Some of summer's best weather happens after the Christmas and New Year madness dies down and when we're all back at work. The relaxing evenings don't have to end just because you've traded Jandals for shoes during the day. Summer is still about easy dinners and minimal effort for a meal packed with flavour.
It's a great time of year for produce, too. Many of my friends and their parents have great gardens, overflowing with fresh herbs and vegetables.
We grew cherry tomatoes this year. The plants were super easy to grow and overflowing with fruit. Cos lettuce grown in straight rows is easy to pick and serve straight away, as well.
When I was a child, my great uncle who lived a few streets from us would spend his afternoons in our garden and his beans were the stuff of legend. All along our garage were rows and rows of green beans.
Summer is a great time to get thinking about a garden and, if nothing else, you should consider growing herbs.
I use fresh herbs all the time, and they are the simplest way to pack a meal with flavour, especially if you're making salads, or eating without meat.
I've been reading about how much meat we eat and the heavy impact on the environment. A lot of us think we have to serve meat with every meal by default. We don't. I prefer to eat good-quality meat once or twice a week rather than feel the need to buy lesser quality stuff all the time.
There are health benefits, too. A nutrient-dense diet of vegetables will undoubtedly help with any health-related New Year's resolutions. The concept of being a "weekday vegetarian" appeals, so with these recipes there are options to have them vegetarian or add fish, chicken or bacon. They are both good options - with or without meat.
They are one-bowl dinners, another bonus at this time of year as the fewer dishes made when cooking, the better. Less time on the dishes means more time enjoying the daylight in the evenings with a nice glass of wine or a frosty gin and tonic.
Summer Spaghetti With Peas and Mint
- Serves 4
1 tbsp rice bran oil
Knob of butter
2 cups frozen peas
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and pepper
Zest and juice of half a lemon
¼ cup vegetable stock
¼ cup cream
¼ cup finely grated parmesan
¼ cup finely grated pecorino cheese
Small bunch finely chopped fresh mint
Optional: 6 rashers streaky bacon, cut into 2cm strips
1. Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling water. Set aside.
2. In a large frying pan, heat the oil and butter. (If using bacon, add to the pan and fry for a couple of minutes). Add garlic and peas, and season well with flaky sea salt and cracked black pepper.
3. Cook for about 5 minutes, the crush up some of the peas with a fork. Add lemon zest and juice, stock and cream. Turn the heat up to bring to a strong simmer. Add cheese and mix together well.
4. Turn the heat down, and add the cooked pasta and the mint. Stir to get the pasta covered in the mixture, then dish out on to plates with tongs and a spoon. Serve with a drizzle of good-quality olive oil, cracked pepper and a sprinkling of extra parmesan and fresh mint.
Bulghar Salad with Artichokes and Green Beans
Photo / Michael Craig
- Serves 2
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
1½ cups bulghar wheat, soaked in water for five minutes then drained
1 cup marinated artichoke pieces, from a jar
Small bunch each of fresh parsley and basil, roughly chopped
200g fresh green beans, blanched
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp good-quality olive oil
¼ cup almonds, roughly chopped
1. For the tomatoes, preheat the oven to 180C. Add tomatoes to a small roasting dish and drizzle over the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, soak the bulghar wheat in water and drain. Place in a mixing bowl.
3. Add artichokes, herbs, and the blanched green beans. Squeeze over the lemon juice and drizzle over the olive oil. Mix together gently.
4. Sprinkle over the almonds and serve with the cherry tomatoes. Serve either as is, or with roast chicken or grilled haloumi.
Optional: Serve with roast chicken
1 butterflied chicken
1 lemon, skin on and thinly sliced
1 tsp chilli flakes
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
Preheat oven to 190C. Place the chicken in a roasting tray. Add all other ingredients, and rub in the olive oil. Roast for 40 minutes until crispy on the outside and cooked through. Cut into quarters and serve with the salad and the roast tomatoes.
Photo / Michael Craig
- Serves 2
1 cup cooked brown rice or sushi rice (cooked according to packet instructions)
1 tbsp soya sauce
1 tbsp chilli oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
Juice of half a lemon
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
½ red capsicum, cut into strips
½ an avocado, cut into cubes
Small handful mung beans
Small handful fresh coriander
1 tbsp black sesame seeds
1 sheet nori, cut into thin strips
Optional: 200g wood smoked salmon, broken into chunks
Optional garnish: pickled ginger and wasabi paste
1. Spread the rice on your serving plate.
2. For the dressing, place soya sauce, sesame oil, and chilli oil in a small jug and mix well with a fork.
3. Drizzle dressing over the rice. Scatter over the carrot, capsicum, and avocado, and squeeze over the lemon juice. Add the salmon here if you're using it. Garnish with mung beans, coriander, black sesame seeds and nori strips. Serve with wasabi and pickled ginger on the side if you wish.
*Find more recipes on bite.co.nz