pasta cooking water makes for a saucy, soupy dish that’s seasoned with loads of black pepper and herbs. For the best flavour, use at least three different kinds of herbs, break out some nicer olive oil and look for fresh ricotta. Lemon lovers can grate in the zest of half a lemon as well.
By: Melissa Clark
Serves: 4 servings
Total time: 20 minutes
450g short pasta, such as shells, cavatappi, chiocciole, farfalle, ditali or wagon wheels
340g fresh, whole-milk ricotta
70g freshly grated parmesan, plus more for serving
60ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper, plus more for serving
170g coarsely chopped soft herbs, such as basil, chives, fennel fronds, parsley, mint, tarragon, chervil or dill (try for a combination of at least 3 kinds)
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 instructions. Reserve 2 cups pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.
2. In the same pot, make the sauce: Add ricotta, parmesan, olive oil, pepper and a large pinch or two of salt, and stir until well combined.
3. Add 1 cup pasta water to the sauce and stir until smooth. Add the pasta and herbs, and continue to stir vigorously until the noodles are well coated. Add more pasta water as needed for a smooth, soupy sauce. Taste and add more salt if needed.
4. To serve, spoon the pasta into bowls and finish with more parmesan, olive oil and pepper.
Chicken, artichoke and broccoli bake
This one-dish dinner is indeed a casserole – but it’s bright and light, and nearly effortless. Toss tinned artichokes with capers, garlic and chicken stock, pour over chicken breasts and broccoli florets, then let the oven do the work. Tinned artichokes are the main flavour builder here so opt for the firmer water-packed variety, which hold their shape better during cooking. While the casserole bakes, toast the panko breadcrumbs and season them with dill. Serve the chicken with a squeeze of lemon for brightness and a sprinkle of herby breadcrumbs for crunch.
By: Kay Chun
Total time: 45 minutes
4 boneless, chicken breasts (680-900g)
1 small head broccoli (about 450g), tough stem discarded, head cut into 5cm florets
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
2 (400g) tins quartered artichoke hearts in water, drained
60ml low-sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp drained capers
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
60g panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
Lemon wedges, for serving
1. Heat oven to 200C. In a 2.8L baking dish, combine chicken, broccoli florets and 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat, spread broccoli in an even layer and arrange chicken breasts on top.
2. In a large bowl, combine artichokes, broth, capers, butter, garlic and 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Gently toss, then spoon mixture over chicken and broccoli. Bake until chicken is cooked through and artichokes are golden in spots, 30 to 35 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium. Add panko, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool, then stir in dill and season with salt and pepper.
4. Divide chicken and vegetables among shallow bowls and spoon over some of the pan juices. Squeeze with lemon and top with dill breadcrumbs.
Skirt steak with salsa verde salad
Salsa verde made with spring onions, mint, parsley, capers and garlic becomes both the marinade for the steak and the dressing for the greens in this summery dinner salad. For extra smoky flavour, try grilling the romaine hearts (drizzle with olive oil and grill, cut side down, until lightly charred). Or, if you love bitter greens, substitute roughly chopped escarole leaves for the romaine.
By: Lidey Heuck
Total time: 35 minutes, plus marinating
680g skirt steak
60ml extra-virgin olive oil
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
25g toasted pine nuts
2 romaine hearts
90g crumbled feta cheese
1. If necessary, cut the steak crosswise into large pieces that will fit into a shallow, nonreactive dish. Transfer the steaks to the dish. In a glass measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, scallions, capers, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ 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 ready to use. Cover and refrigerate the steak for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours (if marinating the steak overnight, cover and refrigerate the reserved dressing).
3. In a small saute pan set over medium heat, toast the pine nuts, tossing often, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
4. Set the grill to medium-high heat, or heat a grill pan on the stovetop over medium-high. Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and grill for 3 to 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate, sprinkle with salt, and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
5. While the steak rests, cut the romaine hearts lengthwise into quarters. Arrange the romaine 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. Slice the steak crosswise into 7½cm pieces, then slice against the grain to cut the steak into wide strips. Arrange the sliced steak on the platter, then drizzle the reserved dressing over the romaine and steak. Serve immediately.