We’re in the thick of summer, which means some of us have turned off our ovens for good until school starts.
Some of you might fire up the smoker instead, while others prepare stove-top or no-cook meals exclusively. No matter how you’re getting through these triple-digit days, here are eight recipes to spice up your summer cooking.
Pole Bean Salad with Tomatoes, Almonds and Pepitas
This is the kind of thing I'll whip up on a summer weeknight when I want to make vegetables the focus of the meal (which is happening more and more in our house). The nuts and seeds give the dish some heft, crunch and protein, and I usually serve it with salami or prosciutto, or maybe a nice milky burrata if I can get one, along with some good bread. It makes a simple but satisfying meal because of the diversity of textures and the richness of the avocado. It also works as a side dish to a simple grilled steak or piece of fish.
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1 pound wax beans, green beans or a combination, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
1 / 4cup sliced almonds
1 / 4cup pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
1 medium-sized ripe tomato, diced
1 garlic clove, grated on a Microplane or minced
Fine sea salt to taste
1 / 2cup mixed fresh herbs, such as cilantro, mint and basil
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
In a large pot, bring generously salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the beans and cook until they are al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and immediately rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking. Then pat the beans dry with a clean kitchen towel and place them in a large bowl.
In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the almonds and pepitas and cook until the almonds are starting to turn golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the tomato and garlic, and stir until the tomato is warmed through.
Add the tomato mixture to the beans, season with fine sea salt to taste and toss to combine. Top with the herbs and avocado slices and serve. Serves 2 to 4.
– From “Dinner: Changing the Game,” by Melissa Clark (Clarkson Potter, $35).
Grilled Corn With Confetti Pepper Butter
Grilled sweet corn is a summer staple in backyards from sea to shining sea. Whether your favorite variety is Silver Queen or Peaches ‘n' Cream, you can be sure that a make-ahead confetti-colored butter will make grilled corn even better – if that’s possible. If you want to keep this plant-based, use vegan “butter.”
3 small bell peppers in yellow, red and orange
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 / 2cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 / 4teaspoon kosher salt
8 to 12 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked and silks removed
For the confetti pepper butter, stem, seed and finely chop the peppers. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan and saute the peppers and garlic together for 2 minutes, or until the peppers are just starting to soften. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. In a bowl, using a fork, mash the peppers with the butter, parsley and salt until well blended. Spoon the butter into a ramekin or bowl and cover with plastic wrap. The butter may also be rolled into a log and covered with plastic wrap. Chill completely and keep cold until ready to serve.
Prepare a medium-hot fire in your grill. Grill the corn, turning frequently, until it has good grill marks all over, about 5 to 6 minutes. Serve the corn on a platter or individual plates and slather with Confetti Pepper Butter. Serves 6 to 8.
– From “Red, White, and ‘Que: Farm-Fresh Foods for the American Grill,” by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig (Running Press, $25).
B-Daddy’s Pork Butt
Before starting his food truck, B.R. Anderson had never cooked a pork butt in his life, but through trial and error, I'll tell ya, he does it some serious justice. His rub alone is a surefire hit on butts, ribs, pork chops and turkey. He likes to smoke the butt until it forms a nice char on the outside. He transfers the butt to a pan, pours in a whole can of Dr Pepper and continues to cook the meat until it’s meltingly tender. These butts became so popular he had to find a quick and easy way to pull the meat. Some internet research led him to the RO-Man Pork Puller, a pronged device affixed to a drill. The process is quick and efficient.
1 (8-pound) bone-in pork butt (Boston butt)
3 / 4cup B-Daddy’s Butt Rub (recipe below)
1 (12-ounce) can spicy, fruity cola soft drink (such as Dr Pepper)
Prepare smoker according to manufacturer’s instructions, using live oak charcoal and bringing internal temperature to 225 to 250 degrees. Maintain temperature 15 to 20 minutes. (Or light charcoal in a charcoal chimney starter. When charcoal is covered with gray ash, pour onto the bottom grate of the grill and then push to one side of the grill. Coat top grate with oil and place on grill.)
Rinse the pork and pat dry. Using your hands, thoroughly work the dry rub all over the pork until evenly coated.
Place the pork, fat-cap side up, on smoker or on the oiled grate over indirect heat and cover with lid. Smoke the pork, maintaining inside temperature between 225 to 250 degrees, for 6 to 8 hours or until a dark crust forms on the outside of the meat.
Remove the pork and place in a deep aluminum pan; pour soft drink over pork. Cover with foil and return to smoker or charcoal grill grate over indirect heat and smoke about 8 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 195 degrees. (The bone should pull easily from the shoulder when ready.)
Remove the pork from smoker and let stand 30 minutes. Remove and discard the bone and fat cap. Using your hands, pull the pork into small pieces. Serves 10.
B-Daddy’s Butt Rub
1 / 2cup kosher salt
1 / 2cup coarsely ground black pepper
1 / 2cup chili powder
1 / 2cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 / 2cup granulated garlic
Stir together all the ingredients in a large bowl. Store in an airtight container up to 6 months. Makes about 3 cups.
– From “The South’s Best Butts: Pitmaster Secrets for Southern Barbecue Perfection,” by Matt Moore (Oxmoor House, $26.95).
Ham and Havarti Sandwiches With Peach-Mustard Spread
I think a beach picnic, even a picnic with “just” sandwiches, should be more memorable – and delicious – than everyday picnic fare, especially because boneless ready-to-serve hams are so readily available. You'll have leftovers if you buy and cook a whole ham, but this sandwich is great for using up leftover ham from a big dinner. Alternatively, you could also use thick slices of ham purchased from the deli and skip cooking it in the cola and orange juice. The peach-mustard spread makes 2 cups. You can refrigerate leftovers for up to two weeks.
For the sandwiches:
6 French or crusty bread rolls
1 boneless sliced heat-and-serve ham halved horizontally
1 lb. sliced Havarti cheese
2 large navel oranges
1 (5-oz.) package baby arugula
1 (12-oz.) can cola
1 / 2cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cloves
For the peach-mustard spread:
1 cup peach preserves
1 cup grainy mustard
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the ham in a baking dish.
Slice 1 orange and place the slices between the ham slices and over the ham.
Grate the zest and squeeze the juice from the remaining orange into a bowl and add the cola, brown sugar and cloves. Pour over the ham. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the ham is browned. Let cool.
To make the spread, stir the preserves and mustard together in a small bowl. Spoon a little onto the cut sides of each roll. Top evenly with ham slices, cheese slices and arugula and serve. Serves 6.
– From “The Beach House Cookbook,” by Mary Kay Andrews (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99).
3 / 4cup dry white wine
1 / 2French shallot, thickly sliced
1 (9-ounce) salmon fillet
Sea salt flakes
3 1 / 2ounces smoked salmon, finely chopped, reserving a piece to garnish
3 dill sprigs, stems removed, plus an extra sprig to garnish
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 / 2cup creme fraiche or light sour cream
In a small saucepan, bring the wine, shallot and 1 cup water to the boil over medium heat. Season the salmon fillet with salt and add it to the hot liquid. Simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to rest in the poaching liquid for 10 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the salmon from the poaching liquid and place in a mixing bowl. Cover and leave until cool. Remove the skin and any bones, then flake the salmon. Add the smoked salmon, dill, lemon juice and creme fraiche and stir with a spatula until combined.
Pack the rillettes into a serving bowl and garnish with the reserved smoked salmon and dill. Cover and chill until needed; the rillettes will keep for 3 days.
To serve, spread onto fresh baguette or cucumber slices, or spread into lengths of celery. Serves 8 to 10 as a starter.
– From “Le Picnic: Chic Food for On-the-Go,” by Suzy Ashford (Smith Street Books, $19.99).
Chinese Chicken Salad
This dish will easily become be one of the most popular dishes in your repertoire. You can use just about any protein or none at all. This is a great dressing to just keep in the fridge because almost all bottled dressings are not good. You can double this recipe, store it in a squeeze bottle and look extra cheffy.
– Jet Tila
For the dressing:
5 green onions (2-inch) white parts only, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Chinese dry mustard, made into a paste by stirring in 1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup Japanese pickled ginger, packed
1 / 2cup lime juice
1 tablespoon roughly chopped garlic
2 tablespoons roughly chopped shallots
1 / 2cup honey
2/3 cup Japanese soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoon roughly chopped ginger root
2 cups peanut oil
For the salad:
1 cup canned tangerine segments, drained
5 cups Napa cabbage
2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 head radicchio, cut into thin strips
4 cups mixed baby greens
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cooked, cooled and diced
3 cups oil
5 wonton wrappers
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
For the dressing: Combine all the ingredients except the peanut oil in a blender. Blend them thoroughly for about 10 seconds, until no one item is recognizable. With the blender running, slowly drizzle in the peanut oil until the dressing is smooth and even. You can use immediately or store in an air-tight container for a week.
For the salad: In a large salad bowl, toss the tangerines, cabbage, carrots, radicchio, greens and chicken.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cut the wonton skins into 1/4-inch wide strips. When the oil reaches 365 degrees, fry until the strips are golden brown, about 30 seconds on each side. Drain the wonton strips on a paper towel and allow to cool. You'll need about 2 cups of wonton strips. Toss them with the salad.
Toss your salad with 1 cup of the dressing. Add more dressing if needed, a little at a time. Sprinkle the salad with the sesame seeds and serve. Makes 2 1 / 2cups of dressing; salad serves 4 to 6.
– From “101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die,” by Jet Tila (Page Street Publishing, $21.99).
Spiced Tofu With Black Beans, Barbecued Corn and Red Bell Peppers
This recipe is one of many twists and turns. It started off as a scrambled tofu stir-fry, inspired by a Sophie Dahl recipe. But, as with many dishes in my repertoire, it soon morphed into a salad of Tex-Mex influence. The heavily spiced, smoky tofu is really one of my favorite things to eat. My kids love it just as much. Roll it up in a corn tortilla or soft taco shell for a simple, flavor-packed family meal. You can use store-bought roasted red bell peppers, if you like.
– Hetty McKinnon
2 red bell peppers
3 corn cobs
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
28 ounces firm tofu, torn into chunks
1 / 2jalapeno, deseeded and finely diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 / 2teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1 / 2(15-ounce) cans black beans (about 2 cups), drained
1 / 2cup cilantro leaves
Juice of 1 lime
Sea salt and black pepper
Heat a griddle pan or barbecue. You need it smoking hot. Lay the peppers on the pan or barbecue and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, turning, until blackened on all sides. Place the peppers in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to steam for 10 minutes. When ready, peel off and discard the charred skin along with the seeds and membrane, and roughly chop the pepper flesh. (To save on time and effort, you can definitely use store-bought roasted red peppers.)
Add the corn cobs to the pan or barbecue and cook on all sides, until slightly charred. Leave them to cool slightly, then run a sharp knife down each side to remove the kernels.
In a large frying pan, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the shallots and garlic and cook over medium heat until the shallots are translucent. Add the tofu chunks, then the chili, cumin, turmeric and paprika and move around, making sure the tofu is evenly coated in the spices. Add a big pinch of salt and pepper and cook for 5-6 minutes until the tofu is starting to take on some golden color.
Combine the bell peppers, corn, black beans, tofu mixture and cilantro and mix well. To serve, squeeze over the lime juice and finish with a drizzle of olive oil. Serves 4 to 6.
– From “Neighborhood: Hearty Salads and Plant-Based Recipes from Home and Abroad,” by Hetty McKinnon (Roost Books, $24.95).
Cucumber Tzatziki Sauce
Tzatziki sauce is popular in Greek cuisine and is often served as a condiment on gyro sandwiches. Though traditional Tzatziki is made with strained yogurt, we think you'll find the taste and texture of this plant-based version to be spot on. You can use it to add a garlicky zip to any Mediterranean-inspired dish, as a sandwich spread or to replace sour cream on a baked potato. Really, there is no wrong answer! This stuff is good on everything. Use fresh dill and parsley instead of dried, if you have it available or can find it at the farmers market.
– Katie Koteen and Kate Kasbee
1 cup soft tofu
1 / 2lemon, juiced
1 / 2cup cucumber, diced
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 / 4teaspoon salt
1 / 8teaspoon black pepper
Press the tofu with paper towels to remove as much water as possible. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until silky smooth. Serves 4.
– From “Frugal Vegan: Affordable, Easy & Delicious Vegan Cooking,” by Katie Koteen and Kate Kasbee (Page Street Publishing, $21.99).
Addie Broyles writes for the Austin American-Statesman. E-mail: abroyles(at)statesman.com.
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