A July Menu to Celebrate Summer’s Bounty

by Msnbctv news staff

Midsummer means the market is brimming with great produce. With such a colorful bounty of goods, we can settle into our summer cooking routines with tasty meals that are bright, casual and best enjoyed outdoors as much as possible.

When green beans come to market, early tomatoes are usually ready, too. I love a big vegetable salad dressed with a perky vinaigrette, always welcome. It can include both raw and cooked elements. For this salad, I combined blanched slender green beans, halved cherry tomatoes and cooked chickpeas. You could also add yellow wax beans or romano beans. If your market already has fresh shelling beans, use those instead of chickpeas. They’ll need 30 minutes of simmering after you shell them.

If you’re a bean nut like I am, plan ahead, and soak dried chickpeas overnight. With a soak, they only take an hour to cook, and their flavor is superior to that of canned ones. I usually cook a pound of chickpeas, using some for salads, some for soups and some for mashing.

Dressed and piled on a platter, this salad is aromatic and tantalizing, with its mingling of juicy tomatoes, garlic, fruity olive oil and feta. It could be a meal in itself. For more heft, add quarters of hard-cooked egg or slices of boiled potato.

Why not take a break from the classic hamburger? Ground lamb makes a great substitute, even if sprinkled only with salt and pepper, or a little chopped parsley and garlic. For this menu, lamb patties are spiced with cumin, coriander, black pepper, cinnamon, mint and cilantro. They are inspired by kofta, the dish of seasoned spiced ground meat found throughout the Middle East, and beyond. This larger, burgerlike format works well on home grills.

Folded into a warm pita bread, doused with a kicked-up tahini sauce and topped with fried onions, these may not be standard cookout fare, but everyone loves them.

Summer desserts should be easy, and this one truly is. All that’s required is a box of phyllo pastry, a few pounds of ripe summer stone fruit and some sugar, jam, melted butter and chopped nuts.

Working with phyllo dough is satisfying, especially for cooks who balk at the idea of making dessert. It’s just a matter of painting thin pastry sheets with butter. Then, on goes the jam, chopped pistachios and fruit.

I was thrilled to find apricots at the market — this year’s apricots have been amazing — but you could use plums or nectarines, too. This makes a very large open-faced tart with a very flaky, shattering-crisp crust.

Eat it, cut into small pieces, at room temperature. With luck, you’ll have some left for breakfast.

Recipes: Tomato-Green Bean Salad With Chickpeas, Feta and Dill | Lamb Burger With Fried Onions And Tahini-Yogurt Sauce | Apricot Tart With Pistachios

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