Peppers flavored with that smoky grace note from the grill, snappy green beans tender as a summer breeze, juice-squirting tomatoes with their deep red color — these are what make the summer kitchen so exciting.
Just about anything you do to the end of summer harvest is more adornment than improvement, but just in case you’re looking for a little something new, here are few suggestions for a simple side or main dish on a hot summer night.
Even a roast chicken or grilled steak can become boring night after night, but a toothsome vegetable side can transform an ordinary meal into something magical. Enjoy!
Fusilli with Roasted Peppers
2 sweet red peppers
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 yellow or green sweet peppers
3/4 teaspoons salt
12 ounces fusilli pasta, uncooked
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup sliced fresh basil leaves
2 medium tomatoes diced
2 to 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup sliced Kalamata olives (Optional)
4 ounces feta or Parmesan cheese, crumbled
Preheat a gas grill to medium or build a fire in a kettle grill.
Place peppers on the heated grill and roast, covered, for 8 to 12 minutes, turning every few minutes, until evenly charred.
Remove from the grill and place in a large bowl with a lid. Set aside to cool and finish cooking.
Covering the bowl allows the peppers to steam and release their delicately flavored juices.
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.
Reserve the pepper liquid. When peppers have cooled, peel off as much of the skin as you can and slice into strips.
Using the same pot that you used for the pasta, add all the vegetables including: the pepper strips as well as their juices, basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, tomatoes, and olives; toss well.
Heat through for 1-2 minutes.
Return the hot pasta to the pan and simmer a few more minutes until heated through; tossing gently.
Sprinkle with feta cheese before serving or serve it separately at the table. Makes 6 servings.
Green Bean Gremolata
1/2 pound green beans
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Zest of two lemons (yellow part only; white pith will make it bitter)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 bunch Italian parsley
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh grated pepper to taste
Blanch the green beans in boiled salted water for one minute; drain and plunge into ice water. Drain well; transfer to a heated serving bowl.
Sauté the garlic in olive oil just until it turn white. Do not let it brown. Pour over the beans and toss to combine. Add the lemon zest, parsley, cheese, salt and pepper; toss again.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes two to four side servings.
Ragout of Summer Vegetables with Tarragon
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white onions, sliced
1 cup sweet yellow pepper, chopped
1 cup sweet red pepper, chopped
3 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped (2 to 3 teaspoons dried)
Salt and generous grinding of pepper
In a large skillet with a lid, sauté onions and garlic in butter for 2-3 minutes or until onions turn translucent. Add peppers and sauté another 3-4 minutes. Add the zucchini, mushrooms, and lemon juice, cover, and simmer 4-5 minutes or just until vegetables are crisp tender.
Creamy Lemon Spaghettiini with Zucchini and Basil
12 ounces spaghettini
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium zucchini, grated, about a cup
2 to 4 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup sour cream, crème fraiche, or yogurt
15 to 20 Kalamata olives, or other brined black olives,
pitted and sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1/2 freshly grated Parmesan or other grating cheese
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, then drain.
In the same pan add the olive oil, grated zucchini and garlic.
Sauté lightly adding the salt, pepper. Quickly stir in the lemon juice and sour cream.
Return the pasta to the pan along with basil and Parmesan. Stir and warm through.
Serve at once, with extra lemon and Parmesan for those who desire it. Makes four servings.
Grilled Corn, Pepper and Tomato Salad
1 sweet green pepper
4 ears of corn
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 small red onion
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced or 1 teaspoon dried
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Build a fire in a kettle grill or preheat a gas grill to high.
While the grill is heating up, wash and shuck the corn.
If you prefer a more cooked texture or if the corn is a few days old, precook it for 3-4 minutes on the top of the stove (optional).
Cut 1/2-inch thick slices of red onion.
Cut up tomatoes, green onions, parsley.
Add to a large salad bowl along with the fresh thyme; set aside.
Lightly brush the corn and onion with a small amount of the olive oil.
Grill at high temperature until corn has an even distribution of brown grill marks and peppers are evenly charred.
Grill onion until brown on the edges and softened. Roast pepper whole until charred evenly.
While grilled vegetables are cooling, heat the remaining olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, wine, thyme, salt, and ground pepper in a small saucepan.
Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add to the salad bowl when it has cooled slightly.
Cut corn kernels from the cobs and dice red onion; peel blackened skin of green pepper and chop into bite-size pieces.
Add to the salad bowl and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate or serve at room temperature. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Patti Bess is a local freelance writer and cookbook author. She has developed recipes for Weight Watchers and Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications.