How do you make the most of the long summer days, but still present fabulous food that is easy to prepare and serve? A well-stocked pantry helps streamline food preparation and is inspiring at the same time. Combined with items from the fridge, fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables and a few choice items from the freezer, you need never get nervous about friends dropping in for a drink and then staying for lunch or dinner. (Hopefully not both but you never know!) Simply using different combinations of a few basic ingredients means you can ring the changes with herbs, spices and leftover cooked meat and fish.
Fresh, ripe tomatoes are a summer essential:
- top cooked pasta with a sauce of roughly chopped tomatoes, thinly sliced salami, black olives, capers, fresh herbs, olive oil, lemon juice and a grating of Parmesan.
- drizzle a platter of roughly chopped tomatoes and chunks of feta with a dressing of olive oil, lemon zest and juice, grain mustard, garlic, chopped capers, shallots and basil.
- brush chunks of zucchini, eggplant, capsicums and halved tomatoes with olive oil mixed with finely chopped rosemary and garlic. Season and roast in the oven until tender but not falling apart. Stir through a little balsamic vinegar and serve as a side dish to barbecued meat and fish. Top with slices of grilled haloumi or pile onto chargrilled sourdough, add a poached egg and a side of grilled sausages for brunch.
Make up a batch of pizza or flatbread dough and cook individual portions on the barbecue. Top with one of the following when the dough is cooked and hot off the grill.
- Italian: brush with tapenade or pesto and top with a salad of ripped prosciutto or salami, chopped olives, tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. Or top with warm caramelised onions and crumbled gorgonzola.
- Middle Eastern: spread with hummus and top with thinly sliced barbecued lamb leg steaks, red onions, flat-leaf parsley and black olives. Drizzle with yoghurt, olive oil and toasted pine nuts.
- Greek: marinate boneless chicken thighs in oregano, lemon, garlic and olive oil, grill and slice. Spread the hot breads with tatziki, then add chicken and a salad of thinly sliced celery, toasted walnuts, mint and feta cheese.
Tinned, cooked white beans such as chickpeas, cannellini, borlotti or small and large butter beans:
- fry plenty of onions and garlic in olive oil until golden and tender. Add a couple of sliced chorizo, a teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika, lots of chopped parsley, zest and juice of an orange, drained tinned chickpeas and a little stock. Cook to reduce the liquids to a glaze. Serve with chargrilled bread rubbed with a clove of garlic as a light lunch or tapas.
- white bean salad: process 1 soft boiled egg, mint and flat leaf parsley, 2 tablespoons capers, 1 clove crushed garlic, zest and juice 1 lemon and ½ - ¾ cup olive oil. Season and toss through the beans. Add thinly sliced red onions, diced artichoke hearts and ¼ cup chopped toasted almonds. Use as a side dish for a barbecue or turn into a meal by tossing through thinly sliced cooked meats such as chicken or lamb or the meat from a smoked chicken. Pile onto cos lettuce leaves and garnish with extra herbs.
- white bean puree: put a tin of drained beans in a food processor with crushed garlic, lemon zest and juice, yoghurt, tahini, a pinch of chilli and cumin and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Season and process to combine. Spread on a shallow plate and drizzle with olive oil and thin, plain yoghurt then sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and paprika or za’atar. Serve with warm pide bread.
Frozen broad beans, blanched and peeled:
- toss in a pan with a generous amount of olive oil, garlic, basil and chilli. Stir in cooked pasta. Season and serve topped with crumbled ricotta and Parmesan.
- combine with cooked waxy potatoes, thinly sliced red onion, fresh oregano, toasted walnuts, shaved Parmesan, olive oil and lemon juice. Serve with baked ham and crusty bread.
Ideas for dessert using fresh fruit:
- combine any combination of sliced fresh apricots, nectarines and peaches with a little sugar and sparkling white wine. Serve in glasses topped with ricotta mixed with a spoonful of icing sugar, lime zest and chopped pistachios.
- fill halved, freestone peaches or nectarines with a stuffing of crushed amaretti biscuits, egg yolk, Dutch cocoa, brown sugar and pine nuts. Place in a well-buttered baking dish and add orange juice and Marsala or port. Bake until tender. Serve warm or at room temperature with mascarpone and cooking juices.
- half fill oven-proof ramekins with slices of fresh plums and pitted cherries. Make a meringue and fold through chopped, toasted almonds. Place a scoop of good vanilla ice cream on top of the fruit. Pile on the meringue, ensuring it totally seals the top of the dish. Bake in a 200˚C oven for a few minutes until the meringue is golden.
- purée the flesh of a mango with lime juice and a little caster sugar. Gently fold through thick plain yoghurt with fresh raspberries and honey-roasted granola. Pile into glasses.
lemons and limes
red or yellow capsicums
potatoes, garlic, onions
oils: extra virgin olive oil, olive oil, canola, flavored oils (walnut, hazelnut, lemon)
vinegars: red, white wine, balsamic, Spanish sherry
sauces: soy, fish sauce, sweet chilli, oyster, kecap manis, mirin
tomatoes: tinned whole Italian, paste, thick tomato sauce (pomodoro)
capers, good Spanish anchovies, olives (black and green), cornichons, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts
Dijon and grain mustard, good quality mayonnaise
tapenade, pesto, chutneys, tahini
rice: jasmine, glutinous, Arborio (for risotto), Calasparra (for paella)
dried pasta, puy lentils and couscous – instant and Israeli
tinned white beans and chickpeas
nuts, seeds and ground spices plus whole spices such as cumin
sumac, za’atar, saffron, smoked paprika, preserved lemons
instant dried yeast for making pizzas and flat breads
crackers and crostini
cheeses: gruyere, camembert or brie, feta, mozzarella, Parmesan
milk, yoghurt, sour cream, butter and eggs
cured meats: salami, dried sausages such as chorizo, prosciutto, bacon
fresh sausages and meat that is vacuum-packed (good butchers will happily do this for you)
smoked salmon and smoked chicken
good breads such as sourdough, ciabatta and pide
broad beans and peas
blueberries and raspberries