Marinated Cucumber with Mint (page 122)
First up was a recipe from one of my favourite chapters in the book, "Raw Assemblies". I used an English cucumber for this, thin-skinned so there was no need to peel it, and white wine vinegar replaced cider vinegar in my version. With a simple dressing and some added mint, this was a very refreshing salad that would brighten any summer plate.
Mexican Tomato and Bean Soup (page 138)
I have a favourite Mexican bean soup recipe that produces a hearty meal in a bowl with robust flavours, a cold weather soup. My family and I enjoy soup in the summer too, albeit lighter versions, and this one, with its short cooking time and use of fresh tomatoes looked very appealing.
We really enjoyed this soup. It was zesty and tasted of fresh tomatoes and grassy chiles with the beans adding some heft, but not enough to weigh it down. But I must have cooked all of the heat out of the jalapeños because it wasn't very spicy so I made sure to include some with the other garnishes.
Green Beans, New (Sweet) Potatoes, and Olives (page 222)
Hugh describes this dish as a "sort of deconstructed tapenade" and with garlic, lemons, olives and olive oil to flavour the vegetables, I could understand the comparison. July is a great month for green beans here, and along with the new crop of starchy and waxy potatoes available now, is the sweet variety, so I thought I would switch up this recipe and use them instead.
This was a very pretty dish as well as a delicious one with the contrast of sweet potato with briny olive and zingy lemon juice particularly good. I'm going to have to remember this lemon and garlic-infused olive oil dressing for the next time I roast sweet potatoes to add some brightness to a winter meal.
Summer Stir-Fry with Fried (Steamed) Rice (page 286)
Versatile and quick cooking, you can't really go wrong with a good, basic stir-fry recipe like this one.
I made a few substitutions, using gai lan (Chinese broccoli), enoki mushrooms and edamame but the recipe is one that can easily be adapted to whatever fresh produce is available. I thought it was a little unusual to add the chile, ginger and garlic at the end of cooking but their flavours seemed a little more pronounced as a result, which I enjoyed.
I would have liked the vegetables to have had a little more sauce and I didn't really care for the mint with the other ingredients, but it was still a very tasty dish. I served it with steamed brown rice as suggested in the head notes instead of the fried rice.
Charred Leeks (Cauliflower Steaks) with Romesco (page 336)
It's a little early for baby leeks, but I figured this classic Catalan sauce would taste good with just about any grilled vegetable so in addition to the first field tomatoes of the season that I needed for the recipe, I picked up some beautiful cauliflower from the farmers' market.
I've made Romesco sauce before - quite delicious - but it was made with red peppers and almonds. This variation with tomatoes and hazelnuts was quite different but equally good. It was tangy and smoky, with sweetness from the tomatoes, (optional) bell pepper and toasted nuts, and a good bit of heat from some Thai bird chiles I added, and it had lots of great texture too. It went beautifully with the grilled cauliflower steaks, and some grilled fish I made to use up the extra.
Runner Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic (page 375)
Prepping the beans included de-stringing them. It was the work of just a few minutes done by running a vegetable peeler down the length of each long bean. (Who knew it was that easy?) Then, the beans were cooked slowly (the second "aha" moment) with grated fresh tomatoes, sautéed onion and garlic, basil and parsley until they were tender with just a hint of their original crunch. Having been cooked with an acid, their colour did suffer a bit, but that was easy to look past when they offered such wonderful flavour. This summery dish, with its incredible, fresh tasting tomato sauce, was so delicious I could have eaten a plate of it as a meal!
That's all for this month. I'm now looking forward to August with its eggplants, zucchini, leeks, tomatoes, corn and more. Visit here to see what else was cooking in the group members' kitchens (or on their grills) this month.