Five dinner ideas to hold onto the end of summer

As I chose recipes for you below, I realised that this was my last roundup of the summer, and that there are so many more recipes I wanted to share before it’s over. (Yes, summer technically ends in late September, but emotionally it ends on Labour Day.)

It’s not like these recipes expire next month, but to me, they sing of summer – dishes like a sassy green dip, which I made for a barbecue and then ate the leftovers with carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes until the last of it had been scrounged from the jar; and spaghetti with clams, which I was inspired to cook two weekends ago after I saw littlenecks at the market. (The weeknight version, which does not require a same-day trip to a fish vendor, is a delicious linguine with clam sauce made with canned clams.) Have we even talked about spritzes yet? Esquites? Smashed cucumbers? Icebox cake?

Chicken and herb salad with nuoc cham

Buy a rotisserie chicken for a time-saving hack

(Getty/iStock)

Nuoc cham, a Vietnamese sauce bright with lime juice and chile, is tossed into this simple, satisfying salad to give it a salty-sweet finish. Thinly sliced bell pepper and shaved cabbage provide crunch, while meat pulled from a shop-bought rotisserie chicken – or any leftover chicken – soaks up the dressing. Serve this by itself, or alongside steamed rice or room-temperature cooked rice vermicelli.

By: Yewande Komolafe

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

2 tbsp granulated sugar

1 garlic clove, minced

1 bird’s-eye chilli or other small hot chilli, minced with seeds

¼ cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)

3 tbsp fish sauce

3 loosely packed cups chicken meat (340g, pulled from shop-bought rotisserie chicken or roast chicken)

140g thinly sliced red or green cabbage

1 small English cucumber, thinly sliced (about 200g)

1 medium bell pepper (any colour), thinly sliced

50g peppery leafy greens, such as watercress with tender stems, rocket or mizuna

20g Thai or sweet basil leaves

20g mint leaves

25g crispy fried shallots or onions, store-bought or homemade

Method:

1. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and ¼ cup water. Whisk to dissolve the sugar. Add the garlic, chilli, lime juice and fish sauce. Stir to combine.

2. Add the chicken, cabbage, cucumbers and bell pepper to the dressing. Toss to coat. Add the leafy greens and the basil and mint leaves. Toss to combine.

3. Divide the salad among bowls, garnish with the crispy shallots and serve immediately.

Tomato-butter pasta

The perfect pasta to enjoy seasonal tomatoes

(Getty)

When you have ripe, perfect tomatoes that you want to enjoy without much fuss, this is the pasta to make. (If your tomatoes are tasteless, your pasta will be too, so don’t try this with the off-season supermarket variety.) It’s inspired by pan con tomate, in which grated tomato and its juices are spooned onto garlic toasts. Here, with vigorous stirring, grated tomato and cold butter form a glossy, light, pretty-in-pink sauce that tastes of sweet, just-cooked tomato. The red-pepper flakes, garlic, basil and parmesan bring out the flavour of the tomato, and while there are plenty of other ways to embellish further, you don’t need to: this is lazy, easy summer cooking at its best. (PS: leftovers make a great room-temperature pasta salad.)

By: Ali Slagle

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

Salt

450g wavy or ridged pasta (like cavatappi or rigatoni), or a long noodle (like fettuccine)

900g large, ripe tomatoes (about 2 to 3), halved horizontally

4 tbsp cold unsalted butter

1 large garlic clove, peeled

¼ tsp red pepper flakes, plus more for serving

Black pepper

Torn basil leaves, for serving (optional)

Finely grated parmesan, for serving

Method:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.

2. Meanwhile, using the large holes of a box grater, grate the cut ends of the tomato into a large bowl. Discard or compost skins. Grate the butter into the bowl as well. Using the small holes of the box grater, grate the garlic into the bowl. Add the red pepper flakes, and season generously with salt. Refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Return the drained pasta to the pot, along with the bowl of grated tomato and butter. Set over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and glosses the pasta, 2 to 3 minutes (the sauce will thicken as it sits). Add pasta water as needed to emulsify the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with more red-pepper flakes, black pepper, basil and parmesan as desired.

Jalapeño grilled pork chops

Juicy jalapeños offer discernible heat, but they have a higher purpose beyond that: they provide welcome freshness with their distinct vegetal flavour. When blitzed with aromatic coriander stems and plenty of garlic, jalapeños transform into a punchy marinade that flavours and tenderises pork chops gloriously, and tinges them a bright green, too. That brilliant colour, evidence of the chlorophyll in the peppers and herbs, stays vibrant even after a fiery kiss on the grill.

By: Eric Kim

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

For the pork chops:

5 large jalapeños, stemmed

5 large garlic cloves, peeled

1 bunch coriander stems, cut into 2.5cm pieces

2 tbsp rice vinegar

118ml olive oil, plus more for cooking

1 tbsp salt

2 tsp granulated sugar

8 thin-cut, bone-in pork loin chops (1.5cm thick)

For the relish:

1 large jalapeño, thinly sliced into rings

1 small red onion, thinly sliced into rings

80ml rice vinegar

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp granulated sugar

Coriander leaves and tender stems, for garnish

Coriander rice or cooked white rice, for serving (optional)

Method:

1. Make the pork chops: in a food processor, blitz the jalapeños, garlic, coriander stems, rice vinegar, olive oil, salt and sugar until smooth. Place the pork chops in a large bowl or resealable container and pour the marinade over them; turn the chops to evenly coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.

2. While the chops marinate, prepare a charcoal grill for direct high-heat cooking, or heat a gas grill to medium-high.

3. Make the relish: in a small bowl, toss the jalapeño, red onion, rice vinegar, salt, sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Set aside to quick-pickle until ready to serve, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

4. Carefully grease the grill grate: use tongs to grip a wadded paper towel dipped in oil and then rub the grates with the oiled towel. With the marinade clinging to them, place the pork chops on the hot greased grate. Grill until the chops are charred at the edges and no longer pink in the middle, 2 to 3 minutes per side. The meat is ready to flip when it releases easily from the grates. (If using a gas grill, close the lid between flips.) Alternatively, cook the chops on the stovetop in batches. Heat a large frying or grill pan over medium-high. Add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan, and heat until shimmering. Add the chops, with the marinade clinging to them, to the pan. Sear until browned and caramelised at the edges and no longer pink in the middle, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Discard any remaining marinade.

5. Serve the chops with the relish and cilantro on top. If you’d like, serve rice alongside.

Courgette pancakes

These fritters are popular in Turkey

(Getty/iStock)

Mucver (pronounced moosh-vair) are delicate, crisp courgette pancakes popular in Turkey. This version has not just shredded courgette, but also tiny clouds of feta and a sprinkling of minced fresh dill and spring onions. They are crisp on the outside, tender within and subtly herbaceous. The trick to making the pancakes crisp and not soggy is to squeeze all the water out of the courgette before mixing it with the other ingredients. A little brute force is required.

By:Elaine Louie

Yield: 12 pancakes

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

For the pancakes:

3 medium courgette (about 450g), shredded

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 large eggs, beaten

70g all-purpose flour

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

150g crumbled feta cheese

3 spring onions, finely chopped

3g finely chopped dill

1 tsp baking powder

4 to 6 tbsp vegetable oil, more as needed

For the yogurt sauce:

16-g plain yoghurt

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

½ tsp salt

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 250C. Place courgette in a colander over a bowl, and mix with ½ teaspoon salt. Allow to drain for five minutes. Transfer to a cloth kitchen towel, and squeeze hard to extract as much moisture as possible. Squeeze a second time; volume will shrink to about half the original.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine courgette and eggs. Using a fork, mix well. Add flour, ½ teaspoon salt, olive oil, feta, spring onions, dill and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Mix well, add baking powder, and mix again.

3. Place a cast iron pan or other heavy pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and heat until shimmering. Place heaping tablespoons of courgette batter in pan several inches apart, allowing room to spread. Flatten them with a spatula if necessary; pancakes should be about 1cm thick and about 7.5cm in diameter. Fry until golden on one side, then turn and fry again until golden on other side. Repeat once or twice, frying about 5 to 6 minutes total, so pancakes get quite crisp. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels, and keep warm in oven. Continue frying remaining batter, adding more oil to pan as needed. Serve hot.

4. For yoghurt sauce: in a small bowl, combine yogurt, garlic and salt. Mix well, and serve on the side or on pancakes.

Naan-o paneer-o sabzi (bread, feta and herb platter)

Make sure you achieve ‘logmeh’, the perfect bite, with this grazing meal

(Getty/iStock)

The heart and soul of the Iranian table, this humble and satisfying meal is a simple combination of briny cheese, fresh herbs, walnuts and flatbread. Taken together, they make a perfect bite, known as loghmeh in Persian. A summer platter can include cooling watermelon, crunchy grapes and crisp Persian cucumber. Think of the suggestions below as an open canvas and add your preferred summer fruits and vegetables. Enjoy this for breakfast or brunch with a cup of hot black tea, as an afternoon snack, or as a beautiful, refreshing and light dinner with a glass of your favourite beverage. This is meant for those long, lazy summer nights when all you want to do is nibble and get lost in good conversation with good friends.

By: Naz Deravian

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

120g walnut halves

Salt

140-170g lavash or pita bread, cut into smaller pieces

280g feta cheese, sliced or cubed

1 bunch Persian basil or sweet Italian basil, lemon basil or Thai basil (see tip)

1 bunch mint

4 spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths

1 small watermelon, cut into wedges or cubed

1 bunch radishes, cut into quarters or slices, or kept whole

4 Persian cucumbers, cut into halves or slices, or kept whole

1 bunch grapes

Method:

1. Traditionally, walnuts are soaked to remove their bitterness and to make them crisp and more digestible. If you’d like to soak them, place them in a medium bowl and add a pinch of salt and enough ice-cold water to cover by 5cm. Cover and soak in the refrigerator for 1 hour and up to 24 hours. Drain the walnuts.

2. Arrange all the ingredients as casually or as artistically as you like on a platter and serve. To create a loghmeh (perfect bite): take a piece of bread, place some feta in it, then pluck a couple of basil and mint leaves and set over the cheese, along with a piece of spring onion and a walnut half. Roll up or fold over the lavash and eat. Follow with bites of watermelon, radish, cucumber and grapes.

Tip: Persian basil (reyhan) is extremely fragrant and sweeter and more delicate than other basil varieties. You can find it at Iranian markets, but if you can’t, use the more tender leaves of sweet Italian basil, or use lemon basil or Thai basil.

© The New York Times

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