Favorite Quick Summer Dishes?

July 19, 2007

Summer always seems to imply a certain amount of leisureliness. Multi-course dinners that linger as twilight shimmers its way into dusk. Weekend picnics that morph (over a bottle of wine or two) from lunch right into supper.

But it doesn’t always turn out that way.

Sometimes work keeps you until well after the sun sets. Sometimes (and I am newly privy to this one), babies squeal and fuss until you can barely pull together your thoughts, much less a full-blown meal. It just so happens that both of those scenarios came into play the other day after I read this article in the NYT by Mark Bittman on simple, 10 minute dishes. It got me thinking (the next day, after my brain cells had recharged overnight), what are my lickety-split, go-to dishes?

In summer, when the tomatoes in my garden are screaming, “Pick me! Pick me!” (just weeks away!), Christopher and I would merrily eat Panzanella every day. There are a million variations (we do a mean riff on a BLT for one), but our favorite is almost absurdly simple. Our stand-by comfort dish in any season, though, is Orechiette with Broccoli and Kale. It started out years ago as oriechiette with broccoli rabe, but at one point I ended up blending the concept with a garlic-anchovy broccoli sauce I was working on for Fitness Magazine, and another time Christopher threw in some extra dinosaur kale. The combo stuck, and ever since it has been what we make when we crave comfort. In the summer, we throw a couple of sausages on the grill while the pasta’s cooking, then chop them up and add them to the mix.

So . . . what are your favorite quick summer dishes? Do share . . .


{  Super Simple Panzanella  }

2 cloves garlic
kosher salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (your best stuff)
juice of 1/2 lemon
4 cups stale peasant bread, crust removed and cut or torn into 1–inch chunks
4–6 super-ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into 1–inch chunks (about 6 cups total)
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup basil, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved lengthwise

Mash the garlic to a paste in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of kosher salt. Whisk in olive oil and lemon juice and scrape into a large salad bowl.

Add bread and tomatoes to dressing and toss well to coat. Grind pepper over top, sprinkle on the basil and olives and toss well again. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

{  Orechiette with Broccoli and Kale  }

2 cloves garlic
3 anchovies, rinsed
kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chicken stock
2 Italian chicken sausages
1/2 pound oriechiette pasta
1 head of broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch dinosaur kale, de-stemmed and coarsely chopped
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and bring grill heat to medium high.

Mash the garlic and anchovies to a paste in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of kosher salt (hmmmm, are you detecting a theme here?). Whisk in chile flakes, olive oil and chicken stock and set aside.

Put sausages on (direct heat) just before pouring the pasta into the water. Cook pasta for 7 minutes and add broccoli and kale. Turn sausages. Cook both pasta and sausages another 5 minutes. Drain pasta and veggies and toss with sauce in the pasta pot over low heat. Chop sausages and toss with pasta.

Top with an extra dose of sea salt (Maldon is our favorite) or a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano if you like. 

PS — I apologize for the lack of photos on this post, my digital camera broke last week so I’m temporarily without a lens. Incidentally, if you’re looking for luscious food photography, check out Chocolate & Zucchini, Smitten Kitchen and The Traveler’s Lunchbox.

PPSS — For more great food photography (and a shot of yours truly ;-)), pick up the August issue of Prevention Magazine. I’ve got a feature in there on lessons I learned while living on Corfu and was part of the photo shoot for the piece. Cheers!






8 Responses to “Favorite Quick Summer Dishes?”

  1. Suzuka Says:

    My favorite summer side dish is coleslaw. I’m simply obsessed with it. Here’s my favorite recipe (though I love trying different versions)

    1/4 c. fat-free milk
    1/4 c. low fat mayo
    2 Tbls vinager
    1 Tbl lemon juice
    1 1/2 Tsp onion powder
    1/2 Tsp celery seed
    About 1/2 Tsp salt (eyeball it)
    4-6 packets of Splenda (or sugar–a couple Tbls to taste)
    1 package of tri-color coleslaw (about 8 cups)

    Mix all together and there you have it! Yes, my favorite summer side dish…or, wait, what about a black bean and corn salad? Mmm.

  2. lia Says:

    Hi Suzuka, and thank you for the recipe! I agree, coleslaw is a total summer staple. I’m always trying to get the right mix of creaminess and tang, sweet and salty, and it can be tough. Yours looks like a winner . . . can’t wait to try it!

    Now . . . how ’bout that black bean and corn salad . . . 😉

  3. Eric Jensen Says:

    Just enjoyed your Super Simple Panzanella with two slight changes – no olives and I used a rosemary bread that worked really well with it. Our garden is bursting with more tomatoes than we’ll ever know what to do with, but it’s our summer passion and we love these months when we have so many different varieties of tomatoes. Hope you’re doing well with Noe and tell Chris I said Hi. Thanks for the great recipe.

  4. lia Says:

    Hey Eric! So glad you liked the panzanella. Your tweaks sound delicious. We’ve done it with olive bread, foregoing the olives, and that was fabulous too. I like the rosemary twist, though, we’ll have to try that.

    Christopher sends a hi back . . . and I’m sending jealous vibes that your tomatoes are already ripe. Ours are alllmmmmoooost there.


  5. foodette Says:

    My favorite summer recipe is guacamole. Super easy and a delicious way to eat up lots of CA avocados. My recipe:

    5 ripe avocados
    juice of two limes
    two roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
    1/2 onion, diced
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1-2 jalapeno or serrano chilis – seeded (if desired) and minced
    1 handful cilantro leaves, chopped coarsely
    salt, pepper, and hot sauce, to taste

    Peel, seed, and chop the avocados. Put in the bottom of a large bowl and douse with the lime juice. Mix well to ensure avocados pieces are fully covered with lime juice. Add all other ingredients, one at a time, mixing each one in thoroughly. Doing this will mash the avocados naturally, creating a smooth texture with a few delicious lumps. Cover and refrigerate for two hours. Serve and enjoy!

  6. foodette Says:

    Oops – forgot to add a tsp of dried oregano (Mexican oregano if you got it)!! 🙂

  7. Brian Says:

    Lia, great recipes, both were delicious..our tomatoes are just coming in and what a great way to showcase them. I’d never used kale before and it was great in the pasta. I used red pepper flakes instead of the red chile flakes recommended, I think that was OK. And, I admit we were too lazy to remove the crust which was fine just the same. I was thinking of toasting the bread cubes for an added crunch. Of course we washed it down with some WINE! Crios Torrontes this time which was different, but I was wishing I had some Rose’ on hand!! Next time.

  8. lia Says:

    Great grauc recipe foodette–thanks! Little miss Noe loves avos, so we always have a bunch around nowadays. You’ve inspired me to make a GROWN UP dish with them this weekend!

    Brian, I’m so glad you liked both recipes. It’s always fun for me to see what personal touches people are giving them.


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