Melon salads, garlic shrimp and more summer recipes ready for the heat

The rhythm of eating in summer is so different than in the other seasons. We’re eating on trails and boats, in backyards and baseball stadiums. Sometimes, we’re trying to figure out what to bring to a neighbors’ barbecue; other nights, dinner is a salad and a slice of cake while watching “American Ninja Warrior.”

School’s out, and so are the rules, so take advantage of these next few fun, lighthearted months to take your food a little less seriously, too.

Oven-Roasted Chicken Tikka

The chicken tikka you find in restaurants is normally so luminously orange you could see it from space. Our family recipe is much tastier and nowhere near as brightly colored. We use chicken thighs, which are nice and juicy, and dress our chicken tikka with a sharp mint and yogurt chutney. If you have any leftovers, chicken tikka is great in sandwiches and wraps with a bit of cucumber, tomato, onion and chutney. Or you could always make some chicken tikka masala. Skewers aren’t necessary, but they look nice and help divide quantities. If you use them, soak them in advance to avoid burning them in the oven.

— Meera Sodha

Canola oil or cooking spray

1 1/4 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs

1 (3/4-inch) piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 fresh green chili, roughly chopped


1/2 cup whole-milk yogurt

1/2 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. ground turmeric

3/4 tsp. cumin seeds, crushed

3/4 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. sweet paprika

1 tsp. garam masala

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line two oven trays with parchment paper and coat them with a very thin layer of oil.

Pick the chicken thighs over to remove any excess fat, then chop into small, 1-inch cubes, and set to one side in a bowl.

Using a mortar and pestle, bash the ginger, garlic and green chili with a pinch of salt until it turns into a paste. Add the paste to the chicken pieces, followed by the rest of the ingredients and 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt (or to taste). Mix thoroughly and cover. Leave to marinate for at least 15 minutes and up to a few hours (the longer the better).

Shake any excess marinade off the chicken (or else you’ll end up with a curry) and distribute the chicken between the two oven trays, so that you don’t crowd them, or assemble them on wooden skewers that have been soaked in water. Cook for about 20 minutes, turning the pieces over after 10 minutes so that they cook evenly.

Serve the chicken tikka with some salad leaves or chaat salad, and drizzle with mint and yogurt chutney. Serves 4 to 6.

— From “Made in India: Cooked in Britain Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen” by Meera Sodha (Flatiron Books, $35)

Avocado and Melon Salad with Dill, Mozzarella and Prosciutto

The sweet perfume of a Charentais melon takes me back to my grandmother’s house on a hot summer day in August, when the family traditionally gathered for a meal at her home in France. She liked to serve hers simply paired with homemade jambon fumé (smoked ham) and porto; it’s the fine quality of the ingredients chosen that made her salad outstanding.

I thought to use my grandmother’s classically French recipe as a base for a more complex and nourishing salad. Bite-size pieces of avocado, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella all come together to make this happen.

— Beatrice Peltre

For the dill and mustard vinaigrette:

2 tsp. grainy mustard

2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

4 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. hazelnut oil

Sea salt and pepper

1 small shallot, finely chopped

1 Tbsp. finely chopped dill

For the salad:

2 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds

2 avocados, pitted

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/2 cantaloupe, seeded

8 1/2 oz. mozzarella cheese

4 cups mixed spring greens

8 slices prosciutto

20 yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half (if small, keep them whole)

To prepare the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, stir the mustard and vinegar together. Pour in the oils and whisk to emulsify. Season with sea salt and pepper. Stir in the shallot and dill; set aside.

To prepare the salad: Toast the pumpkin seeds in a frying pan over medium heat for a few minutes, until fragrant; set aside.

Using a melon baller, make small avocado balls. Drizzle with lemon juice as you go; set aside. Do the same with the melon. Cut or tear the mozzarella into bite-size pieces.

Place the greens in a salad bowl. Add the avocado and melon balls, cheese, prosciutto and tomatoes. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss gently. Add the pumpkin seeds on top and serve.

— From “My French Family Table: Recipes for a Life Filled with Food, Love, and Joie de Vivre” by Beatrice Peltre (Roost Books, $35)

Shrimp al Ajillo

This dish is ubiquitous in Spain. I ordered it at almost every dive and tapas bar I came across and found it to be universally fantastic. The quantities of oil and booze may seem extravagant, but as this dish vigorously boils into a tasty union, the rich and deliciously flavored sauce becomes as desirable as the shrimp themselves.

— Barton Seaver

1/3 cup olive oil

8 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced

4 dried arbol or Calabrian chilies or 2 teaspoons crushed red chili flakes

2 bay leaves

1 1/4 lbs. medium Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined

3/4 cup white wine

1 slug brandy (optional)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

3 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley


Crusty bread, for serving

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Add the garlic, chilies and bay leaves, and cook until the garlic begins to color.

Carefully add the shrimp and toss to coat with oil, then spread evenly in the pan and cook, without stirring, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the shrimp, then add the wine and brandy, if using, and bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice and parsley and season generously with salt.

Remove from the heat and stir everything together. Serve immediately with plenty of crusty bread. Serves 4.

— From “Two If By Sea: Delicious Sustainable Seafood” by Barton Seaver (Sterling Epicure, $30)

Pepper Jack Grits Poppers

The classic bar snack is dressed up with grits to start any meal off right. Look for mini bell peppers in a range of colors for the prettiest presentation. Chilling grits gives any leftovers a second life. Once they’re solidified, they can be cut or shaped and heated quickly at high heat in the oven or on the grill.

— Rebecca Lang

1 cup hot cooked grits

1 cup (4 oz.) freshly shredded pepper Jack cheese

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

1 garlic clove, pressed

18 to 20 sweet mini bell peppers

Stir together first five ingredients until cheese is melted; add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill at least 4 hours.

Heat broiler with oven rack 6 inches from heat. Cut peppers in half lengthwise, leaving stems intact; remove seeds. Spoon grits mixture into pepper halves. Place on a broiler pan. Broil 4 minutes or until golden. Serves 8 to 10, as an appetizer.

— From “The Southern Vegetable Book: A Root-to-Stalk Guide to the South’s Favorite Produce” by Rebecca Lang (Oxmoor House, $27.95)

Tomato Pie

Some tomatoes are better suited for pies than others, but even the wet ones can be drained on paper towels before layering in a pie crust.

1 pie crust, frozen or homemade

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

3 ripe tomatoes, sliced

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt, to taste

2 Tbsp. herb mix (fresh oregano, thyme, tarragon, chive, rosemary)

4 oz. gruyere, shaved

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread the mustard on the bottom of the pie dough. Arrange half the tomatoes over the mustard in a single layer. Drizzle half the olive oil and a hearty pinch of salt over the tomatoes, then layer with half the herbs and cheese. Repeat for a second layer.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the dough is cooked, the tomatoes are tender and the cheese is melted and nicely browned.

If necessary, drain some of the liquid off the pie if the tomatoes are super watery (save the juice for a marinade or sauce).

— From Coté Catering

Pasta with Chicken, Kale and Slow-Roasted Tomato Sauce

When your windowsill starts to overflow with tomatoes, roasting them in the oven with a little olive oil and salt concentrates their flavor, which can be especially helpful when you’re trying to make tomato sauces that aren’t too watery. This baked pasta dish could incorporate any sauteed summer vegetable instead of kale, and you could definitely serve the béchamel tomato sauce with other pasta dishes.

This recipe makes enough pasta to fill two 9-inch-by-9-inch casseroles. The author suggests dividing the yield in half, one to eat on one night and another to freeze for later.

To make the slow-roasted tomatoes, use a paring knife to remove the core from the tomatoes and cut them in half (or quarters, for large tomatoes). Toss the tomatoes with a little salt, sugar, black pepper and oil. Heat the oven to 200 degrees and place a wire rack on a sheet pan. Place the tomatoes on the rack and roast for 4-5 hours. Freeze in 1/3 cup portions for recipes like this one.

— Addie Broyles

1 lb. (16-oz. package) dried pasta

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup slow-roasted tomatoes, chopped

2 Tbsp. flour

2 cups milk

2 cups cooked and shredded chicken

1 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/2 bundle kale

2 cups reserved pasta cooking liquid

2 cups mozzarella cheese

For the breadcrumb topping:

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

1 Tbsp. salted butter, melted

2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook according to package directions, taking one minute off the cooking time.

Meanwhile, in a blender, blend the oil, onion, garlic and roasted tomatoes. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomato mixture to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Sprinkle the flour on top and continue to stir for 30 seconds. Pour in milk and whisk to combine. Bring to a low simmer and add the chicken, salt and red pepper flakes.

Once pasta is finished cooking, reserve two cups of the pasta cooking liquid and drain the rest of the water. Add the kale to the skillet with the chicken and tomato sauce, then top with the cooked pasta — the hot pasta will help wilt the kale. Add the 2 cups of reserved pasta liquid and the mozzarella and stir to combine. Let simmer for just a few minutes. You can choose to serve this now as-is, bake with breadcrumb topping or serve half and transfer the other half into a foil-disposable baking pan.

To bake, mix the breadcrumbs with the melted butter and Parmesan cheese and sprinkle the mixture over the pasta in a baking dish (use 1/2 the breadcrumb topping per 9-inch-by-9-inch square baking dish). If you’re serving half without baking, divide the breadcrumb quantities by half or reserve half of the batch for another use.

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until bubbly.

To bake from frozen: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the dish; remove and discard any plastic. Re-cover with foil and bake in the preheated oven for about an hour and a half, or until bubbly. Remove foil for the last 10 minutes of baking. Serves 8.

— From “Fast to the Table Freezer Cookbook: Freezer-Friendly Recipes and Frozen Food Shortcuts” by Becky Rosenthal (Countryman Press, $27.95)

Sweet Carrot Pancakes

Root vegetables usually make us think of cooler weather, but these carrot pancakes can be as sweet and light as you’d like to make them, especially with the orange zest in the batter and on the top. Whipped cream can turn them into dessert.

— Addie Broyles

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 cup finely grated carrot

1/2 cup grated orange zest, plus more for serving

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. sugar (or honey)

4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

Butter, for frying

Honey butter or maple syrup, for serving

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, carrot and orange zest.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; stir well. Mix the flour mixture into the egg mixture just until combined; do not overbeat. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes.

Heat and liberally butter a griddle or waffle iron. Ladle 1/2 cup of batter onto it. For griddle cakes, cook until the edges are golden and bubbles begin to break on the surface, then flip and cook for the same amount of time. To make waffles, pour the batter onto the waffle iron and bake until steaming stops, per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Garnish with orange zest, and serve with honey butter, maple syrup or a topping of your choice. Makes 6 pancakes.

— From “The Farmette Cookbook: Recipes and Adventures from My Life on an Irish Farm” by Imen McDonnell (Roost Books, $35)

Zucchini Cakes with Greek Aioli

These zucchini cakes rely on the moisture of the vegetable to bind with the flour and eggs to make a savory snack or side dish. With the addition of Bulgarian yogurt, the dip isn’t exactly an aioli, but it’s a tangy accompaniment that you could make on its own for a party dip.

— Addie Broyles

For the cakes:

4 zucchini, grated

1 Tbsp. salt

1/3 cup shallots, minced

2 eggs

2 cups flour

For the Greek aioli:

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup Bulgarian yogurt

1/2 Tbsp. finely minced shallot

1 Tbsp. chopped parsley

1 tsp. dill

1 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. hot sauce

1 tsp. sugar

Salt to taste

For the cakes: Grate zucchini and add salt to begin extracting excess water from the zucchini. Pressing the zucchini in a fine-mesh strainer works best.

After removing excess liquid from the zucchini, add the shallots, eggs and flour. Mix well.

To cook the zucchini cakes, heat one tablespoon canola oil in nonstick pan. Using a spoon, drop approximately a tablespoon-size portion into the hot oil, let brown, and flip. Once the cake is properly browned on both sides, remove the cake, salt to taste, and let it cool on paper towels. Makes 8 to 12 cakes. Serve with Greek aioli.

For the aioli: Mix all ingredients and chill. Makes 12 ounces.

— Drink.well chef Ben Mauldin

Pistachio, Coconut and Lime Cake

This is one of my all-time favorite cakes — and that’s saying something for a chocolate cake fiend! Serve it on the day of baking or make it the day ahead; either way, it’s pretty darn good. There’s just enough coconut for you to know it’s there, but not so much that it overpowers the tangy lime and nutty pistachio. Drizzled with just enough syrup to moisten the cake without drowning it and making it heavy, and accompanied by gently softened, lime-infused berries and a spoonful of cool crème fraîche, it’s just as good served as a dessert as it is an afternoon snack.

If you happen to find a bottle of pistachio oil in your local deli, grab it and use it in this recipe. It has a wonderful nutty flavor and aroma that hits you the moment you unscrew the cap — it’s pricey but can also be used to make a delicious pesto salad dressing. I try also to use sliced pistachios, which have had their purple skins removed. They are available from Middle Eastern supermarkets and specialty online food suppliers.

— Annie Rigg

For the cake:

5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

1/3 cup olive or pistachio oil

1 1/4 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

A pinch of salt

4 medium eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

Finely grated zest of 2 limes

3 Tbsp. sour cream

For syrup:

Freshly squeezed juice of 3 limes

5 Tbsp. agave syrup or mild tasting honey

3 Tbsp. granulated sugar

7 oz. blueberries (about one heaping cup)

7 oz. blackberries (about one heaping cup)

Crème fraîche or Greek yogurt, to serve

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease the pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Melt the butter with the olive or pistachio oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Blend the pistachios in a food processor until they are very finely chopped. Add the coconut, flour, baking powder and salt and process for no more than 10 seconds, just to combine.

Using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar on medium to high speed until they are very thick and pale, tripled in volume, and leave a ribbon trail when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. Gently fold in the lime zest and pistachio mixture using a large metal spoon, then fold in the butter mixture and sour cream. Pour into the pan, spread level and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Meanwhile, prepare the syrup: In a small saucepan, bring the lime juice, agave syrup or honey, sugar, and 3/4 cup of cold water to a boil. Continue to bubble steadily until reduced by half and syrupy.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully run an offset spatula around the edges of the cake to release the sides from the pan. Using a wooden skewer, make holes all over the top of the cake, then while it is still in the pan either slowly drizzle or carefully brush half the syrup all over the warm cake. Set aside until completely cold.

Pour the berries into the remaining syrup and return to low heat for a couple of minutes to slightly soften them. Remove from the heat, spoon into a bowl, and let cool.

Serve the cake in slices with crème fraîche or Greek yogurt and the berry compote spooned over. Serves 8 to 10.

— From “Summer Berries and Autumn Fruits: 120 Sensational Sweet & Savoury Recipes” by Annie Rigg (Kyle Books, $29.95)

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